Discerning Deceptive Financial Abuses In Christianity
Precious Testimonies greatly appreciates the wisdom and insight of this writing. Precious Testimonies has added some wording of their own to try to help enhance the usefulness of the writing. Anything found in brackets has been inserted by PT. A few insertions have not been placed in brackets so as not to disrupt the reader's ease to absorb the content. This writing comes from the ministry of Exit Churchianity, and we greatly appreciate the efforts they are making to help correct abuses within Christianity.
(By: Norm Rasmussen, Director, Precious Testimonies)
Before I get into the main topic of the article, I'd like to make something clear:
I firmly believe in, teach, and regularly practice New Covenant giving. A simple definition of New Covenant giving is giving like Jesus gave.
This means ministering to people free of charge and meeting urgent needs (i.e., food, clothing, shelter, evangelism/mission work, visiting the sick and imprisoned, medical care, transportation, educational needs, and helping fellow Christians who are suffering persecution).
I believe that generous giving should come naturally for Christians, because we have received God's generous free gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus.
'For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.' (John 3:16).
'For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.' (Romans 6:23)
The greatest act of giving was Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross. In it, God demonstrated His love, mercy, grace, and generosity towards us. I believe that this should be the centerpiece from which our giving flows in the New Covenant.
'We know what real love is because Jesus gave up His life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion, how can God's love be in that person? Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.' (1 John 3:16-18)
I felt the need to state my position on giving, because some professing Christians will judge your motives and assume that if you speak against 'sow a seed' manipulation, then you must be 'stingy, selfish, greedy' and 'you don't believe in giving.' Well, that isn't true. I believe in giving and I encourage God's people to be generous.
My goal is not to persuade anyone NOT to give. My goal is to urge professing Christians to use discernment and recognize when they are being persuaded to give through manipulation and false teaching.
Many professing Christians seem to believe that as long as they give money to a 'church' or 'ministry,' then that's all that matters and they have done their service unto God.
They don't use discernment and inspect the teachings and methods that are used to raise funds. All it takes is a Bible quote and an emotional plea, and like well-programmed robots, they automatically and unquestioningly fork over cash.
Professing Christians are more skeptical and wary of people who ask them for money outside of church. But when it comes to giving to a 'church' or 'ministry,' they tend to set aside their common sense and logic, and ignore all of the warnings in Scripture about false shepherds making merchandise of men.
There is a reason why Jesus told us to be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves. It is because we are like sheep in the midst of wolves.
The people of God need to be more careful and discerning when anyone asks us for money, whether it's someone outside of the church or someone with the title 'pastor, bishop, apostle, prophet, evangelist, minister, reverend,' etc.
It is important that we give. But it's also important that we give according to the correctly understood truth of God's word, not manipulation and false teaching.
Galatians 5:1 says that it was for freedom that Christ set us free. If someone is manipulating you to give them money based on a lie [misinterpretation of God's Word], then they are putting you back in spiritual shackles and infringing on your freedom in Christ.
God wants us to give freely, not in response to manipulation, intimidation, threats, scare tactics, or greed. [And outright subtle LIES that Satan loves being used by ministry leaders to get unknowledgeable Christians to part with their money - valuable possessions like jewelry, etc. - assuming it is Holy Spirit inspired Truth when these financial appeals are given out to raise funds, when it is NOT God's way of raising funds at ALL].
When we give freely and cheerfully according to the correctly understood truth of God's word, it glorifies our Father in Heaven, builds up the body of Christ, displays Jesus to the world, and reaps a bountiful harvest. This is the type of giving I support. But I do not support the type of 'giving' that is based on false teaching, unbiblical lies, manipulation, and misleading people. No born-again Christian in their right mind should support that.
[When we examine the Book of Acts and understand that most financial giving was used to help the poor coming into Christianity until they could become self-sufficient so as not to need on-going financial assistance ... and it WASN'T used to pay wages, benefits, mortgage interest on "church" buildings, retirement accounts, etc., like it often is today. ... one has to honestly question just how far Christianity has strayed from how God originally intended it to function some 2,000 plus years later. It seems that when Christians left meeting in their homes and moved to a building to meet on a street corner (however long it took for that to happen) ... WHERE money was being used in ministry changed a great deal, and HOW a constant flow of financial giving had to keep happening to keep it functioning at comfortable levels. Now that we have various TV ministries vying for finances to stay operating, many local street corner Christian fellowships have an even MORE DIFFICULT challenge on their hands to keep operating financially comfortable, (let alone helping people who attend there who have financial setbacks) because some Christians will keep supporting their favorite TV ministry(s) financially, yet won't give a dime to the local church assembly they frequent. All of the "pressure" to keep giving finances to various ministries is turning many people AWAY from Christianity, it would seem, rather than drawing them to it, though the wise Christians are learning from the Holy Spirit WHERE to give finances to the growing - spreading - of God's Kingdom in the lives of people, and HOW MUCH to give won't stop happening, because God will see to it.
[Bottom line regarding financial giving: We believers must never allow Satan to convince us that "Laying up for ourselves rewards in heaven" as Jesus says we can do DOES NOT also include our financial giving to help reach lost souls and then help them become discipled in God's correctly taught and rightly applied Word and/or helped in their time of trial. We just need to be more discerning and wise in where we sow it. Just as there are wise and unwise places to invest our money here on earth to get the best - safest - return on our investing ... the same applies to SPIRITUAL investing.
[Let no one assume my wife and I don't believe in helping financially support (spiritually invest in) the local church fellowship we are blessed to be a part of. In nearly 20 years as of this writing (2017) of being a part of that fellowship, not ONCE have we heard financial appeals from church leadership for the needs of that fellowship. They operate on the funds God's people willingly feel to sow into the outreach. They understand giving should be between God and the individual, and they are truly appreciative to God of the finances people cheerfully sow into the running of that local church fellowship, and the evangelistic - discipleship - ministries that fellowship feels to support around the world. (It is because of how they view finances and Christian giving that I believe God has blessed them financially as well). Incidentally, this local church fellowship supports the Precious Testimonies outreach ministry both financially and technically (computer; website issues; video editing issues), and they do so because they believe God wants them to -- certainty not because we asked them to support us financially or expect them to.
[Furthermore, we support TV ministries with a small percentage of our giving from time to time that are doing fruitful evangelistic outreach to lost souls, but ONLY if they are not using what we believe to be demonically perverted fund raising tactics].
The Truth About 'Sowing A Seed'
Some professing Christians would say that 'seed-faith giving is a Biblical teaching based on the spiritual law or principle of sowing and reaping.' But the truth is that it's a mixture of truth and error, which makes it a religious deception. [Which Satan ultimately inspires].
While it is true that God is pleased by our faith and obedience, it isn't true that we MUST fork over cash to a 'church' or 'ministry' in order to get God to bless us or move on our behalf.
While it is true that generous giving reaps blessings [When given wisely], it isn't true that these blessings will always be material (money, good health, houses, cars, etc.) Nor is it true that these blessings will always be received in the here and now. There are eternal rewards that we will not receive until the world to come.
Paul the apostle said that God has good things in store for us in eternity that we cannot even imagine. Seed-faith giving takes the focus off of the eternal, and places the focus on temporal earthly things.
'Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God's right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.' (Colossians 3:1-2)
Seed-faith giving teaches that 'If you have a need, then sow a seed' - the 'seed' being your money. The message is, if you want God to bless you or move on your behalf, then you need to pay up.
This teaching does not come from God and the Holy Scriptures. This 'sow a seed' scam has raised an obscene amount of money and quickly spread like cancer throughout the church world [Seriously blemishing Christianity, and don't think it isn't].
Jesus Never Defined "Seed" As Money
In every scripture where Jesus used the word 'seed', He never ever defined it as money. Yet many religious leaders speak of 'seed' primarily as money. This is a problem [HUGE problem at that!]
In Luke chapter 8, Jesus taught a parable about a farmer who went out to plant his seed. But the seed wasn't money, the seed was the Word of God.
'This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God's Word.' (Luke 8:11)
In Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus taught the parable of the wheat and the weeds. In verses 36-43, He explained the meaning of this parable and He defined the good seed as the people of the Kingdom '' not money.
'Jesus replied, 'The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed. The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one.'
In 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, the seed was the Gospel message, the Word of God, not money.
'I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It's not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What's important is that God makes the seed grow.'
1 Peter 1:23 the 'imperishable seed' is the Word of God, not money.
'For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God.'
Paul's Use Of The Word: SEED
In 2 Corinthians 9:6, Paul used the word 'seed' in reference to material assistance.
'Remember this'a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.' (2 Corinthians 9:6)
It's important to note that Paul didn't tell the saints at Corinth to 'sow into his ministry.' The collection wasn't for him. It was for poor persecuted Christians in Jerusalem. NONE of the offering was spent on operating costs and luxuries. ALL of it went to Believers who were in urgent need.
Seed-Faith Giving Encourages People To Give Out Of Selfish Motives
When we give, the most important thing is not how much we give, but WHY we give. In other words, our motives. God is not looking at the amount, but at our heart.
Our giving should be motivated by love, grace, mercy, faith, and a desire to glorify our heavenly Father. But seed-faith giving encourages people to give out of selfish motives ' in order to get something for themselves.
When Jesus said, 'Give [mercy, compassion, and unconditional love], and you will receive [mercy, compassion and unconditional love]. Your gift will return to you in full, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount [of mercy, compassion and unconditional love] you give will determine the amount you get back.' He was not talking about money and implying that if we give money to a religious organization and/or an individual minister, God will make us rich and wealthy.
If you read the entire chapter of Luke 6, Jesus was talking about how we treat others and being merciful, compassionate, and unconditionally loving, just as our heavenly Father is merciful, compassionate and unconditionally loving. The way that we treat others will be measured back to us. If we don't forgive others, then God won't forgive us. But if we're merciful, God will show us mercy. 'The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.' (Luke 6:38)
The Seed-Faith Heresy Contradicts The Gospel Message
The Gospel message teaches that God saved us by grace through faith, we didn't earn it. It was a free gift of God's love and grace. Grace means unmerited favor and unearned blessings. The seed-faith heresy turns the Gospel message of grace on its head by teaching people that they have to 'pay up' to buy God's favor.
Christian giving should reflect the Gospel message of grace. But it isn't grace when money is given out of selfish motives.
A gift is 'something given voluntarily without payment in return.' If you donate money hoping to earn a blessing from God, your donation is not a gift. A gift is given voluntarily, freely, and without any strings attached or an expectation to receive something in exchange.
Let's say for example that it's your friend's birthday and you buy them a gift. Do you expect them to give you money in exchange for their birthday gift? Does the gift have strings attached and you expect them to do a favor for you in exchange? Of course not. Otherwise, it wouldn't be a gift, it would be a business transaction or an attempt to manipulate your friend into giving you want you want. This is not how God operates and this is not how God wants us to operate.
We give freely because we have received freely. We give to show others the love and grace of God. We give because we believe in the Son of God. We do not give because we are trying to receive something in exchange.
Seed-Faith Giving Portrays God As A Business Or A Prostitute Who Performs Favors In Exchange For Money
The teaching that 'If you have a need, sow a seed' misrepresents God as a business or a prostitute.
A business will only provide goods and services if you pay them. A prostitute only performs favors in exchange for money. But God does not take care of us in exchange for money. He is not a business or a prostitute.
If you think that you have to fork over cash in order for God to bless you or give you favor, may I re-introduce you to the True and Living God, Jehovah Jireh, the Great Provider.
He is a gracious, merciful heavenly Father who provides for us and meets our needs because He loves us, not because we give Him anything.
In Matthew 7:26, Jesus said 'Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren't you far more valuable to him than they are?'
In the surrounding context, the Lord was teaching us not to worry about whether our needs will be met, and to trust God to provide for us. Jesus pointed to the birds of the air as an example of how God provides. The birds of the air don't sow any seeds, yet God provides for them.
Aren't we more important than birds? Yes we are. But sadly, some of us have been taught that God won't provide for us unless we 'sow a seed.' [Which includes the "10% Tithing FIRST or God can't/won't bless you." Or - "If you don't give to God what belongs to Him ... 10% of your income ... He'll get it from you one way or the other!" Or - God will provide it SOONER ... and/or it will be a whole lot LARGER RETURN if we sow it to the minister/ministry we're being challenge by to give to]. This distorts who God is. If the Lord doesn't require birds to 'sow a seed' before He meets their need, then He most certainly won't require His children to 'sow a seed' before He meets our need. As we seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, He will take care of our needs because He loves us. [Assuming that we are earnestly willing to WORK and are not LAZY - SPONGES - LEECHES ... in other words, as many people are these days ... refusing to admit it to themselves ... and not living beyond their means. Abuse of credit is so pandemic that until people are willing to get out of the "credit trap" ... God may withhold some or many of His blessings from them. Living in on-going sin can also keep a person from receiving some or many of His blessings as well].
[Numerous credible testimonies abound that God has blessed people not only financially but in many various ways as they worked toward the goal of giving 10% or more of their income to work of the Lord. Even WHEN they were manipulated in some way to give it. Nevertheless, we must always remember that God loves us UNCONDITONALLY whether we give a penny to His Kingdom work or not. Furthermore, giving of finances will not Save a person from their sins, nor will it keep them Saved from their sins. Hence - giving finances has NOTHING to do with eternal salvation (Salvation meaning: freed from the penalty of our sins). It simply involves "sowing and reaping" -- moving God to increase His favor on one's life, and laying up for themselves treasures in heaven. God has clearly said in His Word: "Sow a little, reap a little. But SOW NOT under compulsion (begrudgingly) or feeling obligated." Sow because you WANT to - because it's WISE to (when one understands FIRSTFRUITS "Honoring God" giving) - not because you are made to believe you HAVE to, or are EXPECTED to ... or that it will somehow increase God's LOVE for you. It WON'T!]
In John 10, Jesus said that He is the Good Shepherd who takes care of His flock and leads us to good pastures. Jesus did not say that we must 'sow a seed' before He leads us to good pastures and gives us abundant life. We receive 'life more abundantly' by grace through faith, not by our own works.
Even during the Old Covenant, when the children of Israel traveled through the wilderness, God took care of their needs. He provided them with water, quail, manna, shelter, and kept their clothes from wearing out. Tithing - first fruit offerings hadn't even been instituted yet during that time period. That came later once they inhabited the Promised Land much later.
God even provides for unrighteous people who don't serve Him ' that is how kind He is. He shines on the just and the unjust. If we think that we have to 'sow a seed' to earn God's kindness, then we do not understand who God is.
Oh how I pray and yearn for God's people to know and embrace His love for us. It is not based on what we put in the offering plate or send across the Internet or through the mail. It is simply who He is. For God is love!
Seed-Faith Giving Leads People To Give Under Pressure
2 Corinthians 9:7 says 'You must each decide in your heart how much to give [Hint: No assumed - obligatory percentage(s)]. And don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure. 'For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.' [I get no greater joy than blessing an individual in need with a financial asset (Maybe $$$, but not always), with no expectation of any return from them, nor even a reward in heaven to come, when the Holy Spirit grips my heart to be a blessing to them in the name of Jesus.]
God wants us to give cheerfully, not because we feel pressured to give [Or EXPECTED to give. Personally - I can give "cheerfully" to ministries because I have the utmost trust that God will keep His Word to me about it "laying up rewards for myself in heaven, so I can use them to bless OTHERS once I get there."]
But when a leader has trained you to think that 'God won't move on your behalf' - 'meet your need,' or 'release your blessings' unless you 'sow a seed', that puts you under a certain amount of pressure to give.
You feel like the Lord won't answer your prayers and bless you unless you fork over some cash to a 'church' or 'ministry.' Your desire to see God move in your life becomes tied to your ability to give money away. God doesn't want us to give under this sort of pressure. We are not walking in our blood-bought freedom if we are under bondage and pressure to give money away so that God will meet our needs.
Next time a religious leader tells you to 'sow a seed', ask them to 'sow a money seed' into your bank account and see what they say. If they refuse to sow financially into your life, then why are you sowing financially into theirs? Where is the reciprocity?
If they claim that they 'sow spiritual things' into your life and you support them by 'sowing money' into their 'church' or 'ministry' ' direct them to the New Testament where Jesus and the apostles sowed spiritual things AND material things (food, clothing, money, etc.) into people's lives.
Leaders are supposed to lead by example, and not just by preaching at you. So if they are constantly telling you to sow material things into their 'church' or 'ministry,' but they are not sowing material things into your ministry and helping you in your time of need ' they are actually using you to serve themselves instead of serving God by serving you.
Some of these leaders should have more than enough money by now. Some of them have six figures or seven figures in the bank. Why do they still 'need' you to 'sow a seed'? Who is in greater need? You or them? Who has more resources at their disposal? You or them?
If they have more money than you, then why are they asking you for money? Shouldn't they be sowing into your life? Does it make sense for someone who has less to 'sow a seed' into the 'ministry' of someone who has more?
If seed-faith giving really works, then why don't these leaders give away their entire savings? Theoretically, they would reap a greater amount in return, right? But we all know that they will never give away their entire savings, because they know that seed-faith giving isn't true and there is no guarantee that you will become richer by giving money away.
The purpose of seed-faith giving isn't to enrich those in the pews. It's meant to enrich those in the pulpit who tell everyone else to 'sow a seed' into their organization.
Instead of giving to deceived ministers [who are being used of Satan (and don't even realize it in many cases) to help try to shipwreck their relationship with God], give to those who are truly in need and support people and ministries that are honest, Biblically sound, and financially accountable. [And are ultimately producing some spiritual fruit in their efforts to minister. If you don't feel to give to ministries and ministers, but rather give to only the needs of the poor, be VERY DISCERNING in the Holy Spirit in who and how much you help them. God doesn't want us feeding fish to people indefinitely. He wants us helping people to learn how to catch fish themselves as quickly as possible].
Dear Reader - are you at peace with God? If not, you can be. Do you know what awaits you when you die? You can have the assurance from God that heaven will be your home, if you would like to be certain. You can even have that assurance RIGHT NOW! Either Jesus Christ died for your sins, or He didn't (He did!). Are you prepared to stand before God on the Judgment Day and tell Him that you didn't need the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross to have your sins forgiven and get in right-standing with God? We plead with you...please don't make such a tragic mistake.
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Remember: All that we do in this life comes back to our God-given purpose which is to serve and glorify God. The money and assets we accumulate, the fame and power we've attained or seek to attain - all of the things of this nature will one day pass away, but those lives of others we impact for Jesus Christ will last for eternity, and we will be rewarded for the part we helped play by impacting those lives ... for eternity. (Matthew 6:19-20 is our assurance)