March 12, 2009

Godliness with Contentment: God’s answer to the Gospel of Gain

by @ 9:29 pm. Filed under The Truth Shall Set you Free!

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 business  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.   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.)

20 Responses to “Godliness with Contentment: God’s answer to the Gospel of Gain”

  1. ncatina Says:

    Excellent commentary….very timely indeed.

  2. speakingtruth Says:

    Great commentary Stan (and great editing too, IC 🙂 )

    I’m working on a post focusing on life after the prosperity cult, and this is a must read that I will reference.

  3. 2thehilt Says:

    Thank you for posting this message. It was very much on time.

  4. KyleNYC Says:

    I’m not shouting, but, ONE OF THE BEST. POSTS. EVER.

  5. rascoe1 Says:

    IC, yesterday the pastor of the new church I attend referred to the tithe and offering as a form of worship? This is the first time I have heard him say anything like that since his sermons are biblically sound. Most times he only brielfy mentions a time of offering then moves right along. So I found yesterday’s comment strange. Is the offering considered a form of worship?

  6. IndependentConservative Says:

    I think a better question is, are all good deeds a form of worship? I think so.

    I think you should meet with the pastor and have a talk with him about his view of giving and whether he feels you’ve got to give him 10% or be viewed as somehow being in rebellion.

    Some who mention “tithe” but know the church never had any set tithe in scripture say it because they know some people do it anyway by choice, while some say it because they see it as mandatory. Beware of the latter.

    I was in a church meeting once and a brother had the word “tithe” written on his arm. After the meeting I asked the brother why he had “tithe” written on his arm. This is a baptist church teaching reformed doctrine and the pastor has never demanded tithes, although at times the term is mentioned, but never as mandatory. The brother told me he had forgotten to bring his and wrote it on his arm so he would not forget. I mentioned we are under grace and not the Law and the church never held to a tithe in scripture. He replied that he knows, but gives a tithe out of personal choice. I’m fine with that, although I never write things on myself 😀 . (You know, seeing it written on someone’s arm had me thinking they were living in unnecessary legalism.)

    That pastor has not demanded a tithe a day since he became the speaking pastor and the church has paid off the mortgage and had a recent benevolence offering that exceeded the set goal.

  7. rascoe1 Says:

    Thanks IC. The pastor has never demanded it. He has never given the usual pep talk to get us “excited about giving back to the Lord His 10%” But I do plan to talk with him about his views on giving.

  8. speakingtruth Says:

    Very important discussion IC. I’ve had similar conversations with folks whenever I hear them mention tithing – and while many do genuflect and start rolling their necks about being cursed if you don’t “tide”, a few have mentioned that they give out of love for God and they simply adhere to the tithe as a personal choice. Like you, I can live with that (as if my opinion matters anyway). I often discuss the need to call a tithe something other than a “10th” (as mandated by the law) but it’s a small bump in the road – all things considered.

    Rascoe – I’m glad to see you on this comment thread. You literally popped in my head yesterday and I had a note to email you to see how you were doing. I thank God that I “bumped into” you again here – and that you’ve found (what appears to be) a church home that is teaching the Word.

    Keeping you in my prayers…

  9. rascoe1 Says:

    Brother ST, I might have been quiet, but I am still here following all my favorite blogs and commentors. Yes, I left the old plantation in mid October and have been fellowshiping with a group of believers in Stone Mountain. It has been a blessing to hear the truth spoken from the pulpit every Sunday. It is just awesome singing those old hymns again. What’s even more wonderful is singing them with new understanding and appreciation for the words. I have also been enjoying the sermons from John MacArthur on Thanks for your prayers, and you are all in mine.

  10. psalm100 Says:

    IC-Where are you? I haven’t seen any new posts. Hope things are going well for ya!!!

  11. IndependentConservative Says:

    I’m here, all is well, all thanks to God through our Lord Jesus for that!

    I still have plans for more posts. But I guess it has been a few minutes since my last post 😀 .

  12. victoryle Says:

    Stop, Look, and Listen to yourselves. Who would want to come against a man of GOD? Would would want to come against his kingdom? These things you say about the church and Bishop Jakes is of satan. If there was someone out there reading this site looking for direction, seeking out a refuge from sin and self destruction wanting something that would give him peace of mind, spirit, and soul thinking of living a saved and santified life in Chirst, reading your comments may cause him/her to turn away and go back into the world? Don’t allow the enemy to use you to tear down the kingdom of God!! Whatever your thoughts, whatever you don’t understand don’t cause a soul to be lost forever!! just pray that the Lord will give you devine wisdom, guidance, and understanding that you may forgive and accept what he as Lord forgives.

  13. IndependentConservative Says:

    Victoryle, you are under delusion. Jakes is a false “bishop” who teaches a false gospel, not the true gospel of the Lord Jesus. Because a true chruch elder, never speaks lies like Jakes speaks. No true elder denies the triune nature of God, no true elder dodges when confronted by Muslims and no true elder dodges when asked about the sin of homosexuality.

    So Victoryle you are the one who should STOP, take your own advice, go read your Bible and pray God help you understand the truth of Matthew 23 and 1 Timothy 6. The guidance is right there in the pages of your Bible.

  14. Sojourner Says:

    I sure wish I could find a church where every sermon is not about tithing. I’d never even heard of tithing in all my years of being a Christian or church member, which has been almost 60 years, until hearing of tithing around the mid-eighties or early nineties.

    It so happens that I have always been a generous person and blessed to be able to give over 10%. But after being introduced to “tithing” and constantly being beaten up with the ill-explained version of the Law of the tithe I’ve just grown weary; and in my frustrations began sending most of my money outside of my church, to something else that is near and dear to me–MISSIONS.

    At first this caused me to have feelings of guilt, which led me to leave the church because I felt it was sort of disloyal, but I was loving sending money to mission work much more than supporting that church.

    Now, unfortunately, though I’m diligently searching, I’m currently not a “member” of any church, but I know I should be. I have little hope of finding a church where, no matter which chapter/verse of the Scriptures are read, the sermon is ALWAYS going to end up being about tithing. Since God still works miracles, there is some hope (please, God)

    Any prayers, godly advice or godly comments are welcome. Thanks.

  15. Sojourner Says:

    Ooops! I forgot to say “good day” to all. Please pardon my oversight!

    Good day everyone…now, good night, everyone! God bless!


  16. IndependentConservative Says:

    Hi there Sojourner.

    One site I’ve been enjoying is The Reformed Reader and that site has an International Reformed Baptist Church Directory. I think that would be a good starting point for searching. I know for churches listed in my area they don’t practice legalistic games like “tithing”.

  17. Sojourner Says:

    Thanks for the links, IC. I’m going to click through and see what I can find in their directory. God bless.

  18. Sojourner Says:

    Hey, I checked the directory for my city and surrounding areas but didn’t see anything promising, but I’ll do some additional research. Thanks for the leads. Good night

  19. IndependentConservative Says:

    Tonight during a meeting at our local church a brother mentioned the 9 Marks web site. Which reminded me, they also have an online church directory that might be worth checking out.

  20. Sojourner Says:

    Blessed day to you, and thanks for remembering me with this new information. I shall certainly check the site out and see what they may have. Good night!

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