Prosperity gospel teachers and preachers thrive on lifting Bible verses out of context and preying on the vulnerable, greedy, and ignorant. Their doctrine is popular in North America because it focuses on the worldly trinity of me, myself, and I–me-centered Christianity. It is spreading rapidly elsewhere, for the same reasons.
People who do not study their Bibles and depend on the Holy Spirit as their teacher, find the prosperity message of instant wealth too alluring to overlook. It traps them and holds them in bondage. They don’t see that it’s the proponents who become wealthy, while they fall deeper in debt. They don’t try to understand what it means to surrender to Jesus.
Prosperity proponents use several Bible situations as hooks to catch the poor, uneducated, greedy, and ignorant. Here are two:
- Tithing and Blessing
- Sowing and Reaping
Tithing and Blessing
Read the Bible with an open mind that’s directed by the Holy Spirit, and you will see clearly that tithing does not apply today. The Levitical Tithe (10%), and the Levitical Priesthood were Old Covenant arrangements God introduced to Israel under the Mosaic Law. This tithe of agricultural products and livestock served two purposes. It sustained the Levites, who had no inheritance in the Promised Land. It provided priests with animals to sacrifice in their temple duties as intercessors for Israel.
Farmers in Israel paid two other tithes under the Law: the Festive Tithe (10%) consumed by the giver in God’s presence, and the Poor Tithe (10% every three years) for the disadvantaged in Israel. The yearly tithes of agricultural produce and livestock Israel had to provide was 23.3%.
Jesus became the perfect unblemished lamb when He died to pay for our sins. His death and resurrection removed the need for intercessors between us and Him. It took away the need for all tithes. It abolished the requirement to kill animals to remit sins. As well, it ended the Aaronic priesthood (Hebrews 7-8), and ushered in grace giving (2 Corinthians 8-9).
Still, prosperity preachers use Malachi 3:10, which says, tithe and you will be blessed, as a hook to get money. They apply it out of context and tell believers to tithe, give a tenth of their income, and God will open the flood gates of heaven and give them more than they gave. Naturally, they say the place to give is to their ministries. This is how they become wealthy, buy planes, expensive cars, and live luxurious lives, while their supporters remain in bondage to the tithe. Their followers, like sheep are astray, refusing to study the Bible on their own, and under the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
Malachi 3:10 refers specifically to priests mentioned in Malachi 1:6-8 who were presenting defiled animals to the Lord–Israel’s tithes to Levites were unfit. Priests, in turn, presented these defective animals to God. In Malachi 1:12-15, God cursed the priests for this. Then in Malachi 3:10, God tells the priests that if Israel tithed as required by the law, and the priests presented proper tithes to God. He will bless Israel as He promised in Deuteronomy 11:26.
Malachi does not mean individuals today should send money as a tithe to churches, and to health-wealth-prosperity gospel preachers, and God will pour out blessings on the givers! No, it does not! Here, Malachi refers specifically to God’s promises of blessings and curses in Deuteronomy 11. But seductive prosperity messages, and manipulation by wealthy TV preachers appeal to the greed and ignorance in their supporters who continue to give what they don’t have to gain a bonanza.
Tithing is not today’s biblical standard. This is not a grey area. It is obvious. It was never taught or practiced after Jesus died and rose again. Never! We see the early church’s giving practices in Acts 2. Nowhere in The New Testament after Jesus’ death and resurrection was tithing taught or practiced. Apostle Paul gives us the standard for today’s giving in 2 Corinthians 9:7:
So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
This grace giving does not fit prosperity preachers’ teaching and preaching. The idea that it is up to each person to decide to give is an anathema to them. Voluntary, non manipulative, Holy Spirit led giving would kill the prosperity gospel industry.
Sowing and Reaping
Second, prosperity preachers stress sowing in their ministries so sowers can get a huge blessing. Some have the audacity to prescribe the multiplier you will get. I heard one TV preacher say October is the month God will give ten times the amount people sowed in his ministry.
Again, the wealthy prosperity preachers’ prey on the vulnerable, the greedy, and the ignorant. They know folks do not study their Bibles, and so these people won’t understand the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:9-23.
I call this parable, the parable of the seed. The life is in the seed, which is God’s word. Jesus followers’ heart is the soil. And obedience to the word is the fertilizer that causes blessings to flow.
So, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to prepare our hearts to receive God’s word. Ask for discernment to help us reject manipulative and wrong teachings. When the seed, the life, enters a heart prepared by the Holy Spirit, the word will be planted in good soil. It will bear fruit when the Messiah follower stays in the word and obeys Jesus.
We see an excellent example of Biblical sowing and reaping in Genesis 26:12. Notice in Matthew 13:23, Jesus’ reference to 100-fold yield of the seed on fertile soil is similar to Isaac’s blessing in Genesis 26:12. Isaac’s blessing resulted from his hearing and acting on God’s word–his obedience to act on God’s promise. He obeyed God and did not go to Egypt to avoid the famine, but stayed in Gerar and sowed seeds. He did not give to get. He was not promised an increase. Merely, He heard God’s word and obeyed!
When prosperity preachers ask you to sow in their ministries to get blessings, they are asking you to treat God as a slot machine. Give a little, pull the slot machine’s handle, and see how much you will get.
My dear brothers and sisters in Messiah, Jesus wants you in a personal Father-child relationship with Him. He does not want you to treat Him as a roulette wheel. He has promised to take care of your needs when you seek first His kingdom and righteousness. Besides, Jesus says, my sheep knows me, I know them, and they obey me. No one can snatch them from me (John 10:27). Will you obey Jesus or prosperity preachers?
Look in the mirror. Have you surrendered your life to Jesus? Are you His child? What type of soil is your heart? Is your heart, the soil, ready to receive the seed which has the life of God’s word? Are you ready to obey and allow Him to take care of your needs? God’s word is the seed. It will sprout when it is sown in fertile soil–a heart controlled by the Holy Spirit.
The health and wealth, prosperity preachers are getting rich on the backs of the vulnerable, ignorant, and poor people? Are you wasting God’s money giving to prosperity preachers so you can get a blessing from God? Ask God to convict you to turn away from these vultures, and look to Him to supply genuine needs.
The good news is that they will account to God for their wrong teachings (James 3:1). Let’s pray they repent and turn from their wicked ways.
Copyright (c) 2012, Michel A. Bell