The Prosperity Gospel;
The Damage Being Perpetrated by Huge Money-Motivated "Tele-Ministries."
Paul's Use of 'Anangke' Rules Out Financial Regulation for the New Covenant People of God!
An e-mailer recently asked me, "Do you think that maybe we should focus on warning and reaching others who follow this (prosperity teaching) heresy?"
The answer is YES! - A thousand times 'Yes.'
Okay, other areas of Christian ministry and Apologetics remain vitally important and none of it should really be neglected, but let us be in no doubt that many people - and in many countries - now associate that word 'evangelicalism' with the prosperity message. Some are even beginning to seriously wonder whether the damage is now so serious that the very term 'evangelicalism' may eventually have to be jettisoned in favour of a new term.
But the sad fact is that 'evangelicalism' was really a very good term because it has helped heal the wounds of the older denominationalism. After all, evangelicalism has stated, Let us all concentrate on preaching the Gospel, morever, we can often do it in partnership or cooperation, whether Anglicans, Baptists, Presbyterians or whatever else since the need to make the substance and the message of that gospel widely known and understood is more important than what has formerly divided Baptists from Presbyterians and Congregationalists from Methodists.
I receive a large number of e mails every month, while many of these ask specific Bible questions, another large group of these just make general comments upon the evangelical world. Even from these e mails it has come to my notice that more and more people are assuming that evangelicalism - somewhere along the line - must make a 'sales pitch' in which it asks for monetary support for itself and while most strongly biblically-grounded people are very aware that tithing does not have biblical support under the New Covenant, they nevertheless feel that it can still be used to finance various evangelical ministries. I was staggered that one man who is a pastor said this to me,
"You and I know that tithing was for another age, but most church members don't know that and I have to use it in order to survive. This is one reason that - although I admire your work - I don't want my people wandering around your website!"
To me, that comment was astonishing! Why? Because that pastor was admitting that he chose to limit his congregation's biblical knowledge in order that he should continue to make a good living. Instead of doing that, he should have been pointing to the financial rule of faith: Willingly give to where there is need so that you too may have a little more.
Luke 6 contains some very interesting statements. In verse 20, Jesus recommends - yes, actually recommends - the state of being 'poor'; while this can be taken both physically and spiritually, it is the physical side that Jesus goes on to stress in verses 24-25:
'But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.' (Luke 6:24-25a, NIV).
These words contain an obvious truism which may make a few squirm. Jesus appears to be saying that many who are abundantly rich in this life are never going to attain to Eternal Life.
Many more comments follow, pertaining to a Christian's need to love his or her enemies, and to avoid making rash judgments. Then in verse 38, Jesus addresses how Christians should look upon 'Giving.' Let us look at it:
'Give, and it shall be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.'
So Jesus loves generosity - He hates 'stinginess.' However, the teaching of freely giving while under no financial compulsion or regulation has very strong New Testament support. When Jesus sent out the very first preachers of the Gospel, He outlined a financial approach based entirely on faith. Notice Luke 9:3, Luke 10:4-7 and especially Matthew 10:7-10. The Gospel was to go out entirely without charge; Jesus appears to be saying, 'What has been given to you freely, must never be charged for. Have faith in the Lord to supply the need.' This helps us to see why Luke (author of the Book of Acts) and Paul (who probably wrote 80% of the theology within the New Testament) later refuse to go beyond that in laying down any particular financial approach for the New Covenant people of God to adopt. To quote from my article on tithing,
'He (Paul)... expounds the principle of the 'cheerful giver' in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7. These are two whole chapters on the subject of financial giving by members of the body of Christ. Tithing is not once mentioned. Elsewhere Paul occasionally mentions his determination not to expect funds to come his way, but to work whenever the opportunity was there. Of course, he also mentions that ministers of Jesus Christ should expect to be financially supported. It is vital to consider 1 Corinthians 9:1-18 here, because now Paul is talking about the right of ministers to receive financial support while preaching the gospel, although it seems clear from his comments that he tried hard not to take up this right wherever possible, in his own case. But here are a large slab of eighteen verses where Paul could have appealed to tithing but plainly refuses to do so! This must surely be significant, for Paul is exactly addressing the right of ministers to be supported by the brethren. But Paul's silence on tithing here must be significant!'
(Quoted from Tithes and Tithing; Can We Honestly Face Up to the Truth?)
Paul finally gives his 'bottom line' on financial giving by Christians in 2 Corinthians 9:7, in which he plainly states that Christians should not give (and the whole context is of financial giving) "under compulsion." So this effectively bars imposed tithing for the New Testament Church of God. Christians must not be encouraged to give under compulsion or regulation. End of story. The statements by Jesus Himself, by Luke and then by Paul had certainly led us in this direction and Paul's use of the Greek word 'anangke' finally underlines that Christians should be under no financial regulation. This word is Greek word 318 in Strong's Concordance. It means: 'needs' 'must' 'constraint' 'necessity' 'needful' 'forced' or 'imposed' -this 'anangke' is translated 'necessity' in the KJV and 'compulsion' in the NIV. Paul is unafraid to use a word which came from Greek mythology; 'Anangke' was the mother of Moirae and Adrasteia, and was 'Goddess of Necessity.' Paul states that Christian giving must not be subject to these factors of compulsion, necessity and legal requirement.
I really hope that the great word 'evangelicalism' can be saved but - without question - the word is greatly damaged in the public perception because of the prosperity teachers. Let us all do all we can to warn others of the hideous distortions of the prosperity gospel and to make it clear wherever we can that this modern heresy has nothing at all to do with true evangelicalism.
Robin A. Brace, 2007.
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