Why Can’t Christian Giving Be a Two-Way Street?
By Patricia Backora
I must confess this revolutionary concept has kept popping up in my head for many years now. At first I dismissed it as a thought from the dark side. Other times I wondered if it was just plain presumptuous or too off the wall to be scriptural. But the more I ignore manmade “ministry hierarchy” divisions in the Body of Christ and contemplate the value of the “ordinary pew Christian” in the sight of the Lord, the more convinced I am that maybe I can’t be too far wrong in thinking giving should be a two-way street instead of all the wealth being funneled from the poor to the preachers.
When we were younger it was harder to put food on the table and keep the rent paid. We, like many, had to work very hard just to make ends meet. I got so carried away by TV and mail box preachers and their “give to God and get a blessing” sales pitch that I forgot the sweetness and simplicity of my first relationship with Jesus. Somehow it got reduced to a dollars and cents proposition.
Speaking of propositioning, Just now God brought to mind that money-hungry preachers act as spiritual pimps coming between Christ and His Body, the Church. How? By teaching Christians to get money (or other blessings) out of God by making a deal with Him. Just like a shady lady of the night keeps a paying customer happy to get money out of him. Heavy stuff, isn’t it? SPIRITUAL PROSTITUTION of the Gospel. IF I want something from God, I’m supposed to praise Him and pay Him to get Him in a real good mood so He’ll pour out more and better blessings on me. With my money I prime the pump for the blessings to come out of the glory spout. My sacrificial offering obligates God to pay a rich return . Nothing good can come out of such an attitude, even if you aren’t aware that it’s fear or greed motivating you to “give sacrificially”.
I tuned in to some of “Brother G’s” radio broadcasts and started corresponding with him and his wife. I loved his friendly, homespun style of preaching. His typewritten newsletters were done up on cheap paper and informal looking, not like that glossy, gimmicky literature that gets sent through the mails today. I began sending in a few prayer requests and telling them how God was blessing me. Obviously the same newsletter was sent to everyone, but they penned in a few personal lines just for me. Over time, we were able to get better acquainted with this precious couple, and they even shared their home phone number in case anyone requested prayer. They were an older couple and well off financially, though not nearly so wealthy as some of these panhandling preachers you see on TV today. They were so lovable. We even had them over for lunch one day when they came to our city for a short series of meetings.
Years later, I was even able to take the city bus to participate in their monthly ministry partner potlucks held in their modest storefront office. It felt like a big family reunion, it was so informal and friendly.
They would travel from city to city preaching to small crowds in convention centers. Their preaching style was no-nonsense, Bible-based Pentecostal Latter Rain stuff I really went for. I was drawn to their simple songs, their childlike exuberance and the friendliness of Brother G. and his wife, who supported overseas missions. One of Brother G.’s oft-repeated lines was:
THE GREATER THE SACRIFICE THE GREATER THE BLESSING.
Somewhere deep inside, some vague alarm bells went off in me, but I thought I had no right to argue with that. After all, I was just a Christian housewife and little else. And why should I expect a cost-free Christianity? But it should have been as plain as mud something was fishy about that doctrine and I should have had the courage to ask a few questions:
wasn’t jesus’ sacrifice enough to buy us ALL the blessings of god? Making a sacrifice to get more blessing from God is just a nice way of saying that Jesus’ own sacrifice is insufficient and you’re bargaining with God to get the extra blessing it wasn’t enough to pay for.
Which begs another stupid question: If we’re ALREADY heirs of all things (see Rom.8:17; I Cor.3:21) EXACTLY WHICH BLESSINGS WERE NOT PAID FOR BY THE ATONEMENT OF CHRIST? WHICH ONES MUST WE PAY GOD FOR IN DOLLARS AND CENTS? At the time, it just didn’t sink in that “giving to get” from God automatically makes us shift gears from being sons back to being wage earners out in His field trying to earn His favor (or avoid punishment, such as “missing out with God” for failure to give).
I know the Bible teaches sowing and reaping and helping others. But when the need ceases the sacrifice should also cease, and we shouldn’t make a casino game out of giving. How could we possibly add anything to what Jesus did on Calvary to get an even greater blessing from God? Most likely when Brother G mentioned greater blessings, he probably meant increased income or earthly blessings, not extra access to power of the Holy Ghost. Still, isn’t “sacrifices” out of your wallet to get bigger blessings from God just a little like Simon Magus whipping out his own wallet to try to buy spiritual blessings from the apostles?
Acts 8:18: And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.
22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
Far from hitting Simon Magus up for a “sacrificial offering” to sell him extra blessing from God, Peter actually rebuked Simon for coming up with that notion himself. At first glance anyone could see the logic behind why preachers don’t bail their supporters out of financial messes or help THEM meet emergencies, even though their supporters do the same for them. If a preacher has X number of poor people writing him and sending the occasional small offering, then what he does for one he must do for all the rest of them. That’s only fair. If the preacher gives me a hundred bucks and gave the same to his other 10,000 supporters, he’s out of a million dollars. For years that settled the matter with me. But the preacher’s own words shot holes through that logic, at least in his own case.
After I held a huge yard sale to raise a hundred dollars to give these people a special offering to help their overseas missions, our house got ransacked by a burglar. My husband was held up on the streets of L.A. Plus we went through other difficulties instead of getting that hundred fold bonanza preachers push through their glossy literature. God doesn’t like being used like a slot machine, and at the time I wasn’t aware that I was under some sort of spell where I felt COMPELLED like a robot to forget everyone and everything else around me in order to sell all my junk to reach that hundred dollar mark. I now know that feeling wasn’t from the Holy Ghost, but from satan’s spirit of bondage to Prosperity Theology. The enemy knows how to dilute good works with just enough deception to cause spiritual shipwreck in your life.
I am fully convinced that at the time, I, like many other believers, was brought into spiritual captivity to devious preachers and their false gospel (and false Jesus), much like fish getting caught in a net and being unable to escape. Funny how these men kept getting specific prophetic words for individuals which were Xeroxed to millions of other suckers, and the message was always the same: Do not be afraid to get out of your safe boat and walk on the waters of faith while the waters are stirring (which always meant empty your wallet by nine a.m. tomorrow morning).
Paul was concerned about various saints in Galatia who had also fallen for a false gospel. He called that being bewitched (Gal.3:1). I would go so far as to call certain big name preachers sorcerers, the way they manipulate the music, the lighting, the voice dynamics, etc. in their services to whip up emotional frenzy so the people will open their wallets, not just their hearts.
Many years later I phoned Brother and Sister G. and told them we were in a very tight spot. I had already arranged to quit my job so I could fly overseas to join my husband. But in the meantime, some emergency arose which slashed our income and the landlord was after his share, as usual. I couldn’t just go back to my old job to work for more dough because the boss had already planned that such and such a day would be my last. If I turned my plane ticket money over to the landlord, I couldn’t go anywhere, and I’d be stranded without a job to pay a future rent. If I didn’t give him the plane money, I’d be turned out onto the street a few days before my daughter and I were due to leave. When I asked for special prayer, Brother G. asked me how much I needed. I said about a thousand. He said, “That’s not so much, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting that.”
At the time, I bit my tongue and wondered: Why didn’t THEY pop for a grand if he thinks “it’s not too much”? I went through a lot of battles with the devil after I went to extremes to raise a hundred dollars for HIM, and that was a fortune to us at the time. Didn’t Brother G. believe his own motto: The greater the sacrifice, the greater the blessing? If it “isn’t that much”, then that wouldn’t have been too much of a sacrifice for them to help ME out. And wouldn’t any preacher who believes his own preaching shovel out money to the needy as fast as he could get rid of it, just to get bigger and bigger blessings out of the Lord? knowing the LORD would give it back to them in extra blessings?
NOT MUCH? I’d had to slave like a donkey for months to save for two plane fares, after paying rent, utilities, transportation, food, etc. I had a much harder life than most preachers who have only to open their mouth and tell everyone about their need, and donations will come pouring into the post office box for “the man of God.”
For that matter, how much extra blessing did this preacher desire for himself? If he REALLY believed greater sacrifice brings greater blessing, he might have done what I did for him so many years before: sell some of his unwanted junk to help me out. I could have used spent my yard sale proceeds on necessities for my home instead of mailing it off as if I were a millionaire with extra cash to burn. But I was brainwashed by Prosperity Theology’s lie: If you have a need, sow a seed. Problem with seeds is, I never did have much of a green thumb. Seeds take time to grow, and you need your answer NOW. Besides, satan won’t just stand idly by while you plant the seed. You have to shoo him away, along with any crows he sends to gobble up your seed.
Helping me with a grand would not have been as extreme a sacrifice as what Jesus told the Rich Young Ruler to do: sell ALL his belongings and give to the poor (Mark 10:21). Giving me a thousand dollars would surely have made Brother G. a richer man if he’d really believed what he said. But I was sensible enough to just request a quick prayer over the phone. I suppose a preacher’s time is worth something.
Do faith preachers have as much faith as they preach about? You’ve really advanced in the school of faith when, instead of making a mass appeal for donations, you just go into your private prayer closet and tell your Heavenly Father about your need, fully expecting that He will fix things for you (Matt.6:6). If preachers expect us to give and give and “live by faith”, why can’t preachers just practice what they preach and do the same, instead of bombarding our mailbox with emotional appeals for cash? A few of the DISHONEST, GREEDY preachers (Brother G. was not one of them) always travel first class and stay in five-star hotels, living in obscene luxury. They keep on harping about you giving “to the Lord”. I don’t know why the logic escaped me all those years, unless I inadvertently silenced the voice of the Holy Spirit Who was trying to show me the stupidity of today’s gospel of greed.
When they ask you to GIVE TO THE LORD, You AREN’T giving to the Lord at all, just to some pampered preacher waiting for you to grease his palm so he doesn’t have to work! When you read between the lines, that presumptuous pulpit pilot is saying, “Give to ME, as far as you’re concerned, I’M the Lord!” My eyes aren’t that bad. Even if a modern prosperity gospel preacher wore a beard, white robe and sandals I wouldn’t mistake him for Jesus.
Obeying a preacher’s repeated appeals for “sacrificial one-time offerings” does you tremendous spiritual harm because it distorts your own view of who you are in Christ Jesus. It alters your perception of your own relationship to Him and to other members of the Body. Without realizing it, you begin to see that preacher almost as a god in the flesh, receiving money in His Name, and standing between you and your Father in Heaven. You feel like you’re getting God’s blessings only through the preacher’s intercession, rather than through Christ. So-called Protestants have much in common with the Catholics, doctrine-wise. Same wolf. Different costume.
Some think preachers are entitled to ask for offerings because they’re more special than we are. Are pulpit preachers special to God? So are we!
I Peter 2:5: Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
Verse 9: Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.* * * *How on earth can you attain to a higher rank this side of heaven than being part of Christ’s Royal Priesthood?
I Cor.6:17: But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.* * * *We are actually one spirit with Christ Jesus! NO ONE outranks us in the Lord, although the Spirit bestows differing gifts and abilities on each member of the Body of Christ.
Matt.23:8: But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.* * * Jesus did NOT encourage any hierarchy of believers outranking one another and getting paid for it.
Matt.25:40: And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.* * * * Even Joe Blow Burger Flipper is precious in Jesus’ sight, if he’s a born-again believer. Precious enough to help if the floor drops through and Joe Blow falls in a hole he can’t get out of.
If you’ve got excess money burning a hole in your pocket (or just want to give anyway), don’t automatically stick it in an envelope headed for Preacherland, California. Is there a struggling Christian widow down the street with a dozen hungry kids? Slip her a little grocery money every now and then, and Jesus will give you at least as much reward as if you’d sent it to that grinning TV preacher, maybe even more.
Acts 2:44: And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
Gal.6:9: And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
I John 3:18: My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
What’s good enough for rich preachers ought to be good enough for us pew Christians. Two can play at that game of asking for donations. If preachers can ask us for “love gifts” to prove our love for Jesus, then we should be able to ask some big shot televangelist for money and reassure him/her that they will be richly blessed with a hundred fold return, because as they say, with God, the sky’s the limit! Of course, I would never be so bold as to do that…UNLESS I got junk mail from preachers soliciting donations to “save their ministry”. Then I’d return the favor by sending my own wish list and asking THEM to sacrifice a little to save MY ministry! Chances are, they’d cross me off their mailing list in a hurry!
That gave me a good laugh, but the contradictions I see are very sobering. I’ve known individuals who wondered why preachers did a song and dance about the love of Jesus, but when those same preachers had the opportunity to actually DO something (besides praying) to help others through a terrible crisis, the people involved ended up seeking help from sources out in the world instead. After that, those people seriously questioned everything they’d been taught about church and even about Jesus. This begs a question which reverberates throughout eternity:
Preachers make emotional appeals for people to come forward and get saved because one soul is worth more than all the gold on earth. But when push comes to shove, do they really believe that? After all this song and dance about “the greater the sacrifice, the greater the blessing” and “we sure do love you, Brother,” why wouldn’t the preacher who teaches this go so far as to sell ALL THAT HE HAS to save even one precious soul from being disillusioned about God’s love and turning their back on Jesus? Chances are, not one of those rich charlatans would even sell one pair of their shoe collection to save John Q. Pew Warmer from being turned out of his apartment on a cold wintry day!
Any doctrine which makes us doubt the sufficiency of Jesus’ own sacrifice on Calvary is deadly dangerous to our faith. If you EARN God’s blessings by what you give or do, then the credit goes to you instead of to Christ.
* * * * * * * *
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