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The influence of money is one of the most daunting problems in the true Church (those who worship in Spirit and in truth – John 4:24). It’s not that we should agree to be flat broke all the time as Jesus chose to do when He walked the Earth in the first century AD. It’s about not allowing money to lead us into idolatry so that we fall away from the truth of the whole gospel and lead others astray as well.
In modern times we witness the so-called prosperity gospel teachings along with the Word of Faith movement in which we are taught we can have whatever we want when we ‘believe for it.’ Separating truth from error requires mature believers to know the Bible well. It also helps to understand the original beginnings of those movements.
The Word of Faith doctrine was never meant to be about getting rich. It arose when evangelist Kenneth Hagin was sick on his death bed. He cried out to God for healing. God spoke to him about the need to pray in faith, believing for his healing, as described in James 5:15. When he was healed the Lord spoke to him of His will for the Church to exercise greater faith and get bold in claiming the promises of God as laid out in the Holy Bible. From this came the so-called ‘Word of Faith’ movement we witness today which genuinely shares a message from God to His Church – to get bold in our faith.
But there’s a big problem with how it has developed. Essentially, the concept of speaking out scriptures to claim the things promised in God’s Word has included side-stepping inconvenient truths that call believers to embrace times of suffering and hardship with Christ, along with receiving great blessings, so that we pray with pure motives. As 1 Peter 1:1-7 says, committed believers must endure all kinds of fiery trials which come so that our faith – of greater worth than gold which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proven as genuine, resulting in praise, glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Further, most importantly, Galatians 5:6 says “Faith worketh by LOVE.” True faith in God is motivated by His love – the same love that led the Good Shepherd to lay down His life for the sheep. The love of God is front and center of the true gospel. It’s demonstrated with acts of sacrifice and service on behalf of others. The faith comes in to insist the Word of God is true and to speak it out, believing it will come to pass, as part of sacrificially loving others the way Christ loves us. It was never meant to be used to avoid all this and promote the self so that a select few could live like royalty at the expense of the rest of body of Christ.
The Word of Faith ideology has now gone so far astray that some of the leaders will rebuke all signs of suffering as NOT being of God. It falls to recognize that at least sometimes it’s allowed by God to teach us something about ourselves. Instead of agreeing that the trials come to prove our faith is of greater worth than gold, it teaches us to rebuke the trials and claim the gold. Other scriptures about the need to promote financial equality in the body of Christ, so none has too much and none too little, are completely ignored (2 Corinthians 8).
That process of growing to spiritual maturity involves taking up the cross to walk as Jesus did. He said “if anyone would come after Me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me,” and “Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 16:24; 10:38). And 1 John 2:6 says “Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.’
Jesus did not come to be served but to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). While the prosperity preachers speak of money as a seed, Jesus taught that our very lives are meant to be the seeds that are sown to produce a Kingdom harvest, as His was (John 12:24). There are no scriptures that speak of money as seed. Rather, in the parable of the sower, the seed is used as an analogy for the Word of God sown in our hearts (Matthew 13:1-9;18-23). In this passage the third sowing of seed is impacted by the deceitfulness of wealth and the worries of this life which render it unable to produce fruit. A potential fruit-bearing plant begins to grow only to become choked by thorns and weeds around it.
Compare this to Jesus’ words in John 15:1-16, where He speaks of the need to remain in Him, like branches of a vine remain attached to the vine, in order to bear fruit. Verse 16 says “You did not choose Me but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will remain – so whatever you ask the Father in My Name, He will give it to you.” The prosperity gospel teaches us to name and claim whatever we ask in Jesus’ Name while failing to bear fruit that will last for the Kingdom of God. It produces what we see today: millionaire-status evangelists promoting utter delusions born out of their own egos and their sense of infallibility based on the level of their wealth. They draw a sense of authority from that wealth alone even while having no overcoming testimony of following Jesus Christ the way of the cross.
The main reason is that the hearts of those who go for the prosperity first , while rejecting times of hardship and suffering with Christ, remain in a state of sin and self-centeredness. They can be found establishing ministries named after themselves and believing that all who participate must share their resources with themselves while failing utterly to reciprocate. They end up building financial pyramid schemes with themselves at the top and use the wealth as a sign of blessing from God instead of what it often really is: the result of wrongly believing godliness is a means to financial gain (1 Timothy 6:5). It gives way to powerful delusions sent to those who refuse to love the truth, including the truth that if we reject times of hardship at the hand of God we are not true sons of God, but illegitimate children (Hebrews 12).
The prosperity gospel insists believers have a right to be wealthy and therefore should aspire to become rich. But 1 Timothy 6:9-10 says: ‘Those who want to be rich, however, fall into temptation and become ensnared by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. By craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.”
A key problem is the way in which Old Testament precepts are used to justify desiring wealth due to the fact that the patriarchs in the old covenant were wealthy. We are taught that since we are Abraham’s seed we have a right to be as wealthy as he was, and then some. Then it uses some New Testament scriptures to justify this, while at the same time completely avoiding scriptural truths related to being sorely tested by God at times, and put through the refiner’s fire, to check our motives and remove whatever is sinful.
Abraham became the father of many nations but the truth is he went where few godly men would dare to go in his relationship with the sovereign Lord. He was promised a son – Isaac – through whom God said He’d establish His regenerating covenant. His participation in that covenant was not about prospering unconditionally with no strings attached. He was called to make the ultimate sacrifice to God by offering Isaac’s life to the sovereign Lord. Abraham’s heart was tested to the point where the apple of his eye, his beloved son who represented the future of God’s covenant, was destined to be killed by Abraham’s own hand. It likely made NO sense at all to him but his only option was to hear the voice of God and obey, or not.
This too, was part of the blessing of Abraham and in fact, the only way to pass into that blessing. There was no naming and claiming deliverance from all hardship and suffering, but only clinging to God with all he had in the process of obeying Him unconditionally and without question. So when we see modern Kingdom-hearted believers insisting they have a right to share in the blessing of Abraham we should expect to see them handing over to God that which is most dear to their hearts and agreeing it will die for His glory, if that’s His will, no questions asked. God already has it figured out how to respond to such blind faith which few actually have. But we need to beware those who claim the blessings and reject the times of suffering and hardship meant to test their true motives.
The modern prosperity gospel preachers grievously undermine the true gospel by picking and choosing certain scriptures to promote their ministries while avoiding very necessary precepts of God related to genuinely prospering at His hand. They’ll take Old Testament scriptures out of context while avoiding New Testament teachings about guarding our hearts against things like greed which is idolatry. They’ll speak of having a covenant with God as defined in His Word but fail utterly to teach about the responsibility of individual believers to take up the cross and walk as Jesus did. They have no overcoming testimonies of having done that themselves so they simply don’t know how it’s done.
Whether they are merely deceived or being deliberately deceptive, God alone knows. But the results are the same. They lead many astray who have overwhelming problems and need solid answers from God, by presenting as the solution, the practice of giving their money to already obscenely wealthy organizations. The suggestion is often made that without giving those tithes and offerings a believer shouldn’t expect to be blessed, as if God’s free gift of salvation and His lavish grace must first be earned. Then they suggest God is obligated to give money back to their donors, regardless of their motives for giving, as if the gospel is some kind of financial lottery. They’ll be heard telling us that certain ministries are good soil for our financial seed when the Bible never talked about using money as a seed at all.
Digging deeper into God’s Word, it shows that even King Solomon was not immune to going astray from God largely due to the level of his wealth. When he first became king he asked God for wisdom to govern the people wisely (1 Kings 3). God was so pleased that He made Solomon the wisest man in the world back in his day and gave him things he didn’t ask for, including lavish wealth. But Solomon allowed his prestige and power to give his carnal nature free rein. He ended up with a thousand wives and concubines who led him into idol worship (1 Kings 11). Then he lost his way. As a result God canceled His covenant promises to Solomon, saying He’d allow Israel to be torn from his hands. Solomon’s idolatry opened a door for Israel’s downfall. But to keep His promise to David, God said He’d set apart one of the twelve tribes of Israel to carry forward His covenant – the tribe of Judah, through whom came Jesus (Yeshuah in Hebrew), Mary and Joseph.
Interestingly, the sum total of Solomon’s wealth included 666 talents of gold collected annually. This number is revisited in Revelation 13 which speaks of the final outcome for all the buying and selling in this world, and the influence of money. It comes to a dead-end where everyone who wants to continue in it will be forced to take a mark on his head or hand. It’s called the mark of the beast and it’s related to the number of man which is 666.
The true Church of the new covenant is not meant to be part of that. We’re destined to be overcomers who bring the solutions from the Kingdom of God. There’s no way we can do this if we too, are caught up in money’s influence and the deceitfulness of wealth. The Christian leaders of today who promote a false gospel of unconditional prosperity with no suffering or hardship in Christ, are leading believers straight to that dead-end. They themselves will prove to have no fruit that will last for the Kingdom of God as their financial pyramids come crashing down. They are exposed as powerless when trying to minister genuine healings and miracles for God’s glory, and instead focus on delivering messages designed to get people giving them more money. What they are building with this money is not part of God’s Kingdom which is not of this world. We should not be surprised to see them fall into great deception as they commit spiritual adultery with the great harlot, described in Revelation 18.
The solution for the true Church is to plead with God to deliver us from every wrong path. Individual believers need to take personal responsibility to learn to hear the voice of God for themselves. We must understand that the Kingdom of God comes within us wherever we happen to be if we are born again in the Holy Spirit (Luke 17:21). We don’t need middle-men to tell us what God is saying, in a way that benefits themselves financially. We need to diligently study His Word and pray for Him to sanctify us with its truth. As Jesus said “Sanctify them by the truth. Your Word is truth” (John 17:17). Pray for Him to deliver us from every form of deceptive half-truth, protect us from being deceived; to grant us courage and great boldness to take up the cross and follow Christ in a personal way.
Beyond God-ordained times of suffering and hardship we find the stuff of His Kingdom. As Romans 8:17 says, we share in His glory if indeed we share in His suffering. There, the greatest treasure of all is not something we hold in our hands to spend as we see fit; it’s Himself in the form of the most powerful force in the universe: LOVE combined with HOLINESS. In a place where the wealth of this world is as nothing in His glorious Kingdom, it gets handed to us His way: not by making financial transactions but by following His Son the way of the cross.
NOTE: Check back for a new book in the works entitled “All Of Creation Awaits” – about the birthing of Kingdom sons from the nations who call on the Name of the Living God (Romans 8:19-21). Due to be released on Canada Day, July 1, 2020.