It started with Jacob when he fled for his life from his brother Esau. When he reached Bethel, he received a dream about a ladder to Heaven. In it, God promised to be with him and keep him on his journey. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the LORD will be my God. (Genesis 28:20-21)
What we just read was the first instance in the Bible of a saint asking for material blessing from God. Jacob limited his request to food and clothing. In effect, he asked, “Please don’t let me starve to death or freeze to death.”
That prayer was uttered in the Old Testament, but its teaching resounds throughout all Scripture. It’s these same basic things that Jesus refers to in the Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. (Matthew 6:25). Continuing, He says, So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33). The expression “all these things” refer to food, drink and clothing. The “Our Father” also limits temporal requests to “daily bread.” Paul tells us the same thing: But if we have food and covering, let us be content with that. (I Tim 6:8).
Food and clothing are the perishables and the consumables of life. We’ve enjoyed an uninterrupted stream of these things in America. Well-stocked supermarkets and stores abound. Such widespread prosperity is not often the case, though. Famines, droughts, economic upheaval, war and other disasters are common curses on earth that can reduce these things to a trickle. As Paul says, riches are uncertain. Yet, God tells us we may pray for these basics, every day if need be; for He promises to supply them. “I was young, now I am old, and I have never seen the righteous forsaken, or his children begging bread.” (Ps. 37:25) We are to be content if we have these things; not only content, but also thankful; not only thankful, but also generous to those without these things, especially believers.
Jacob recognized God’s prerogative concerning “the extra” when he finished his prayer with, “and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” (Genesis: 28:31b). Notice that Jacob did not ask for any specific amount of wealth. He left the amount up to God. Jacob is teaching us that we are not to ask God to make us rich, or even to hope He will; but, we may certainly ask Him to supply our basic needs. Whatever above those necessary things we receive in this life is God’s will.
What is also important in Jacob’s vow is that he did not assume that he could “tithe first to get later.” Yet today, this man-made doctrine is expressly taught in churches. What Jacob actually said was that he would “tithe of what God would give him.” Whatever that amount turned out to be, it would be over 20 years before Jacob gave that tithe (Genesis 31:38). Jacob was following the pattern of his grandfather, Abraham, who tithed from the spoils of war. Abraham had recognized the power of God in that heavily lopsided victory he won over the four invading kings who had taken his nephew, Lot. (Genesis 14). Just as God had been with Abraham to grant him a victory; so too, God granted Jacob a victory over Laban who kept cheating him out of his pay. (Genesis 31:7-13). Therefore, they both tithed afterward in appreciation of the God Who delivered them from their enemies.
Christians are warned against the deliberate pursuit of riches. The desire to be rich is in direct opposition to God’s Word and causes us to err from the faith. “they that desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Tim 6:9-10)
James gives us his blunt denunciation of those who seek God to acquire personal gain. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. (James 4:3-4) To seek wealth from the hand of God makes us His enemies. It makes us adulterers and adulteresses; idolators and coveters. It is one thing to pursue riches on our own. That’s evil enough. It is quite another to ask God to grant our lusts. That is deliberately provoking Him to His face. Let us obey what James commands those who seek worldly gain from God: Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (verse 7-10).
James has more to say about pursuing money: Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. It is not wrong to work hard in businessÂ or to make smart investments, if you have such means. That is not what is evil. What is evil is discontentment; seeking to become rich and boasting about what the grand results of your investments will be. Whether our efforts yield little or much, we are to say, “Let the Lord’s will be done;” and be done with it. Such a trusting attitude removes evil intent as well as takes the stress and worry away from us. It also honors God “who gives us richly all things to enjoy.” ( 1 Timothy 6:17b)
Laodicean believers found all the wealth they desired, for they boasted, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ (Revelation 3:17a), but God sent leanness into their souls. And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul. (Psalm 106:15).
What was the “leanness” of the Laodiceans? you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. (Revelation 3:17b) These terrible conditions are the many sorrows that we pierce ourselves through with when we lust for money. It is what we are buying.
The only cure is Godliness with contentment: To be content in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in, whether we abound or are abased. Let us have a loose hold on this life and its blessings. They’ll be gone all too soon, it will seem. It is what Paul admonishes: But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess. . .(1 Corinthians 7:29-30)
The Doctrine of Gain being taught by so many churches has attracted multitudes who want God to make them rich. Yet, typically, they already own much more than their basic needs. They are blessed enough not to have to ask for their daily bread. Yet, many more believers than they have lived throughout the millennia with little. Those who currently live in the third world or who are under persecution need daily provision from the hand of God. They have been forced to leave their houses and their goods, with nothing but God, Who said He will supply their needs, even on the run. He has told all of us that He would never leave us or forsake us.
But, American Christians want even more than they have. The multitudes of mammon-worshipers have heaped to themselves many teachers to convince them that gain is godliness. So, they teach them to tithe or give in order to receive back up to a hundred-fold. Or, they are told to speak incantations over their bank accounts or wallets. Marilyn Hickey and Kenneth Copeland, to name a couple of examples, have openly taught this witchcraft.Â Â Teachers such as Benny Hinn and Dutch Sheets tell them that God wants to transfer the wealth of the wicked to them. They believe that If they give a Passover Offering, or rush to their phones to give impulsively to a LeSea, Inspiration Network or TBN telethon, that heretofore ungranted temporal blessings will be delivered to them by angels.
These teachers, no matter how ungodly their teachings, no matter how antagonistic they are toward God, have been made excessively wealthy by their devotees. They greedily purchase their books and DVDs; they pay conference and seminar fees and happily give their tithes and offerings to them, all so they can be told that God wants them rich. I know. I believed that tithing to my church would result in divine provision; that the windows of Heaven would open if I put my 10% or more into the so-called “local storehouse.” [However though, I never saw private giving in such a light. I enjoy that too much to be mercenary about it. I don't want anything back from that in this life.] After leaving the church that taught this doctrine, and being freed from it, I quickly repented of my enmity toward God in the attempt to bribe Him with tithes. My prayer is that if you have such motives, that you will realize you have become an enemy of God and a friend to the world; and that you may go to God in repentance.
Our only protection from this insidious lust for wealth is to repent of it, to cast aside as unclean the destructive teachings of the Gospel of Getting. Let us seek the grace of contentment with whatever God gives us. If God grants us much, that is His business. May we not be guilty of pursuing riches so as to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth. If we have abundance, let us not trust in it, but let us do good with it by being “ready to give and willing to share.” Let us use our goods to help needy brethren and worthy ministries. By doing so, we will lay up for ourselves treasures in Heaven where no thief, moth or rust will ever take them away.
(This post was written by Stan with [very minor] editing by Independent Conservative.)
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