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Most of what is taught about money is wrong!

Apr 1, 2008 at 17:34

By: Steve Hill

We have received some very interesting responses to Lee Grady's review of "The Midas Touch" where  Kenneth Hagin rebukes his disciples for their greed and manipulative fund raising tactics.  In light of how widespread prosperity teachings have become and in light of your responses we want to present you with a series of confrontations.  This letter is longer than normal so pour a coffee, get your bible, look up the scriptures, give it a go and let me know what you think!  It will be on our website and you can post your responses there if you like.  Be warned!  This is not a teaching.  It is a series of confrontations!   Some of these confrontations are raw and unresolved in me.  How is it true that if one member of the body suffers, we all suffer?  How do I suffer along with the poor?  How does the equality  of  II Corinthians 8:14 work out in this global village? How do I walk out Acts 20:34- 35?

Thank you for sharing our journey!
Steve & Marilyn

Most of what we have heard and taught about money is wrong.  It is wrong because it is based upon the foundation of the eleventh commandment, "Thou shalt pay thy tithes to thy local church."  And, of course that comes with a blessing if you do and a curse if you do not!  Thus legalism is the foundation of most thinking regarding finances.   We need to clear the rubble and get to the solid foundation of Christ!

The first church council (Acts 15) met to decide how much of the Old Testament law the gentile converts should be required to keep.  The decision?  None except the moral law.  The only financial suggestion was that they remember the poor (Galatians 2:10).   Your financial blessing has nothing to do with paying tithe anymore than you can get more forgiveness by killing little goats.  In Christ, you are in a New Covenant and that covenant covers all aspects of life!

Why does legalism have such appeal?  We all like to feel in control our future.  If we do this, then God must do that!  Nowhere is this desire for control more evident than in the area of finances!  Nowhere is this desire more evident than in the area of seeking to control God.  His freedom frightens us!  The simple responsibility to obey His voice frightens us!

Some orthodox Jews take their control impulse to its logical extreme and believe that if they could just get their community to keep one perfect sabbath, the Messiah would come!  Some tithing teachers take their legalistic control impulse to its logical conclusion and teach that if the whole congregation would tithe, that congregation would experience revival!  Really!

The orthodox are trying to control behavior to make something happen which has already happened!  What a waste! The Messiah has come!  The tithing teachers are also trying to make something happen which has already happened!   What a waste!  We have already been blessed "with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3).  Why is being in Christ not enough?   All legalistic activity is practical denial of the sufficiency of the cross!

Then we have some teaching that it is the "honor" of spiritual sons to tithe to their "apostolic"  fathers.  The basic criteria that Paul lays down in 2 Corinthians 11 and 12 for discerning false apostles is their practice of using the church as a source of money and their gifting to extort it.    He even declares (verse 14 of chapter 12) that he did not "seek yours but you.  For the children ought not to lay up for the parents but the parents for the children."    When have you ever heard that "apostolic" preaching?  The one with the more mature faith should be giving to the ones he considers sons!

Now for something practical!  Yes, the law is gone and replaced by the responsibility to love!  Someone has said, "You can give without loving but you cannot love without giving!"  So some good friends practice the discipline of "proportional" giving.  In recognizing our propensity to selfishness and materialism, they commit to giving a certain portion of their income to the cause of Christ.  Others determine what they will live on, what they will save and commit to give away everything above that.  The general New Testament instruction is from I Corinthians 16:2, "let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper".  However, this offering was not for buildings, administration, salaries but for the poor saints of Jerusalem.  Offerings in the New Testament were primarily for the poor and secondarily for apostolic teams pioneering new areas for the gospel.

We need to break with materialism and embrace simplicity.  How do you think about the next thing your culture says you have to have?  My thoughts go something like this, "At $2.00 a bible how many bibles would that buy?  At $30 per month per child, how many children would that give a life to?"    Neither the pizza or the new car seem so important!

The purpose of giving in the New Testament is so that there would be an equality!  Read II Corinthians 8: 13- 15.  Read it again!  Now try to get your mind around some Christian ministers having personal jets and many not having bibles or food.  Oh yes, the jet set like to teach from II Corinthians 8:9 but when have you heard any teaching from verses 13- 15?  They also like to teach that the poor are poor "because they do not have faith".  That would pretty much be blaming the victims!  The testimony of the scripture (James 2:5) is that "God has chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith"!    Many friends lack food and bibles.  How do I honor their faith?  How do we work out equality in a cross cultural body?  How do I live between two cultures?

Even while Paul praises the Philippian church (Philippians 4:14- 19) for supporting him on his apostolic journeys and while the New Testament records such support as normal, "If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?" (I Corinthians 9:11), he still lays down self support as the better way!    Acts 20:34- 35 "Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities and for those who were with me.  I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support  the weak.  And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive."  

Why does he lay down this principle of self support as normal?  This is a simple outworking of the priesthood of all believers.  We are all brothers and servants. There is only one King.

This is the language of freedom, of sacrifice and of sons in relation to their Father.  
This is the language of giving and receiving the Kingdom.

How do we work out this self support thing and travel East?  How do we handle the tension between that and Romans 10:14- 15 "... and how shall they preach unless they are sent?"  Thank you to those of you who send!  Thank you to those of you who have stood with us in giving and receiving the Kingdom!  

But do we not need large sums for large events, for media presentations, for the buildings and infrastructure to support it all?  How can you do that and be self supporting?  America is saturated with Christian media and events of all sorts and yet the cultural indicators are all downhill.  The Kingdom is not increasing!  Why is it that cultures where poverty and persecution make Christian access to media and large events impossible, are seeing dramatic increases of the Kingdom of God?

Jesus sent the crowds away so that He could invest His life in forming the twelve and He gave us the same command, make disciples.  He trusted the increase of the Kingdom to the multiplication of relationships.  Lives are formed and relationships multiplied through living life together.  We view crowd size as the measure of success!  He did not!  He gave us a command that requires the one resource to fulfill and we all have equal access to it.  That resource is time.  Time spent with the few!

Why does the Kingdom multiply under oppression?  The disciples are forced to do the Kingdom stuff of one on one relationship.  They are forced to fulfill the 60 "one another" commands of the New Testament.  They are forced to do the gospel of the Kingdom!  You cannot suffer together without character, obedience, loving service and sacrifice!  Given freedom, name, gifting and money you can organize an event.  However, it takes grace, obedience and often suffering to connect hearts.    

Why does the Kingdom not increase through media, events and information?  You cannot do Kingdom from a stage!   You can have a gospel of healing!  You can have a gospel of prosperity!  You can have a gospel of self fulfillment but you cannot obey the commands of Jesus while standing on a platform!  Christian media runs on the same fuel as any other media.  It values personality over integrity, performance over obedience, style over service and gifting over character.   Most christian media personalities have the same goal as any other media personality, to become famous and enjoy a star lifestyle.  The system is designed to produce exactly what it is producing!

Most of what we have heard and taught about money is wrong because it is focused on bricks and mortar, events and programs while Jesus said that whatever is done unto the least is done unto Him.  The Matthew 25 imperative gets lost in the drive to project power, success and growth.  

Here is the question!  Would we be more effective with more money?  Or would we just spend more on media, information, events and spend less time doing the heart to heart stuff of actually making disciples?  In that case would more money means less effectiveness?  How do we differentiate between costly humanitarian work and making disciples?  If a man has nothing to eat, it is difficult to talk about his future!

In many circles Malachi chapter three  has become one of the most well known chapters in the whole Old Testament!  However, the particulars of Malachi chapter three have nothing to do with your financial blessing or cursing anymore than the particulars of Hosea chapter one have anything to do with the blessing or cursing of your relational life.  Both chapters are spoken to a particular people at a particular point in their history and we are not those people!  There are lessons to be drawn but not particulars to be obeyed!  

What are the spiritual lessons from Malachi three?  They all point to a better covenant!   Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13).   Do we not understand that "if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain." (Galatians 2:21)?  Do we not yet understand that if we keep one part of the law, we are "a debtor to keep the whole law." (Galatians 5:3)?  We cannot just choose the parts of the law we like because it happens to be useful to finance our programs!  

Jesus rebuked the devourer for us, once and for all (Hebrews 2:14- 15, Colosians 2:14- 15)!   Do we not understand that if we try to pay God to rebuke the devourer,  we are really acting out unbelief in what Jesus did on the cross and that when we act in unbelief we actually empower the enemy!

Jesus opened heaven for us once and for all (Hebrews 10:19) and not just its "windows"!  God is not being tested in this!  We are!  Will we believe what Jesus has done on the cross or will we believe our circumstances and try to come up with new "spiritual technologies" to deal with them?

The Old Testament ends with the book of Malachi and the book of Malachi ends with the word "curse".  
Jesus took the curse of the law to the cross.
Leave it there!

It is said that the motivation for teaching tithing and sowing and reaping is so that the people will be blessed.  We see that is suspect!  However, if that is the motivation, the teachers should push saving and investing as hard as they push tithing.  That is what the Old Testament did!   The law mandated saving and investing.  That was the law just as much as giving a tithe.  That was the foundation of the wealth of the nation!  

 IF we had saved the amount which we gave as tithe over the years  and IF we had invested that money at 10% (the rate at which the principle doubles every seven years according to compound interest,  the eighth wonder of the world!), most of us who have been believers for 35 years or more would be millionaires!  Think how much we could give now!  

IF the motivation for teaching Old Testament law concerning the tithe is blessing, then we should also teach the law of saving and investing.   That is true financial sowing and reaping.

IF tithes and offerings did produce a "one hundred fold" return, as Kenneth Hagin notes in "The Midas Touch"  we should all have billions.  He rebuked his sons for this false teaching!  IF what the prosperity preacher says is true, he should be giving you his money and reaping the hundred fold.  He should not need your money!  After all sow $100 and reap $10,000!  Oh, but you have to sow in faith!   What is wrong with his faith?  Why does he keep asking you for your money?  He keeps asking you for your money because this simply does not work! This is fraud and it is so pervasive that we accept such teaching as normal!

When Jesus told the rich young ruler (Luke 18:22) to sell all he had, it was not to bring the money to Jesus Ministries International.  He was to give that money to the poor, not to reap a wealth in this life but to place treasure in heaven!   When Zacchaeus (Luke 19:8) was convicted about financial wrong doing, he committed to give half of his goods to the poor and restore stolen funds five fold.  Again, nothing for Jesus Ministries International!  There was a group of women who provided for the needs of the team (Luke 8:3) but Jesus did not take up offerings for Himself!    That should tell us something about guarding motivation!  Follow the money and find the motivation!

The only place in the New Testament where financial reaping is promised to those who sow is II Corinthians 9 and the promise is based in giving to the poor!  However, our whole teaching about giving has been corrupted by the premise of giving to get.  Giving is supposed to involve sacrifice!  Remember the widow of Luke 21:1- 4?  The value of her giving was in the depth of her sacrifice.  Love sacrifices.  Greed calculates.  However, did you note that in the II Corinthians 9 one of the things being reaped was the prayers of those being helped!  How do you calculate the value of those prayers?

Proverbs 22:16 is a very interesting verse, "He who oppresses the poor to increase his riches and he who gives to the rich will surely come to poverty."  Why do we give to the rich?  We hope for something in return!  That is the same spirit as stealing from the poor!  Jesus condemned our propensity to do things in hope of return and commanded us to serve those who cannot pay us back and to place treasure in heaven (Luke 14:12- 14).  

John Wesley said it best, "Make all you can.  Save all you can.  Give all you can!"

Ultimate motivation is the glory of God.
Ultimate service to Jesus is to serve the least!

For a more thorough teaching, check out our article, "The Tithe and the Covenants"  in the Resources section of  or check out this excellent resource     from Matthew Narramore.

For a reality check you could watch John Piper on You Tube at !

Every blessing
Steve & Marilyn .

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