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January 20, 2008

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I agree if you look at the financial advice in the Bible as whole, you'll gain monetary and other benefits. Just striving to acquire more isn't going to make you happy or wealthy, it'll make you broke. If you work hard and try to save up for things that matter to you, then you're usually better off. Thanks for the post.

Reminds me of long ago when Oral Roberts (I believe it was him) told his followers to send money or God was going to take him (Oral Roberts). I was amazed that people sent him money so he wouldn't die.

I think you're a bit harsh on people that fall for this stuff. It's not so much that their faith is weak - they probably believe very strongly, but that it is too simplistic.

People exorting others to give money to them so that they will be rewarded financially is just the Nigerian bank scam in a different guise. Normal rules of life apply. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Plonkee -

I think the weak faith comment comes as sarcasm? Many of those ministries will say that when one doesn't get rich (doesn't prosper..) is because they have weak faith. That gets them off the hook for saying they will make them prosper and it helps convince the people to feel more guilty and give more.

The "faith healers" do the same thing. If this human being can't heal you through their relationship with God it is not the faith healers fault but the lack of faith in the person being "healed". Now to the paraplegic who has is a humble servant of God but does not get healed, this is a terribly cruel thing to say.

The Bible never promises prosperity to believers in this life, it never promises healing from all physical illnesses in this life. It promises a tough road, persecution and trials/temptations. It promises perfect bodies, perfect happiness when we enter into glory and take our last breath here.

These prosperity preachers want us to "claim" our prosperity now. I am fine working hard and trying to be prosperous now, I will take the blessings that come but when the trials and struggles come I am not going to start worrying that God has turned His face from me and these "preachers" use the human emotions that easily can be made to feel guilty to line their own coffers.

I agree with you plonkee about the bank scam but these people are more convincing. This isn't an anonymous spam e-mail. This is a person quoting scripture, praying, looking so compassionate surrounded by such HUGE audiences, showing testimonies of answers to prayer and taking scripture out of context. Give that to people who maybe don't know the entire Bible or don't know the admonition to test all claims and all teachings against the Bible and see if they stand. Maybe newer believers, maybe people who don't believe but are at the absolute end of their ropes. Instead of providing them with the free great news of Christ's death and resurrection and what it can mean for them (the relationship they can have with the creator of the world) they are provided with calculated attacks that are low blows and ultimately end with their situations worsening by giving more money than they could afford to people who really don't deserve it.

As for the preachers. The Bible talks about varying degrees of responsibility based on knowledge. This does not excuse ignorance but is a warning to those who have studied the Bible and put a lot of time into reflection and meditation on the word. We are all guilty of sin and all deserve the punishment of those sins (death.. hell..) and we all can receive the free gift that Christ purchased for us with His blood through the same manner but more is expected of those who have taken the time to learn. These personalities have clearly studied the Word of God more than many of those they preach to.

I think a definition of the "prosperity gospel" is that "if you aren't healthy or wealthy, then it's either a result of sin in your life, or that you don't have enough faith." A prosperity teacher is one who is cashing in on this grossly-distorted "gospel". It's just yet another instance of someone taking a few biblical texts out of context and bending the meaning to their own ends.

Some good info can be found at: http://www.theopedia.com/Prosperity_gospel http://www.theopedia.com/Word_of_faith_movement

I went to an otherwise ok church for a short period but I was really disgusted by what they'd say about tithing each and every Sunday. The guy who always did the offerings had the prosperity teachings worked out to a science. He'd give figures for "what God wants to bless you with if you give $100, which is $1000" and so forth. If you gave more, you might even get a higher rate.

But if you didn't give at least a 10th, you were never going to be spiritually or financially fulfilled.

Most of the young people left that church because they were disgusted with that and a couple other things about the specifics of speaking in tongues and not being a Christian if you don't.

There are plenty of run-of-the mill churches that publish a list of those who doesn't tithe--through gossip and through shaming. Do they "fall" for it too? I think that's even worse than the teevee which at least doesn't shame you.

From Malachi 3:10 - "Bring all the tithes [a tenth of your income] into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!"

As I understand it, this is the only mention in the Bible of a situation where we are allowed to test God.

I don't see the difference in what you're saying here:

"Often the "promise" is that as they give more, they'll get more. So the notion goes that they should give as much as they possibly can so they can get as much as they can."

and here:
"People give in obedience to God's Word. He blesses them with a bit more financially. They give a bit more -- to help others and to do God's work. He blesses them more. They give more."

Unless the second group is giving all the extra $$ to charitable causes. Otherwise, it seems very similar logic to me: give $$ so you'll get $$ in return.

I agree that it's important to give. But I still dislike equating God's blessings with earthly riches or even earthly good things. I can see how more $$ can allow you to give more (or even to free up your time so you can do more). But I think it's...not right...to measure what the world thinks is good to what God thinks is good, and set up that expectation. Like saying "i'll be nice to her if she's nice to me."

I thought the blessings are the knowledge that a person is living in accordance to God's plan, and a closer relationship with God as a result. You give because it's important to give, because it helps someone else, and that can make you feel good.

I think that saying that doing X for God means I'll get back X+1 sets people up for failure. What happens when a person gets the bad things from life? Do they mistrust God then, for not returning their input with interest? It's just a really problematic train of thought for me.

Annab --

I think the issue is attitude. If you give for the sole purpose of getting more back, that's the wrong attitude IMO. If you give with the attitude that you want to help others, then I do believe you will be blessed in many different ways.

I wish you would stop apologizing for your Sunday posts (or making comments such as "Are you insane" for writing it). They're great!

Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes...

First a typo correction(?) - in the quote, Cindy F was referred to as pledging $500 per YEAR. You referred later to her pledge (in (3)) as $500 per MONTH.

Annab - the part from the post you quoted in (6) should be read in conjunciton with (7). Financial 'blessings' come from things like limiting borrowing and debt, keeping a budget, spend less than you earn - things a good, secular financial plan would have as well. Not necessarily as a flood of 'dollars from heaven'. Note the quotes around 'blessings'.

@Doug and FMF: that makes more sense to me.

I guess my take is that...the reward is that a person is doing God's will, and that should be enough. I guess I just don't think that just because God loves us means that we'll escape any level of suffering, and the corollary is that I shouldn't expect to get any level of profit from it also. So I don't want to be dissatisfied with doing the right thing just because it's right. To me, any kind of payback is like the sugar on the icing on the cake.

I mean, if God didn't promise that I'd be financially ok, I'd still give. I think that if the justification to do something is what you personally get back in return, it makes it (at least for me it would) harder to do the difficult things. What happens when you feel God wants you do do something big, or dangerous, where you are probably not only going to not get a reward, but probably a lot of trouble, like the missionaries, or the nuns who go abroad?

It would make me question why sacrifice yourself, unless you'll get back enough to compensate for it? Instead of making a sacrifice because it's what God wants, or it's the right thing to do.

That last was a rhetorical question to myself. I'm still trying to figure this one out, I suppose.

Anyway, I appreciate your responses.

Tithing is a standard amount, usually 10%, that goes to the church for the running of the church. Taxes are required by man's society and should be paid to man's society to keep that running. Everything else is yours to use as you believe is right. But doesn't the Bible say that the person who has one coin and gives that coin has done more than any wealth could do? Even though you are "free", with the capacity to think and act as you wish, there might be one right way.
I believe the right way has to do with doing the most good for the most people. That can mean putting all of your time and money to good use. Considering the Bible sets the bar at total self sacrifices it seems arrogant to think we know better as we handle our time and money the way we feel is just good enough. I know I do that. Every time I am putting more in my Roth account I have quick thoughts of what good could I do with the money, and then I make my Roth contribution.

I think this is a great discussion. A real test of the sincerity of a message on giving, is if it is based on giving to just that person. Most of the prosperity teachers will promise a blessing if you give to them, not anyone else. If they are legitimate, they would just be teaching to give to those in need. Giving to a neighbor out of work or a friend that needs financial help is just as valid as sending a check into to TV ministry. Also, I believe we should support our local church prior to sending money off to media ministries.

James L. Paris

Free Money Finance,

I just came across your blog from Get Rich Slowly. I've read a couple of your posts and thought that this would be a good one to chime in on as I write about faith on my blog.

I like the 2 peter in your verse where it says that you should be eager to serve. Many prosperity Teachers preach a message that God will bless you financially (and sometimes he will) but fail to give the reason as why he wants to bless us financially. It is not so that we want it to be greedy, but he wants to bless us so that we can be eager to serve those who are less fortunate than us. It is my belief that if someone wants to teach that God wants to bless us financially, it is our duty to teach the reason why He wants too.

@planner
The distribution of tithing was originally in Leviticus to first give to those in need and after they are ok, it is to provide security for the local priests. With your thoughts about roth IRA's, its not in my opinion that God is against them or savings in general. What you should be concerned about is how you handle your finances once you cash it out. Providing a means to make you and your family secure later is good. You will have more opportunities to serve your time and money as you enter into retirement. I could go into a long discourse about how this is biblical, but I can't do it in this comment.

Thank you for your posts on the Bible and money, i find them thought provoking and interesting.

On the subject of prosperity teachers, i think that there are a lot of dishonest "christians" out there looking to cash in on the goodwill of others. In my bible study I attend this week we were talking about how satan has planted counterfeit Christians in our midst - as is talked about in the parable of the wheat and the weeds in Matthew. Sometimes it can be hard to tell who is truly a Christian, and who isn't. Judging that isn't really our job though - only to be in the word and to compare what we're hearing to what it says in the bible -and working to save the souls of those around us.

Thanks again for the posts, i enjoy your blog.

>

The problem is, what FMF is talking about here is not tied to the Gospel at all. To teach that you will receive some kind of worldly blessing(financial or not) if you give with the right attitude is contrary to the biblical message. And to link it to the Gospel - the person of Jesus who ransomed us from ourselves when we deserved nothing - is preposterous.

Brian --

I agree that most issues aren't linked to the Gospel (for example, prayer, worship, etc. aren't needed in order to be saved.) That said, once you are saved, they are certainly parts of the Christian life and should be discussed and practiced. Same with how you handle your money.

I disagree with this:

"To teach that you will receive some kind of worldly blessing (financial or not) if you give with the right attitude is contrary to the biblical message."

There are numerous verses in both the Old and New Testaments that link giving/blessings. Look through my past Sunday articles and you'll see many.

And yet, there are also many passages saying that the Christian life will be difficult, have it's own struggles, etc. These passages don't contradict because, as I'm sure we all know, even people with money have challenges, difficulties, etc.

It's amazing that so many criticise the "prosperity teachers" (actually there are two main types that are seldom discussed) and don't understand the basic teaching. They base it on what Jesus did on the cross and the covenant. I am not saying I agree with all they say. But before discussing this, I do hope you will read the foundation that they are coming from.

Thanks for listening.

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