(c) 2020 followthesheeptracks.ca
(feel free to copy and distribute this article in its entirety with copyright notation intact – word count about 4000; still may need further editing but in the meantime, it is what it is)
In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-23) Jesus explained how the Word of God sown into peoples’ hearts has four possible outcomes. Only one is able to bring a believer to full spiritual maturity while the other three fall short. The third sowing represents the Word of God planted like seed into good soil, which springs to life and produces a healthy plant that will potentially bear fruit. The problem arises when thorns grow all around this plant and choke it out so it can no longer grow to full maturity. It’s almost there, and then it’s gone.
The thorns are compared to the deceitfulness of wealth and the worries of this life. It’s a problem impacting the modern Church in such a huge way that much of what we believe is cutting edge Christian gospel today, really ends up becoming false doctrine leading us astray. It starts off well and grows into something that looks healthy and good from all points of view. It’s real and alive with the Presence of the Holy Spirit, manifesting in all kinds of spiritual gifts. But then something else grows along with it related to the need to get money to keep it going.
The bigger the ministry becomes the more financing is required until the the whole thing is in danger of moving away from its original spiritual foundation and revolves around the need for money. Or even worse, there is so much money coming that the owners feel okay with living like royalty in the faces of other fellow believers who are struggling, then act as if they are entitled to this wealth and don’t feel compelled to share any of it. They first require even more money to be given or else they believe their fellow believers don’t deserve to prosper in the same way.
When the deceitfulness of wealth is in charge of a ministry, the messages become increasingly focused on one of two things (1) people-pleasing by telling people only what they want to hear, and being careful not to cause offense by calling for repentance from sin, or (2) scaring the daylights out of them if they don’t hand over tithes lest they come under a curse.
Sometimes it’s related to the need for finances to pay the bills, even if those costs are minimal. Other times it’s about becoming as wealthy as possible under the delusion that the wealth is a sign to others that God is really blessing this ministry regardless of how little love is coming from it or how much the preaching deviates from the truth of the gospel.
This is not to say that every preacher who is wealthy is guilty of this problem. It’s also possible to be extremely wealthy and right with God because of being extremely generous in every way so that God gives back even more in response. The old saying is true that ‘you can’t out-give God.’ Our motives for giving (and receiving) are at the heart of whether we can be wealthy and still on track in the will of God, or allow the deceitfulness of wealth to derail everything. We can see the difference in the fruit produced by the ministry, as Jesus said “You will know them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:15-20).
The people-pleasing messages tend to avoid any call to repent of behaviour that the Bible identifies as sin. In fact some go so far to bless those caught in such deviance, that they’re really on their way to hell for it but nobody has the courage to offer correction while there is still time. The leaders are known for offering perpetual encouragement to the point where they teach very little in the way of sound doctrine which is so desperately needed at this time, to ensure the Church stands strong in the dark days ahead. The leaders do not want to endure any kind of suffering for defending the true gospel.
When called to speak the truth about where they stand on tough issues, as believers hope to hear them side with the truth of God’s Word, they cave instead. They don’t want to offend any who come to their gatherings with money in hand to support their ministries. Some won’t compromise revenues from book sales and more which sometimes fund obscenely lavish lifestyles. If it means presenting a skewed version of the gospel to accomplish this they are more than willing, not caring who may end up eternally lost because of it.
The most glaring error that is blatantly obvious to mature believers is the teaching that because Jesus went to the cross and gave His life to atone for the sin of humanity, we don’t ever have to go there ourselves. We just get to reap all the benefits and prosper as if the prosperity itself is a sign that we belong to Him. The truth is He went first to show us how it’s done. He calls us to take up the cross and walk as He did, for the same reasons He did.
He said “If anyone would come after Me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). He warned that “Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:38). In 1 John 2:6 we see that “whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.” Romans 8:17 says we share in His glory IF we share in His suffering.
Hebrews 12:7-10 says “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are illegitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
When Christian leaders rebuke every sign of suffering and hardship which God may allow for their spiritual discipline, they will inevitably end up preaching false doctrine. They may sound like they’re right on in their theology at first until we witness the fruit that comes from their ministries. Some of what they teach is right and good for ourselves if we are heeding the call to walk as Jesus did in our own lives, even if they’re not. But toxic teachings also arise with carnal thinking that is all about them putting themselves first. If they continue, money’s influence will eventually expose them as hired hands who care nothing about the sheep (John 10).
When the love of God is missing, whatever else we do in the Name of Chris is for nothing. As 1 Corinthians 13 says, we can speak in tongues, have the spiritual gifts of faith and prophecy, receive great knowledge and more but without being motivated by love it goes nowhere in the end. Many who preach about the so-called ‘word of faith’ fail utterly to connect that faith with God’s love, in which case they would not simply picture something in their minds and then believe for it, as if mental assent is all it takes to see faith fulfilled; they’d demonstrate love in action on their way to receiving the goal of their faith.
One way prompts us to turn inward and focus on the self, so that we feel we’ve failed if we don’t prove we’ve summoned up enough faith to make something happen; the other is about receiving what we ask for in the process of caring for other people and laying down our lives in love for them as Christ did for us. As Galatians 5:6 says “Faith worketh by love.” When there is no exercise of love for someone else in the process of having faith it all comes to nothing in the end. The worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth are often to blame.
When we see leaders believing for a multi-million dollar jet plane is it for themselves only, and do they think of themselves as the owners who are privileged to fly from one place to another without the hassle of dealing with other people? Or are they thinking it’s to transport as many other people as possible – people who are hurting, dying with Christ, needing to get from point A to point B as quickly as they can? Only one way is the faith motivated by love.
When we hear calls for charitable giving to assist with promoting the gospel in other nations, do those in charge of the charities see themselves as servants and facilitators only, or do they consider themselves to be entitled to take a large portion of the proceeds for themselves? Does it matter to them that the more they take for themselves that they don’t really need, someone else must go without or perhaps face loss of life because the financial budget reached its limit? Only one way is faith motivaated by love.
Some leaders try to turn the gospel into a pyramid business scheme with a select few at the top. It’s based on the idea of tithing which gets completely changed from the Old Testament practice described in Leviticus 27:30, Deuteronomy 12:17 and Malachi 3:8-12. It was originally about the Israelites being required to bring ten percent of the produce of the land into the Temple of God in order to have food in His house. This was to ensure the priests were taken care of, who had no inheritance of their own outside the Temple. The result was a blessing of their crops and vineyards. There was also a provision made that they could give money instead under certain circumstances.
Modern prosperity preachers have changed this to mean that Christians must pay ten percent of their gross financial income to the Church, along with other free-will offerings, when there are no such commands in the New Testament for the body of Christ. Further, instead of living full-time in the place of ministry as the Levites did, some will use the tithes to fund obscenely lavish lifestyles with homes worth millions of dollars.
The truth is this way of handling money in the new covenant Church sets people up to fall into idolatry with money as the object of worship. Whole ministries are built on the concept that the more money we give, the more God is obligated to give to us in return. If we don’t give tithes we are told we come under an old covenant curse described in Malachi 3:9-10. This, while the new covenant teaches that the way to handle money is to ensure nobody in the body of believers has too much and none too little (2 Corinthians 8).
The belief is held that those who carry the anointing of God are entitled to have it all, even if it means taking the last dollar of a widow living in poverty. While completely side-stepping Jesus’ teaching about taking up the cross to walk as He did, such ‘anointed’ leaders will cite an Old Testament scripture about a widow giving her last meal to Elijah in order to justify taking the last bit of money from a elderly widow today (1 Kings 17:7-16). They’ll use Old Testament scriptures to defend their decisions about becoming wealthy, even off the poverty of others, while completely ignoring New Testament scriptures about taking the lowest place so others can be lifted up. As Jesus said “whoever would be greatest among you must be servant to all” (Matthew 23:11).
One problem with this thinking is the assumption that nobody but the leading evangelist carries an anointing from God; that all other believers who attend one of his or her crusades do not have an anointing. Therefore they are blessed just to be in the presence of the ‘anointed one’ and must hand over whatever resources are demanded of them.
The truth is all who are born again in the Holy Spirit are anointed by God to carry out whatever plans He has for them. The resources that come together in any assembly of believers are meant to be shared as needed, so the true Church can advance the gospel all the way to its fullness in a hurting dying world. Then as Jesus said, we are recognized by the rest of the world as the true Church, because of the way we love each other as He loves us; NOT by who’s rich and who isn’t (John 13:35).
This is how genuine fruit is produced for the Kingdom of God; fruit that will last. Jesus said in John 15:16 “You did not choose Me but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in My Name. This is My command: Love each other.”
Compare this with the potential for spiritual treachery in the prosperity gospel in which the deceitfulness of wealth means there is no real fruit produced at all. It’s because of the absence of love. There is much talk about faith; how believers must profess their faith in something, believe for it, demand it, name and claim it, whatever it takes to summon up the psychological strength to believe it into existence. If they still don’t get it, they lack the faith so the thinking goes. They messed up their profession or something. The whole time, the love was missing.
The King James version of Galatians 5:6 says “Faith worketh by love.” The NIV says “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” In order for love to do its work we need to have relationships – loving God first and foremost, then receiving His love for us free of charge with all the healing and wholeness He wants to give. And then we harness all of that to go out and love a hurting, dying world, leading as many as possible to Himself. Faith finds its place and produces powerful results when motivated by love. It empowers us to stand firm against all kinds of backlash for daring to love others in a sacrificial way.
Faith that is truly of God doesn’t send us to the bank; it sends us to the cross.
Meanwhile many scriptures must be ignored to justify the obscene wealth hoarded by some who wrongly see it as a sign of their authority in Christ. They delude themselves by believing others see it that way too rather than what it really is – idolatry. Colossians 3:5 says that greed is a form of idolatry. But consider 2 Corinthians 8:13-15 which says “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard-pressed but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.” ”
This is about teamwork in the body of Christ and living like the family of God, saturated in love for Him and from Him for one another. It’s about promoting the love above all else and showing it with lives laid down for one another, including on a financial level. Yet one sermon after another is given using scriptures out of context to teach that we have no reason to expect God to prosper us as He sees fit, if we don’t first hand over the tithes and offerings to a select few. This, while the gospel is about God given freely to us something we couldn’t possible earn or deserve on our own. It says ‘freely you have received, freely give’ (Matthew 10:8). Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith and this not from yourselves. It is the gift of God, not by works, so no one can boast.”
The essence of the true gospel is that ‘while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:6). Because He loves us so deeply, He took the initiative to come after us and make such a huge sacrifice free of charge. We freely receive something we don’t deserve in order that we may also love others and give freely to them the same way, so God’s grace and love shine through in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. There is NOTHING in the New Testament or new covenant that tells us to give under the threat of a curse if we don’t.
In many situations where believers are under attack from the evil one they are held back from giving on a temporary basis. There is no ‘or else’ in the Bible that compels them to give anyway lest their situations get worse. Instead, there is a responsibility that falls to other believers to come to their aid without condition and share what they have. It’s up to them to demonstrate to the world, the love of God that binds together the hearts of believers like true family.
The true gospel is not a business plan in which we must first invest financially to have our needs met on a financial basis. Freely we receive, freely we give because of the love of God. Along with it comes His lavish grace to meet us in our place of lack and failure, not our place of best performance. It’s the same way any loving parent relates to a child in need. There’s no way they’d refuse because the child wasn’t first meeting certain requirements. And Jesus taught that unless we become like little children before God we will certain not enter His Kingdom (Matthew 18:3). To deny God’s grace to His people because of financial issues is to risk BEING denied that same grace when He comes in the fullness of His Kingdom.
The threat of a curse for those who failed to tithe was for ancient Israel and it was related to the produce of the land, not money. Yet the concept of financial tithes for modern ministries is given such spiritual weight it sometimes takes higher priority than the Ten Commandments which are timeless precepts of God.
We witness how some of the wealthy evangelists having no problem changing spouses as they commit adultery and break the sixth commandment. Some preach false doctrine, give false testimony or try to guilt-trip innocent believers into handing over money or else, which is essentially stealing it from them: the seventh commandment. The most blatant example is giving money the status of an idol in God’s face – breaking the second commandment. Yet the concept of giving tithes appears to be of even greater importance to some, than the Ten Commandments of God. It completely erases the place of God’s grace to meet us right where we’re at without first working to earn or deserve it.
Many of the listeners of the prosperity preachers, are also anointed by God to minister in other areas and they have a scriptural right to expect the wealthy ones to simply hand over what is needed, to advance the gospel. It is not THEIR wealth, it’s GOD’s. If they continually give Him praise and thanks for it then they must also be ready to distribute it as He directs. Instead, the preachers of the obscenely wealthy ministries talk as if other believers have no God-given right to expect anything if they don’t contribute to the financial pyramid. Then they brag about how they are living like royalty because of God’s blessing rather than due to having behaved in a fraudulent way with the body of Christ.
This is SO wrong and distorted there aren’t enough words to describe how. In 1 Timothy 6 we can read of how many who are eager for money fall into all kinds of traps and get pierced with many griefs. The prosperity gospel leaders are among those who put these traps in place with false doctrine and greed (which is idolatry – Colossians 3:5). At the root of all this is a lust for power on a personal level; the complete opposite of genuine authority in Christ which comes by taking up the cross and walking as He did, so the sheer majesty of His love can be greatly magnified throughout all of His creation.
The Word of Faith movement, as it first began, was never supposed to be about getting wealth, but about facilitating healing. The founder, who is considered to be Kenneth Hagin, testified that he received a command from God to teach His people about being bold in faith after he was miraculously healed of a potentially fatal illness. But today the promoters of the prosperity gospel who become extremely rich from it, appear to think of themselves as the ELITE in the body of Christ rather than the ELECT who are elected to share in Christ’s suffering in order to truly share in His glory (Romans 8:17). The wealth gives the illusion of power and authority from God but the real fruit of the Kingdom might not be there at all: like carrying out genuine healings that last, or going into all kinds of dangerous situations to reach souls for Christ and coming out unharmed (Mark 16:17-18). In truth, some believe they’re literally untouchable.
This renders such leaders as hired hands who care nothing for the sheep, rather than good shepherds willing to lay down their lives for those who follow them (John 10:11-13). When trouble arises, the assembly of believers under their leadership gets scattered because the hired hands will not follow the example of Christ on their behalf. Confront them about it and watch how some will double down so their ministries become more about themselves – justifying themselves before God and man rather than genuinely repenting. But praise God, there are some who will be on their faces before Him, begging for Him to cut back the thorns of the deceitfulness of wealth threatening to choke out His Word sown into their lives.
The truly ELECT of God are able to avoid the deceitfulness of wealth because they embrace the full gospel which calls for a God-ordained time of suffering with Christ to share in His glory. As Romans 8:17 says “Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His suffering in order that we may also share in His glory.” All too often the modern gospel message is about avoiding the suffering and reveling in the glory like it’s some kind of drug-induced high, rather than a deadly serious encounter with Almighty God who holds our every heartbeat in His hands. It is at our own peril that we risk coming before Him this way if our hearts are full of idolatry, carnal lust, greed and pride.
Jesus taught that the path to eternal life in His Kingdom is narrow and few find it (Matthew 7:13-14). This is because most don’t want to know it exists. How can we find something when we don’t even want to look for it? Yet the narrow path leading to eternal life is and remains the way of the cross, personally applied. Only God knows how to weave it into our lives on a personal basis that includes us in His eternal Kingdom.
Even issues related to God’s purposes for Israel and the Jewish people can become extremely complicated due to the deceitfulness of wealth. We witness prominent evangelists preaching spiritual truths about it while at the same time completely avoiding the place of the cross, and the irreplaceable role of the Son of God in the redemption of the Jewish world. Such things are carefully shoved aside in deference to a ministry that seeks to thrive on a financial level.
Just try to convince a Jewish believer to meet the Lord at the cross of Christ and see how fast we ourselves must go there for the same reasons He did: to facilitate salvation first for the Jew, then for the Gentile (Romans 1:16). Raise the issue of the cross with the Jewish world and watch how fast the financial support dwindles away for Christian ministries that claim to support Israel. Do the leaders insist on walking as Jesus did, or change the narrative to suit the financial needs of the ministry?
A huge part of finding our place in all of this, is the power of the cross at work in the hearts of individual believers. By the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, God raises up certain believers willing to go the distance with Him right into the fullness of His Kingdom, here and now. But it does not look like building a pyramid business scheme in His Name, nor keeping our distance from others for whom Christ died, to protect our anointing, while gladly taking their money. It’s not about trying to win a political battle above all else. At first, it just looks like death: that is, death to the old carnal self-centered nature, so that the life of Christ can shine through in all HIS glory that is not our own.
It looks like taking the lowest place while others who claim to know the Lord insist on having their places of honour; then waiting on Him to do what He wants with us to defend the true gospel in the face of such deception that even the ELECT risk being deceived, if that were possible. When committed believers take up the cross and walk as Jesus did, the deceiving of the elect is no longer possible.
Sadly, the influence of money in their faces convinces some to avoid the cross altogether. A good way to test whether or not this is happening, is to ask ourselves when it’s a right time to say no to money. Jesus said ‘No one can serve two masters. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24). (Some Bible versions use the word ‘Mammon’ instead of ‘Money’ which refers to the worldly things we can do with money). Either way, considering how the Bible also says “God IS love” (1 John 4:16), the point is that we can’t follow the way of money and also follow the way of God’s love simultaneously. As Jesus said “Either He will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”
This raises an important question for the true Church. If we’ll hate the one and love the other, and we profess so much love for God, then where is all the hatred for money? Where is the disgust about how it distorts the truth of His Word and forces believers to come under so much false doctrine? Where is the overwhelming grief for the impact on innocent children and how their faith is destroyed as a result? Where are overcoming testimonies from leaders about how they rejected bribes, refused to commit fraud, and chose instead to face homelessness and hardship to genuinely protect their relationships with Christ, rather than letting it become all about living like royalty in the faces of other hard-pressed believers?
On the other hand, who in their right mind thinks they can succeed in opposing the ways of Almighty God by creating an organization that claims to represent Him to benefit themselves, even if it means undermining the true gospel? There’s a grave danger that arises in which the belief is held that we are ‘little gods’ and we are ‘like God’ based on how God originally created man in His own image (Genesis 1:26). But it’s combined with the idea that we can completely side-step the call to follow Jesus the way of the cross which would otherwise deliver us from the sinful self-centered human nature and draw us into a holy relationship with the Father.
The results are the same problem that caused satan to be cast out of heaven, in which he sought to exploit the things of the Most High to exalt himself in God’s face and in the eyes of everyone else. It set him up to be used to lead many people astray from God and to become God’s adversary. He became the accuser and advocate for the ‘or else’ kind of legalistic ministry that denies people access to God’s grace without having to first pay for it. In these last days he finds a great foothold to come against the true Church through leaders who follow his example, instead of following Christ the way of the cross.
To teach the body of Christ we can be like God, or little gods, while also steering us away from the much needed times of suffering and hardships to deliver us from sin, is high treason against the Kingdom of God. It’s leading gullible believers into idolatry. We should not be surprised to see such leaders eventually joining forces with an entity that the Bible calls ‘the great harlot’ (Revelation 17-18).
The truth is they are not spiritually strong enough to resist the temptation to be bribed into compromising the truth, lest they might share in the suffering of Christ. In the end times we will witness many Judeo-Christian leaders go the way of Peter, who denied Christ three times before being restored (John 21:15). They are betrayed by their own fleshly nature and then repent with great remorse over their failures to be perfect before God.
Then there are those who go the way of Judas, the keeper of the money bag (John 12:6). They are so focused on the money they sellout the Lord completely. When they see the final results and the spilled blood because of it, there’s nothing in them to facilitate their repentance and restoration. It was all a black hole of self-centeredness the whole time due to the lack of love. They lead believers straight to the entity described in the Bible that is drunk on the blood of the saints.
This is an organization that behaves like a prostitute, totally lawless and immoral, committing adultery with the kings of this world. The cry going out today, to those who constitute the true Spirit-led Church, is “Come out of her My people, so that you will not share in her sins or receive some of her plagues. For her sins have reached up to heaven and God has remembered her iniquities.”
At the same time, the deceitfulness of wealth in those who see themselves as the ELITE in the body of Christ, tells us to ‘Go on IN.’ We should not be surprised to hear them next promoting a certain ‘mark’ described in Revelation 13:18, and advising us it’s harmless; after all, we are ‘little gods’ who are more powerful than anything of the enemy and nothing can touch us.
In fact, there’s a LOT that can happen to steal, kill and destroy in the lives of believers who do not ever hear any testimony or teaching on how to take up the cross and walk as Jesus did. The enemy has a field day causing as much harm as possible when believers blindly follow leaders who are only in it for themselves, which is revealed in the lack of love and fruit that will last for the Kingdom of God.
The solution remains the same. Pray for God to deliver us from all deception related to the adverse influence of money in the Church and to receive sound doctrine on how to follow Christ the way of the cross. The cross actually proves to be an unshakeable shelter from the storms of darkness now threatening to destroy life as we know it in this world. It compels us to humble ourselves before Almighty God and humanity as well, rather than standing tall and proud in our own self-righteousness.
This place of humility, and of being willing to take the place of a servant rather than a ruler, provides a stronghold of righteousness from God. It enables us to hang on to our sanity, think clearly and make sound decisions in the face of a world spiraling out of control in many ways. It can mean the difference between life and death for ourselves and our children who count on us to get it right.
Then we will be used of God to prove that the true Church will never be destroyed, but will become the means by which the gates of hell itself will be cast down. Then the overcoming Church will stand undefeated on behalf of all of God’s people – first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. The influence of money in all of this needs to be seen for what is really is: a means to try to save our lives in this world, rather than willingly losing them for Christ’s sake and finding them again in the fullness of His Kingdom. Until then, the great deception continues.