In The First Century Church
At the beginning of this writing, the term specious was used to describe this prosperity teaching. Many may not be familiar with this term. Allow me to describe it. Specious is defined as, what is appears good or right on the surface, but lacking in real merit underneath. It is wisdom or logic, that may seem to have a sense of rightness about it, but when compared to the Truth, it is seen for what it truly is; a deceptive method of twisting the Truth, arriving at false conclusions.
This is the prosperity teaching in a nutshell. The basic idea is that God wants you to be rich and prosperous, as a witness of your covenant with Him. That he wants you to have this world’s goods because He wants you to enjoy life and have the best of everything, simply because you are a child of the King. This all sounds so very appealing to our flesh. But is it truth?
Paul warns Timothy that there are those who suppose gain is godliness meaning that they either use the way of godliness for profit, or see living a life of godliness as a means of gain. But God sees godliness with contentment as great gain. He goes on to say,
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will (resolve to) be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.[1 Tim. 6:6-9]
Paul warns those who,
“are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in the uncertainty of riches, but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.”
The things of this world are to be enjoyed, for sure. But they are to be viewed as gifts from God, not as a measurement of godliness or faith.
For does not God give rain to the just and the unjust, alike. The writer of Hebrews exhorts in similar fashion, when he says,
“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said,'I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee’.”
Those who are rich are to,
“. . .do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate. Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”
This is what we can see in the example of Paul’s collection for the saints. This is the type of distribution and communication that he is referring to. We can also see this in the early Church, as recorded in the book of Acts [Acts 4:32-35].
The grace and power of God had so saturated the early disciples, that they took seriously the providing for their own. The Scriptures witness to the “great power and great grace” that was evident among them.
The great power was seen in giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
The great grace was evidenced that there was none among them that lacked. This was not due to any form of prosperity teaching among them, but was due to their sense of equality. The Scriptures say this,
Neither was there any among them that lacked; for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
This is not a communistic practice as some have asserted. Among the company of disciples, there were those who owned lands and houses, which they obviously were not living in. They would sell them and bring the proceeds to the apostles. Then a distribution was made to those who had need, as the need arose. It was in this way that no one among them lacked.
Wouldn’t it be a wonderful gesture if one of the prosperity teachers sold one of his million dollar homes or one of his many luxurious cars, and gave the proceeds to those in the body, who were struggling with house payments, utilities or just putting food on the table.
THAT would be a true miracle.
The Word tells us,
He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will He pay him again. [Prov. 19:17]
He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed: for he giveth of his bread to the poor. [Prov. 22:9]
The prosperity teaching assumes that those believers who have this world’s goods are rich and highly favored by God, because of their great faith. However, there are those who are poor in this world’s goods, who consider themselves quite wealthy.
The Word agrees,
There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches. [Prov. 13:7]
Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.[Luke 12:15]
The prosperity teaching contradicts the words of Jesus. It is in this way “they deny the Lord who bought them.” Jesus says to beware of covetousness. The prosperity teachers tell us coveting is good, if not in word, then in practice.
How many claim to be apostles? Yet how many are willing to work with their own hands and be self-supporting, so that they might not be chargeable to the Church? How many would be willing to set their rights of support aside, so that the gospel should not be hindered? Not many I am afraid. The allurement of wealth is a trap that many have fallen into. But to use the Gospel of Jesus Christ to fulfill their avarice and lusting is reprehensible beyond all words.
These are those who failed to heed the warning of Paul, when he said that, “they that will (desire to) be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.”
With regard to the tithe, that should be a personal choice. If you desire to give a tenth of your income to the support of the Church as a freewill offering, that is your choice, but to use the tithe as a LAW to guilt-trip or brow-beat people into giving, that is wrong on every level.