“You give me five thousand I’ll give you fifty.” – from the movie, The American Hustle
We started on our Christian walk, saw miracles in the beginning, amazing signs and wonders, great friends, great teachings and all was glorious. It was marvelous at first. But then times got tough. Where’s all the abundance of Ephesians 3:20 (“exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think”)? Or the riches of Proverbs 10:22 (“the blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it”)? Two things happened: time and trouble.
Sound like the Israelites’ flight out of Egypt? Exactly my point. They saw all kinds of amazing things like the parting of the Red Sea, the jewelry and riches God told them to take from the Egyptians, the miraculous way their shoes didn’t wear out and the manna from heaven every day.
Like the Israelites, we got tired of eating manna every day, so we prayed for real meat. When we got it we couldn’t handle it and we threw it up and went back to manna. But we just kept complaining and focusing on lack. Instead of growing closer to a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus we started to murmur and get angry. We wanted what He promised and we wanted it NOW.
Our leader, the Lord Jesus, left us alone, or so we thought. But rather, our murmuring and complaining drove him off in our own minds, just like when Moses went up to the mountain. We made the mistake of trying to venture on without him. We got tired of waiting. Then some leaders among us had bright ideas of their own – very clever and radiant as gold.
They thought like the Israelites, “We have some gold jewelry we took out of Egypt (never mind that God may have a plan for it later like maybe buying food or trading for land). Shame on God for not telling us ahead of time. What are we supposed to do, wait forever?”
A few of our trusted Christian leaders suggested we pool our resources. They decided we should send in our gold jewelry. They’ll coordinate it and if we give it to them, they’ll build a beautiful empire, a golden calf, and we’ll all share in the glory and it’ll be great.
They said, “Just give us a tenth of your wealth and we’ll give you a little something. And the more you give, the more you’ll get and maybe you’ll even get to be as big as we are. You’ll share in the glory we have. Isn’t it going to be wonderful? And anyway, Jesus went to the mountain and hasn’t really come through for you. This plan will give you the life you want.”
Thousands of Christians fell for it, sending their money to the big televangelists, expecting great financial blessings to come. I got tricked myself. I sent money to one minister for a plane he wanted, but then when he was coming to Las Vegas for a meeting, the Holy Spirit told me not to go. That was the first shocker!
Then I also sent a special offering directly to a popular prosperity preacher. He’d been using scripture all along to back up his erroneous teachings and it sounded Bible-based and pretty good. But any good con is based on some truth and that’s how they hustle innocent, well-meaning people in the first place. When I didn’t get any expected results from my supposed “first fruits” giving, I asked God about it and He said, “I never told you to do that.” OMG!
Bit by bit I was deceived and fell prey to wrong teaching. But don’t judge me. God already forgave me. We’ve probably all been conned a time or two and it feels awful. Once we start down the wrong road, the further we go, the harder it is to stop and go back. The devil is slick with this stuff: Pick some Bible scriptures to back up your error and introduce it a little at a time—smooth as silk, and pretty soon you’ve got ‘em. You know the rest of the story.
Fortunately for me, by the love and grace of God I woke up and started over with my tithe and giving. Each time I got money, I took it to the Lord, asked and did as I felt He directed. And to be absolutely honest, He didn’t always tell me to give it away. (How many times have you heard anyone say that? Not too many, I bet.) But I’m required of God to be honest with you so there it is.
The thing is, how many of the thousands of individual Christians who’ve sent to these big televangelist prosperity-teaching ministries have profited financially in the way they thought they were being promised? Jesus said the proof is in the fruit. Yes, some have profited and those are the stories you see on TV and in the magazines, but I would say the majority have not.
Giving is good and I know these ministries that are pushing their prosperity teachings are doing some great things with the money, no doubt. But how many innocent followers will fall along the way?
Jeremiah 7: 22 says, “For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices.” God was not asking them to give large offerings and sacrifices. “But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you” (vs. 23).
A lot of good Christians have been hustled and conned by errors or misunderstandings concerning the prosperity teachings. We need to wake up. Individual obedience and relationship with the Lord is way more important than blindly sending our money to someone we don’t really know. I’m asking you to just think about it.
With the Almighty God and the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s never been about giving to get. We have to take a closer look at where the Lord wants us to give. We have Holy Spirit in us and the ability to hear and obey. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). That’s you and me.
And Jesus also said, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:13-14). Now that’s the kind of relationship we already have. We just need to get better at it.
We’ve been so programmed to go along with the crowd when it comes to the tithe, we’ve strayed from “as the spirit of truth will guide.”
Let’s learn to honor the spirit of Truth, the Lord Jesus Christ, by sharing of the money He gives us, in the way He directs. So what if we make some mistakes? It’s better to be brave and take some new baby steps than to be caught in the religious hustle and con of a Pharisee or misinformed preacher.
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom 8:14). You are that person.
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