As a pastor, there are some things in the Bible that stick out more than others to me. Paul’s “pastoral epistles” are of particular note in this category. I know that I am not just like Titus or Timothy, but I can certainly learn a thing or two from the advice that Paul dispensed to these young men. Actually, we all can, but that is for another time.
The reason this comes up for me now is because of something I saw on TV last night. I was flipping channels and came across a religious station (I won’t bother to mention which one) and they were in the midst of what can only be characterized as a “fund-drive.” The speaker was talking about sowing financial seeds for a financial harvest and how if you would give $1000 to the ministry as a “faith gift,” God would return it to you multiple times over. He even said that there is just something “special” about that number: $1000. He didn’t cite a chapter or verse for that assertion, just his own opinion as fact.
He gave his own personal testimony of how he had given his last $500 to some place (he didn’t say to what or explain why it wasn’t the special $1000 amount beside the fact that it was all he had), and how God then proceeded to make his wife the star of a national ad campaign for a large retail store and allowed them to get out of debt and I suppose even be wealthy. Another gentleman chimed in with his story of giving his last $350 (again it wasn’t the special amount) and how a couple of weeks later a woman he didn’t know gave him $700 in return.
It is not my intention to denigrate or belittle these men, which is why I haven’t included names or lots of details. My question comes to this. How can these men talk like this without the words of Paul to Timothy ringing in their ears?
3If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
– 1 Timothy 6:3-10
It is a peculiarly western twist of Christianity that has concluded that the sign that we are blessed by God is when we have no material wants. It isn’t backed up by Scripture at any point that I am aware of, rather the converse is usually true. Read what Paul said to the Corinthians regarding their apparently similar theology:
8Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! 9For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.
– 1 Corinthians 4:8-13
There really is nothing new under the sun. It appears that these confused prosperity preachers of Paul’s day were considered to be genuine in the faith in Christ by Paul, so I will cut my modern day brethren the same slack in any case. But the Corinthians of this stripe inspired some serious sarcasm and rebuke from the Apostle Paul and I figure it can’t hurt to try it today as well.
To those who are looking to “sow financial seed” in order to reap a harvest of money from God, let me caution you. Godliness is not a means of financial gain and God is not a magic money machine. Godliness with contentment however is great gain.