Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Gospel of Greed

Today we continue this week's series on the trappings of prosperity.  We have talked about how it leads to less reliance on God and how it takes our focus off of God. Today we continue discussing the downward progression of those who hoard the excess God blesses them with.  I say progression because if we rely less on God, it will lead to taking our focus off of God.  If we take our focus off of God, we will see negative changes in our lives.  Today we will focus on those negative changes and tomorrow I will address the sin that is the heart of the prosperity movement.  Today, though, I will talk about greed.  If you are rich beyond what your needs can ever be, I believe you are greedy by default.  I will begin with a well-known part of Scripture.
Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much.  Mark 12:41 NKJV
That does not sound greedy at all.  Many of the rich people put in much money.  How can I possibly call someone who probably gives a lot of money to the church greedy?  The problem is that greed can not be defined by how much you give.  Greed is defined by how much you hold back.  Greed is defined as the desire to have more than what is needed.   We will see this as we continue in Mark.
Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. Mark 12:42 NKJV
In other words, the poor widow gave the modern day equivalent of less than one penny.  Basically what she gave was worthless materially.  You can not pay a church mortgage on less than a penny.  You can't pay anything.  Obviously, the rich men who gave much gave the superior gift.  Just think of what you can do with all that money they gave, right? 
So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood."  Mark 12:43-44 NKJV
Jesus tells here what generosity really means.  It is not about how much you give, but about how much you hold back.  While those gifts of the rich were larger than that of the poor widow, they were not better.  They were worse because of how much those rich people held back.  God does not need money.  Giving larger gifts does not benefit God nor does it affect His work.  God could make anyone rich that He desires to. God can build any church, fund any ministry, care for any poor person, or anything else for that matter with no help from anyone.  Remember, God created the Heavens and the Earth before money even existed.  God desires our hearts and we please God with our faith.  The Bible tells us in Hebrews that without faith, it is impossible to please God.  The one with the greater faith (and therefore more rich towards God then any of the rich people who gave out of their abundance) was the widow as she gave all she had knowing that God will take care of her.  The rich held back because they felt they needed all that excess to get by or because they were "accustomed to their standard of living". 

So what if God does give us an abundance?  Should we not lavish ourselves in the abundant wealth given to us by God?  Well let us see what the Bible says about that.
I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. And in this I give advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have. For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.  2 Corinthians 8:8-12 NKJV
Paul is setting up his lesson.  First of all, this is a test and not a commandment.  In other words, what Paul is about the express is something they should be doing naturally as Christians and not something that has to be commanded.  A tree does not need to be commanded to produce fruit of its kind, but we examine the fruit to determine the kind of tree it is.  This is what Paul is saying.  He is inspecting their fruit.  He reminds them that God has blessed them abundantly (note this is specifically in reference to the Corinthian church and not to every other Christian otherwise the rest of what Paul shares would make no sense).  He reminds them of their desire to be able to share of their abundance and now it is time to act.  
For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality. As it is written, "He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack."  2 Corinthians 8:13-15 NKJV
Here is the heart of why God gives one an abundance.  It is not about private jets or luxury cars.  It is sharing with those in more need.  God can choose to disperse provision evenly amongst His children, but He gives us a chance to be a part of His work.  Our abundance needs to be shared so that there is an equality among the brethren.  Our time of abundance is to supply the need of a part of the church that is lacking so that in their time of abundance they can share with us.  Is this not the heart of the early Apostolic church where everyone sold all that they had and shared things evenly?  Paul reminds us of how God provided manna in the desert.  He reminds us those who gathered much had nothing left over and those who gathered little had no lack.  For us that means then when God gives one part of the church an abundance, we are not to hoard it but to share it so that those who are in need have those needs met.  Perhaps if our riches spoiled if we tried to hoard it like manna did we would be more generous. 

So let us look at the "generous" fruit of the prosperity movement.  Joseph Prince teaches in a billion dollar "cultural centre" in a land full of many churches whereas Gospel for Asia (GFA) needs eleven thousand dollars to build a church in a place where there is none.  In other words in a land starving for the Gospel you can build 90,909 churches with some leftovers with the cost of building one overpriced church in a land saturated with the Gospel.  GFA has programs to raise money for bicycles for their missionaries to travel from hostile village to hostile village to share the Gospel.  Some lucky missionaries get a $1200.00 motorcycle to have a longer range.  All this while prosperity preachers take their luxury cars to their climate controlled churches to preach to their hypnotized sheep.  For the ones who need to travel even further, they hop into their private jets.  Of course let us not forget their gated luxury estates that they live in or maybe like Creflo Dollar you can have two multimillion dollar homes while so many of his brethren are starving.  Is this equality?  Is this the sharing that is called for by God?  No, it is not, and it is utterly vile.  I truly believe these are the kinds of people who will be shocked to learn that they were never saved to begin with as they begin their eternity in Hell.  I pray I am wrong, but their fruit is rotten.  If I am not wrong, I pray  they repent.  They are the rich man hoarding their riches while those who risk their lives in the missionary fields every day are the Lazarus of today feeding off the scraps they "generously" let drop to the ground.  I find their doctrine to be a putrid stench.  I find their teaching to be utterly disgusting.  Their teaching is an offense to those brothers and sisters who go out and risk their lives every day on their bicycles with the hopes of just reaching one person for Christ.  They are an offense to those brothers and sisters who rot in prison in foreign lands because they took a stand for Christ.  They are an offense to the apostles all who died as martyrs for our Lord.  They are an offense to to those early brothers and sisters (and even many of these still today) who were boiled in oil, tarred and feathered, had their tongues ripped out, their eyes gouged out, skinned alive, wrapped in animal skins and torn to shreds by animals for the entertainment of the Romans, burned alive to light an emperor's garden, raped, tortured, made into slaves, and just about every horrible thing you can imagine all because they took a stand for their Lord. 

All I said though is not about making anyone feel guilty about not giving.  Remember, this is a test not a command.  The Bible is clear that God desires a cheerful giver.
So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.  2 Corinthians 9:7 NKJV
Perhaps you breathed a little sigh of relief.  Perhaps you are thinking that you do not feel "led" to give and so you would not be a cheerful giver.  That is not because God thinks it is fine for you to hoard your money, it because God first wants your heart.  God does not need your money, giving the abundance is only allowing you to share in His work.  This all comes back now to the widow's two mites and the plentiful gifts of the rich people.  It was not the two mites that she gave that was her greater gift, it was her heart and it was her faith.  If your faith is in God, if you have truly denied yourself as you became a disciple of Jesus Christ, if your heart belongs to God, and if your treasure is in Heaven then you would be a cheerful giver.  If all that were true, you would have no need to hold back on your giving.   If your treasure is in heaven then what hold would any treasure have on you here on earth?  If your faith was truly in God and His promise to provide for you then why would you need to hold back more than you need?  The pitfalls of prosperity I spoke of the past two days lead to the greed I am teaching on today.  Greed is the rotten fruit of the sick tree poisoned with the gospel of prosperity.  Generosity is the righteous fruit produced by the healthy tree planted firmly near the Living Water of Jesus Christ.  A cheerful giver is one whose faith is in the Lord and whose love is for the Lord.  A cheerful giver is what we naturally are as Christians living for and trusting in Jesus looking forward to our eternal treasures. 
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.  Matthew 7:15-20 NKJV

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