A Biblical View of Wealth

Money tests our hearts like little else on earth. Whether it be the test of poverty, or the test of prosperity, money brings out the best and worst in us. Far too often, and I am sure you’d agree, we don’t know as much about God’s view on money as we ought to, but are afraid to admit. Within church-circles, it’s even more daunting to face our deficiencies on money-management because we’re “supposed” to be people of the Book – with all of the answers rolling off the tip our tongue. Some people preach the prosperity gospel (false), promising God wants you rich. Some preach the poverty gospel (also false), promising God wants you poor. Reality is, everybody needs to continuously revisit biblical principles on money and be a balanced, lifelong student of financial stewardship. To help contrast some of the bad teaching out there, here are some starter-principles to build upon.

Principle #1: God owns everything

When we think of wealth, first, we have to understand that God owns everything! God doesn’t owe you and I anything, He isn’t shocked by the state of the world, and He never “lost the deed to the earth” when Adam sinned, as prosperity preachers and Word of Faith enthusiasts will preach. God doesn’t just hold the deed to all land; He is the Creator of all land.

God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10); He owns everything under heaven, for that matter (Job 41:11). The Psalmist declares, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). There is no arguing with the Bible on who owns everything. God does.

So if God is the owner of everything, what does that make us? When we understand this first principle, we quickly realize we are simply, managers. One day, we’ll give an account for how we managed what He’s entrusted to us (see Matthew 25:14–30).

Principle #2: Wealth isn’t guaranteed on earth

The Bible is equally as clear that while God owns everything, wealth isn’t guaranteed for everyone on earth. Jesus told His disciples that the poor would always be with them (John 12:8). We can gather from His words that people are naturally going to struggle financially in this broken world. No wonder Scripture is so adamant that the poor be cared for—they are some of society’s most vulnerable people. Assuming, of course, that they are not poor because they are lazy (the Bible has much to say on laziness, but we’ll have to cover that another time), God cares greatly for those who are in need. The book of Proverbs contains wisdom on serving the poor because wealth is not always going to be evenly spread around the world. Because of that we should:

  • Not oppress the poor, but rather, be kind to them (Proverbs 14:31)
  • Lend to the poor and trust the Lord with the results (Proverbs 19:17)
  • Be generous and share food with the poor (Proverbs 22:9)
  • Give to the poor and not ignore them (Proverbs 28:27)
  • Protect the rights of the poor (Proverbs 29:7)

Caring for the poor is necessary because wealth is not guaranteed for all. Beyond that, Scripture show us what God wants for all of us. Contentment, not riches, should be the goal of every believer. We must maintain balance in our understanding on wealth and poverty. With his intelligence, extensive religious training (Acts 26:5), and Roman citizenship (Acts 22:27), the apostle Paul was certainly deserving of great wealth, but clearly he wasn’t focused on whatever the prosperity preachers of today are selling. He has learned the value in contentment (Philippians 4:12).

God accomplishes his purposes in and through both the poor and the rich. In the end, contentment is the key to a happy heart (1 Timothy 6:8).

Principle #3: Wealth is a tool for gospel advancement

Even though wealth is not guaranteed on earth, God does give the opportunity to gain wealth. You may say, “Nobody gave me wealth—I earned it!” The children of Israel thought the same thing, but Moses reminded them that it was God who was blessing them based solely on His sovereign will (Deuteronomy 8:17–18). In short, if God has blessed you with wealth, you ought to humbly thank Him and realize that you have a great responsibility.

When it comes to being rich, the Bible is hardly silent on what rich people are supposed to do with their abundance of money. Yes, it’s biblical and prudent to leave an inheritance for your children (Proverbs 13:22), and it’s good to work hard and save for the future (Proverbs 6:6). But you know what the greatest purpose of wealth is? To advance the gospel and do God’s will! Paul told Timothy that rich people are to do this very thing. In a very straightforward passage he says,

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.(1 Timothy 6:17–19)

There you have it. Wealth is not a sin. You’re allowed to enjoy it. But don’t for a second fix your hope on it. It’s a tool for ministry, not materialism.

The best investment strategy on earth is putting stock in heaven! Jesus affirmed this investment strategy when He said to store up treasure in heaven where nothing can destroy it (Matthew 6:19–21).

Use your wealth to advance the gospel. You can’t take it with you. There will be no U-Haul behind the hearse.

Principle #4: Wealth is not a sign of elite spiritual status

Prosperity preachers will tell you that wealth is a sign of an elite spiritual awakening. As in, “You have finally realized your full identity as a child of God when you step into the wealth God has for you.…” Or some nonsense like that.

Again, check the Bible on this. It is estimated the Bible contains upwards of two thousand references to money. Approximately 50 percent of Jesus’s parables dealt with stewardship of money and “stuff,” and nearly three hundred verses in just the Gospels alone deal with money. Doesn’t this tell you that money and wealth are a very serious subject to God? Nor do all these verses contain exciting affirmations about being wealthy; rather, many of them contain warnings about being wealthy. In fact, wealth is often a distraction from what really matters, so it takes a lot of discipline and biblical teaching to keep your heart from being sucked in by money’s malicious pull. The wealthy are often in a tug-of-war between their affections for earthly things (Philippians 3:19) and the eternal life to come. Wealthy believers, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can overcome temptations and use wealth as a tool for good, but more than likely there will always be a battle in the heart between giving generously and the natural inclination to keep, keep, keep.

Does the Bible paint wealth as a mark of the spiritual elite, or does it warn of the dangers of having all the things your heart desires? Look at what the Bible warns about wealth and decide for yourself:

  • You can’t serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).
  • The deceitfulness of riches chokes out fruitfulness (Mark 4:19).
  • It’s difficult for rich people to choose Christ over wealth (Luke 18:22–23).
  • It’s difficult for rich people to enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:25).
  • The love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10).
  • Your soul is your most important asset (Luke 12:20).
  • You can gain the whole world yet lose your soul if you do not have Christ (Mark 8:36).

Furthermore, in the Bible, the poor and afflicted are given special attention when it comes to spiritual care, and they are often able to worship more freely because they are free of the entanglements that riches bring. Revelation 2:9 illustrates this perfectly and tells us what real riches are. Jesus calls the church of Smyrna “rich” because even though they are in poverty and tribulation, they have held fast to their faith no matter the cost! They receive the highly esteemed crown of life for their faithfulness and suffering on earth (Revelation 2:10). What a powerful truth! Wealth is not a sign of elite spiritual status—having Christ is.

Don’t buy the lies the prosperity preachers sell. The wealthy should be asking, “How can I be more sacrificial?” Rather than, “How can I boast in my elite status?” 

Principle #5: Wealth is an immense responsibility

If you’re wealthy, you were meant to build God’s kingdom, not your own earthly empire. Jesus said not to be anxious about any kind of provision but to instead seek His kingdom and his righteousness and that everything else would be taken care of (Matthew 6:31–33). In fact, we are all called to live generous lives with whatever means we have. Jesus said that when a widow gave two cents, she had given more than the wealthy who had given large amounts (Luke 21:1–4). He doesn’t see the size of your gift; He sees the state of your heart. When we give, we must give willingly, not under compulsion (2 Corinthians 8:12; 9:7). Wealth is a responsibility to steward, trusting that God has blessed you to be a blessing and that He will keep blessing you as He sees fit. Our job isn’t to keep; our job is to work hard, invest well, and give generously (again, see Matthew 25:14–30).

Prosperity gospel preachers want you to give to them to make them rich, but God wants you to give to faithful gospel ministries to help them reach. There is a world of hurting and broken people, and money can make a huge impact in ways that will long outlive you. You will be accountable for how you managed the wealth God has given you. That is an immense responsibility. What will your conversation be like before the throne of Christ? Will you stammer and stutter, claiming to have tried to give a little here and there while you spent most of it on your own pleasures and let the poor suffer and the church struggle? Or will you joyfully report to the Master, saying, “Lord, sometimes it went against the grain of this world to give sacrificially for your work, but pleasing you was the priceless treasure I held on to!” If we live that way, I have no doubt we will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23).

So go ahead! Work hard, enjoy life, and celebrate the gifts that God has given you. Be content, seek His kingdom first, care for others, and give generously in whatever ways He has enabled you to do. In all your working, living, striving, giving, and caring, remember to maintain biblical balance and keep eternity in mind.

God is not trying to take away all you have—He’s the one who gave it. He is, more than anything, testing the affections of your heart and offering you a joy beyond this world with Him in glory.

Wealth is not a sin; it’s a responsibility. Use it well.

God’s Design for Fathers and Work

I recently posted a Twitter poll. The question was: Is it biblical for a man who is able-bodied and married with children to be a stay-at-home dad while his wife goes to work as primary provider? After over 1,100 people weighed in, the results and responses were varied. Including many comments from Facebook, it became obvious that there are still numerous people who don’t think the Bible speaks on this issue. I hope this article will help provide some food for thought.

How should a Christian father approach work, leadership, and providing for his family? Some would argue that the culture has changed since the “old days” and the modern man should be happy with whatever method or arrangement he and his wife agree too. That may mean him staying home with a baby strapped to his chest and a casserole in the oven while his wife climbs the corporate ladder. It also may mean the income-driven approach. In many of today’s households, money drives the agenda and the “have to’s” abound. We “have to” have this, “have to” have that. Even if both spouses didn’t have to work, many couples choose to both work in order to maximize income. As for the kids? Well, some would argue that’s what daycare is for.

Is this God’s design? Did He call fathers to a passive existence when it comes to work and provision; viewing “homemaker” as a role fit for men? Is His will that mother and father work for retirement, home ownership, and more comfort while their young children are farmed out to others during their formative years? Does God want the burden of being primary provider placed on the wife’s shoulders? Are we to chase a cushion in our bank account at any cost – even if that means our kid’s well being? The picture we see in Scripture is a resounding “no.” You may be thinking, what about special circumstances and seasons where it’s not as black and white? What about married couples who don’t have kids – can’t they both work? What about people who work from home so they’re able to be with the kids? What about women who work night shifts and Saturdays while their husband plays with the kids in order to not abandon their role in the home? Isn’t it fine that a mother go back to work when her children are old enough to go to school? The nuances are endless, and like the ones above, some are valid, but each couple will have to decide whether or not to follow God’s design – even if that means tough decisions. God’s will for fathers and mothers is that they be serving in their primary roles – especially when young children are in the home. I’ll repeat that one more time so we’re clear: especially when young children are in the home. Let the reader understand, this is no broad brush of every life stage and scenario. A topic like this takes a great a deal of level-headed, biblical thinking. We must consider all that Scripture teaches.

In today’s world, many Christian men need to step up as fathers and stop bowing to culture and cowering in fear of feminists. Yes, life is hard and some decisions might make you public enemy #1, but Christian men are called to lead by example whether it’s easy to or not. To spur you on as you discern God’s word in relation to work and roles, here are 3 truths to remember about a godly father and his work:

  1. Godly fathers are called to work

In Genesis God established the working order for husband and wife.  The Bible is not unclear about God’s design. First, God modeled work in creation (Genesis 2:1-3). As an image-bearer of God, men must remember that work is part of their pre-fall design. Work isn’t bad or to be avoided by men. Work is to be embraced, and by work, I mean employment and labor because God means employment and labor. God gave man his first job (Genesis 2:15). God didn’t employ a woman to manage the Garden of Eden, He employed man. That should be noted.

After the Fall, the nature of work changed, but man’s call to work didn’t. God cursed the ground (Genesis 3:17a), told Adam that toil was now to be expected and that hard work was required to provide food (Genesis 3:17b-19). The work environment would be hostile and unforgiving as it produced thorns and thistles in addition to good crops (Genesis 3:18). As the nature of work changed, God laid out clear roles for men and women. He was not silent on the specific areas that husbands and wives would be impacted. For women, it would be childbirth and the desire to dominate their husband (3:16). For men, it would be difficulty in laboring to provide.

Furthermore, Jesus was a divine example of work. He was sent to accomplish spiritual work (John 9:4-5) which, of course, caused Him to constantly exert Himself physically. Beyond that, what did Jesus do until His ministry began at 30? Historically speaking, as the son of a carpenter He would have been apprenticed in carpentry and no stranger to hard work. Your Savior had the calloused hands of a carpenter long before having the nail scared hands of a Redeemer. Christ was a worker in every sense. We should be too.

  1. Godly fathers are to provide

Being a provider is a vital part of biblical manhood.

On the order of a Christian home the Bible explains that while husbands and wives are spiritual equals (1 Peter 3:7), they are to function in distinct roles. Wives are to submit to their husbands as the head of the home (Ephesians 5:23-27). Just as Christ is the head of every man, the man is the head of the wife (1 Corinthians 11:3). Therefore, a simple question can be asked when it comes to men providing for their wives: Did Christ provide for the Church or did Christ command the Church to provide for Him? From our salvation, to our future glorification, we are provided for by Christ! So also, a man must care for his wife and children by providing for them. 

In the Paul’s writings, we see strong words regarding men providing for their homes: if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever(1 Timothy 5:8). Some will try to dismiss gender roles here and argue that the context is limited to the care of widows (which Paul certainly has in mind), but Paul broadens his language to include a man’s household and immediate circle. To “deny the faith” and be “worse than an unbeliever” means your actions are contrary to what you say you believe and that there are even unbelievers who do a better job prioritizing provision than you! This can be tough for a man to face, but a man was, and is, biblically expected to provide.

A word to those feeling shame or tension over this topic: There is no need to feel shame for missing the mark in this area if you’ve never been taught biblically on it. Study further (resources below), pray through the next step with your wife, and walk confidently forward knowing God always honors His word. It may be a difficult season shifting to a more biblical approach, but trusting and obeying God will lead to joy and peace.

  1. Godly fathers don’t capitulate to culture

It doesn’t matter what culture may demand, a godly man will stand. The Word of God is the godly man’s decree. Christ, not culture, is the head he submits to. Whatever the nuances that come up in relation to his wife, his children, and work, his leadership stays under the Lordship of the Master. He knows his role requires the provision and protection of his family. He studies and helps his family understand their roles as well, leading his wife to be one who loves her husband, loves her children, and diligent keeps home (Titus 2:4-5). This will, of course, include accurately handling the Scriptures so not to dismiss or misinterpret passages he must apply. For example, the question will often arise: Why can’t a mother work full time like the woman in Proverbs 31? He must know that there is nothing wrong with a wife who emulates the industrious woman of Proverbs 31 in order to create income for her home. Yet still, a Christian home should be structured in such a way that the mother is not abandoning her primary responsibilities in order to climb the corporate ladder. It is against God’s design for a household to rally around a mother who is pursuing a career outside of the home when young children are present. Especially when God has called her to fulfill one of the greatest roles in the history of the universe for a short number of years. While many will cry, “cruel patriarchy!” and view God’s design as oppressive, their perspective is short-sighted. A woman gets to birth and nurture God-glorifying children (1 Timothy 2:15) while her husband gets to care for her and provide for her needs. She gets to influence the next generation. She gets to shape the minds of her little ones in a world gone mad. This is God’s design and godly men must work to allow their wives the opportunity to fulfill this high calling.

Christian men do well to read a book edited by Piper and Grudem called, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. On wives and work, George W. Knight III writes:

Since Scripture interprets Scripture and its teaching is consistent and unified, we realize that the picture of Proverbs [Chapter 31] is not contradicted by the Apostle Paul. Furthermore, we must realize that the emphasis on the home is the very point of the Proverbs passage. The woman in Proverbs works to care for her family and to fulfill her responsibility to her family (cf., e.g., verses 21 and 27). She does this not only for her children but also to support her husband’s leadership role in the community (verse 23). She is seeking the good of her family. Furthermore, she seeks to aid the poor and needy by her labors (verse 20). Here, then, are keys to the question of a wife and mother working outside the home: Is it really beneficial to her family, does it aid her husband in his calling, and does it, in correlation to the first two, bring good to others? Can she do it while still being faithful to her primary calling to be a wife and mother and to care for her home? It must be noted that even though the woman in Proverbs has not sought to “find herself” or to make her own career, but rather serve her family, in the end she receives praise from her family (verses 28, 29) and recognition for her labors (verse 31) because she has conducted the whole endeavor in obedience to the Lord she reverences (verse 30).

Much more can be said on this topic that space and time do not allow here. Whatever your view at this point in time, remember this:

Every Christian father will give an account to Christ one day for how he led, served, and nurtured his wife. Will she be battered and worn down from this world because you sent her to fight in a battle that was yours? Will your children have experienced the beauty of God’s design before their very eyes or will you have squandered the chance to help them relish in the joy and blessing of obedience? Will your hands be calloused from labor like Christ?

Men of God keep their work boots by the front door and their Bible close by.

__________________________________

Recommended Resources: 

Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood edited By John Piper and Wayne Grudem

The Grand Design by Gavin Peacock and Owen Strachan

The Fulfilled Family by John MacArthur

Being a Dad Who Leads by John MacArthur

The Exemplary Husband by Stuart Scott

The Prosperity Gospel: A Global Epidemic

Prosperity is hot topic in the church. Does God care if a pastor drives a nice car or lives in a nice home? Does God command that all who follow Him take a vow of poverty and starve their families in a protest of earthly comfort? Bible teachers sell millions of books and accumulate mass amounts of wealth, are they in the same league as other wealthy preachers? Some will have deep convictions about attaining any measure of wealth, while others will be content use their wealth to give back to their church. Some will use their wealth to fund a child’s college tuition, or even scholarship a seminary student. Others will invest their wealth with the goal of giving even more away in the future. Stewardship comes in all shapes and sizes but one thing doesn’t—God’s ability to weigh a man’s heart and motives. It is a man’s heart that God is most interested in and the gospel a man proclaims that God will judge most. When Heaven’s final bell rings and every man is recompensed according to his deeds, God will have the final say. The issue will not be whether that pastor took home a six-figure salary; the issue will be what that man taught and wrote while representing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In this article, the prosperity gospel is placed front and center as one of the deadliest teachings in the world today. It has attached itself to the Bible, and to Jesus Christ—though it has no business doing so. Countless people in third world countries chase after it in search of stability and hope. Yet, all those who live and die trusting in the prosperity gospel for salvation will be left wanting in both this life, and the next.

What is Prosperity Gospel Theology?

Obviously, the prosperity gospel is not “good news.” Therefore, let’s understand that it’s no “gospel” at all. That said, I use the term because it’s so widely recognized when discussing these kinds of issues. A very basic definition of the prosperity gospel can be described as this: God’s plan is for you to live your best life now. Health, wealth, and happiness are guaranteed on Earth for all who follow Jesus. Heaven is simply the eternal extension of your temporal blessings. The prosperity gospel’s theological foundation can be traced to at least three twisted versions of biblical truths. Prosperity preacher’s twist these in order to legitimize their version of the gospel.

  1. Christ’s Atonement Means Abundant Life Now

The Bible clearly teaches that Christ died to atone for our sin (Isaiah 53) and that because of what He accomplished through His death and resurrection, we’ll experience the abundant life that He came to give us (John 10:10). Though we enjoy some benefits of the atonement now—such as the forgiveness of our sins and assurance of salvation—His atonement guarantees eternal promises that won’t be fully be realized until Heaven. We’ll receive a glorified body, there will be no death, no sin, no pain, no suffering, and no disease! Those are just a few of the eternal benefits of the atonement. Best of all, we’ll enjoy perfect fellowship with our God forever more. Prosperity preachers teach that health and wealth were “paid for” in the atonement—just like sin. Therefore, this twisted interpretation allows them to teach people to expect complete healing, monetary riches, and total victory in every area of their earthly life. Instead of telling people to put faith in Jesus Christ and excitedly await their best life in heaven, they offer an empty gospel that promises people their best life now.

  1. God’s Covenant with Abraham Means Inheritance Now

There’s an old children’s song that goes something like this: “Father Abraham had many sons. Many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them, and so are you. So let’s just praise the Lord!” It’s used by many faithful Christians as a way to teach children about the great joy associated with God’s covenant with Abraham. Specifically speaking, the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:1-3) has much to do with redemption, and God’s promises to His people. However, prosperity preacher’s use the covenant as a means to promise an inheritance (usually land and money) for their followers now. This has become their most common use for it. In the prosperity gospel, God’s covenant with Abraham is littered with statements like, “If you’ll sow a seed of faith like Abraham, God will bless you”, or “If you speak it and live it by faith like Abraham, God will prosper you.” These type of statements are a way to present any temporal or eternal inheritance that awaits God’s people as a blanket guarantee. If these twisted versions of the Abrahamic covenant were true, then the millions who trust in the prosperity gospel would become millionaires and land-owners overnight. Thus far, it is mainly the prosperity preachers who are benefitting from the offerings of those they deceive.

  1. Faith is a Force You Can Use to Control God

The Bible teaches that Christians are justified by faith (Romans 5:1), that Christians overcome the world through faith (1 John 5:5), and that Christians live by faith because of what Christ has done (Galatians 2:20). The list of verses on the blessings of faith is endless! Faith pleases God, is directly related to salvation, and is the evidence of trust in God for the believer. Prosperity gospel preachers depart from this orthodox teaching on faith when they often add in “Word of Faith” teachings into their sales pitch. They teach that faith is a force you can use to get what you want from God. In other words, you were able to obtain salvation and justification by faith, so why can’t you obtain a Ferrari the same way? Prosperity theology is centered on the notion that God’s will is to save you and make you rich. In such a theological system, right believing, right thinking, and right speaking are all linked with faith in order to create physical blessings. This is where the word of faith movement often hybrids with the prosperity gospel.

How Did the Prosperity Gospel Get So Popular?

Long before the Catholic Church was selling indulgences, the correlation between ministry, money, and manipulation was crystal clear. The Bible even describes Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8:9-24) as a magician who thought he could buy the gift of God with money. Specifically speaking, the modern day roots of the prosperity gospel go back approximately seventy years. It was during the 1950’s that this divergent gospel pioneered its way into the mainstream evangelical scene and nobody at the time could have imagined that it would spread across the globe. Born in 1918, Granville “Oral” Roberts was, in many ways, the lead prosperity pioneer. He went from being a local pastor, to building a multi-million dollar empire based on one major theological premise: God wanted people to be healthy and wealthy. Oral Roberts didn’t mince words about his version of Jesus or the gospel. He adamantly taught and defended his belief that Jesus’ highest wish is for us to prosper materially and have physical health equal to His peace and power in our soul.[i] He twisted the Bible to make his point and would teach that it was Jesus who said, in 3 John 1:2, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou may prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth,” when in fact that was the Apostle John’s loving way of greeting his readers at the time. John’s greeting is comparable to the first line of many of our modern day e-mails that begin with, “Hi! I hope everything is going well for you.”

Bestselling books by Roberts often brought the two distinct teachings of the prosperity gospel and the word of faith movement together under one roof. His books brandished catchy titles such as, If You Need Healing Do These Things, The Miracle of Seed-Faith, A Daily Guide to Miracles, and Successful Living through Seed-Faith. Desperate crowds could hardly resist his big promises and they ignored the fact that Roberts was butchering Bible—namely, the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Big crowds and big money had blinded both Roberts, and those who followed him.

Today, the prosperity gospel has exploded to become one of the most popular teachings in the world. It has overtaken continents like Africa, and South America as it continues to breed pastors and people who are looking to land a serious pay-day.

How Can a Pastor Preach Against it?

It’s a proven fact that the best way to spot counterfeit money is to become an expert in what real money looks (and even feels) like. Knowing the right stuff about the real thing protects you from being fooled. The best way that a pastor can strengthen his flock and protect them from being deceived is to teach them faithfully about the truth. Any seminar, series, or conference on false teaching should always be paired with clear biblical truth, not merely a protest concerning errors.

Here are three ways that a pastor can move from only protesting errors, to also preaching the truth:

  1. Teach a Biblical View on Prosperity

The people of God need to know and understand that prosperity does not validate a person’s salvation. No amount of money, awards from an employer, or inheritance from relatives can act as a “sign” that God’s hand is upon someone’s life. The blessing of salvation can rest upon an orphan just as much as a king. God is not a respecter of persons. Next, a biblical view of prosperity will teach people that the preacher’s message is not validated by his own wealth. For example, many prosperity preachers will use their own net worth as proof that God is blessing them and therefore, their message is trustworthy. This is unacceptable. Finally, prosperity does not validate a church’s doctrine. Much like the pastor’s message, a church may think big offerings and big crowds are evidence that God is pleased with their ministry. Undoubtedly, God is more likely pleased with a church of 80 who is faithful yet poor, than He is with a church of 8,000 who is rich yet false.

  1. Teach a Biblical View of Sovereignty

A pastor will raise up a healthy and humble congregation if they are consistently taught that God controls all things—including prosperity. While it is man who is encouraged to work hard (Proverbs 6:6-8) and to be wise stewards (Proverbs 21:5), it is God who graciously pours out riches on whom He desires (Proverbs 10:22). It is also God who allows the poor to have joy while in poverty! Paul taught, in 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, that Christians ought to be generous, but it is God who gives most. His grace is seen through the care of His children. This may include monetary wealth, or it may not. Trusting God unconditionally is the best way to live. Job learned this lesson well as he humbly said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

  1. Teach a Biblical View of Eternity

What debunks the prosperity gospel as well as anything? A high view of Heaven to come! What causes the church to shift its focus from obtaining earthly riches and putting energy into the Great Commission? A view of Heaven to come! Pastors must preach that our best life now is obeying Christ, that our best life now is spreading the gospel, and that our best life now can never compare to heaven. Mission-minded churches have very little time and energy to waste on being money-minded. Stewardship is to be employed for the furtherance of the gospel. Fundraising campaigns must have gospel-centered visions. The pulpit ministry is to be consistent in presenting money as a vehicle for doing more ministry—not having more “stuff”.

What is the Next Step?

One final note on how pastors can preach against the prosperity gospel: Get involved with organizations who are training pastors and sending resources to continents where this false gospel is an epidemic. There are many bold missionaries who know firsthand that the prosperity gospel is infiltrating their mission field more than any other type of teaching. They need our help.

If pastors will enter the pulpit full of zeal for the truth, and people will leave the pew full of zeal for their commission, perhaps by God’s grace a generation will crush the momentum of the prosperity gospel for the glory of God, and the joy of future generations.

[i] Roberts, Oral, If You Need Healing Do These Things (Garden City, NY: Country Life Press, 1950), 15.

_________________________________

***Editor’s Note: This article was originally written for Theology for Life (Volume 4, Issue 2). 

Why Biblical Elders Are Vital to Church Health

Church leadership models always seem to be going through a type of cultural renovation. Trying to stay relevant, influential evangelicals try to innovate at every turn; trading in biblical roles like elder and deacon for newer, less biblically stringent leadership positions. Some churches avoid having elders altogether because of bad experiences or horror stories from others who warn, “Don’t have elders, they will control you!”  Other churches have senior pastors with their own agenda in mind who purposely manipulate the system to ensure that only “yes-men”make it into leadership. Still, there are churches who have yet to raise up elders or don’t know how. Whatever the scenario, biblical eldership is not always taken as seriously as it should be, and yet, it is incredibly vital to the health of a church.

Elders are important to the church because, first and foremost, they are the leaders that Christ has appointed to oversee His church. This is not mere suggestion – it is the biblical mandate. A church cannot be a fully healthy church without elders, and a church can most certainly not be a healthy church without qualified elders (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).  At the very least, there should be elders being raised up where there are no qualified elders yet. Elders are so important that one of Paul’s first apostolic decisions in the churches that he established was to appoint elders there (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5).

Besides their biblically mandated presence in a church, there are several specific ways that elders are important to the vitality and health of a church.Here are are six to consider:

1. The church needs elders who are spiritually minded

Far too many elder boards are nothing more than a polity board when instead they should be pastoral. The church doesn’t need corporate shot-callers, it needs shepherds. True elders are ultimately put in their position by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28), not by being golfing buddies with the senior pastor or a wealthy influencer in the church. The term elder, in the Bible, is reserved for spiritual men who shepherd the flock. The terms πρεσβύτερος (presbuteros), ποιμήν (poimen), and ἐπίσκοπος (episkopos) are all used to describe the same office in the New Testament. Overseers, pastors, shepherds, and elders are all operating as the same kind of servant leader(s) of the church. Therefore, elders are spiritual men who are spiritually minded. They aren’t concerned with holding a position of power, but rather, being a faithful steward of what Christ has entrusted them with.

2. The church needs elders who care for the people

Christ’s people needs care – period. From counseling, to comforting, to correcting, to concern, no body of believers should be without overseers who have a genuine care for their souls (Hebrews 13:17). One of the ways that care is continuous is in the prayer life of an elder. Elders take time to pray fervently for the people. While the people are working, battling sin, and facing another day of challenges, there ought to be elders who are spiritual men going to the throne room of God on behalf of the people. This by no means is to say that the church must have some sort of priestly mediator – for we have Christ and need no other. It is to simply say that shepherds should be praying for the flock; knowing that God uses the power of prayer to preserve people.

3. The church needs elders who model for the people

They don’t need to be perfect or on a pedestal, but elders should be joyfully modeling a commitment to Christ and holiness in their lives. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 lays out qualifications that all Christians should strive for, but specifically, it lays out qualifications that all elders must possess. In fact, one of the responsibilities of an elder is to set an example for the flock (1 Peter 5:3). Elders who are qualified prove to be helpful models for people who need encouragement, discipleship, and a real life example of how sanctification works! Paul said, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). That’s the kind of leadership the church needs from elders.

4. The church needs elders who support church discipline

Elders oversee church discipline and support a system of correction, purification, and restoration within the church.  This is a healthy ecosystem in that the elders are often appointed by those within the church based on their qualifications, then serve to support the church through discipline and oversight. What a model of humility by both the congregation and the elders! (Matthew 18:15-20; Galatians 6:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:13-15; Titus 3:9-11).

5. The church needs elders who teach the Word

While all believers are to be teaching and admonishing one another (Colossians 3:16), elders are specifically called to the ministry of the word (1 Timothy 3:2) and charged with the task of preserving sound doctrine within the church (Acts 20:31; Titus 1:9). No church should ever have to suffer through the burden of not having gifted leaders who guide them in the Scriptures. Elders should be seen as essential to feeding the flock so much so that one of the primary emphasis in a local church is the raising up, and support of, biblical elders.

6. The church needs elders who protect them from deceivers

Elders are essential to a church because their ministry includes an emphasis on protecting the people by using the word to refute those who would harm them. Again, this is something that all Christians can do, but Christ has seen to it that there’s no question of who must do this. Even though people appoint and humbly follow their qualified leaders, it is ultimately the Holy Spirit who “makes” elders the overseers of the church (Acts 20:28) and demands they must protect the people. Elders stand against false doctrines, mark false teachers, and refuse to concede against any wolves that would prey on the flock (Acts 20:28-30; Romans 16:17-18).

Governance models within any given church may vary. Some will opt for elder led, some for congregationalism, and others will mix these two and find a type of balance. No matter the model, biblical elders are critical to the health of a church. Our goal should be to see Christ raise them up in our churches for the good of His people and glory of His name.

Recommended Reading:

Biblical Eldership By Alexander Strauch

The Masters Plan for the Church John MacArthur

Church Elders By Jeramie Rinne

Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology By John S. Hammett

5 Signs of a Dangerous Pastor

Trustworthy leadership is hard to find. Inside and outside Christianity, men and women with fancy letters behind their names are doing nasty things to innocent people – and children. It’s becoming more and more apparent that academic degrees (while important) and achievements (while admirable) are not the measure of success for a leader.

Integrity is.

I recently tweeted about the “5 signs of a dangerous pastor” and wanted to add some commentary to each of the 5 points in an effort to shed more light on this topic. While it’s understandable that an article like this is not an exciting read, there are people who need to read it. For those who are trying to discern whether or not to stay at their church, this is a huge deal. Just like lives are changed every day when people find faithful pastors who labor in Christ-exalting service, lives are changed for the better every time someone escapes the dangerous ones too. If just one family – no, one individual – is made more aware of what to look for in a church leader because of a list like this, it’s worth it all.

If you’re a pastor, this list is the mirror of conviction we can stand in front of; asking the Holy Spirit to expose where we’ve been compromising and trusting His power to set us straight. If you’re a church member who suddenly realizes this list fits the bill of your pastor – and has for a long time – buckle up. You may need to find a new church.

Here are the 5 signs:

  1. The Pastor Insulates Himself

This is the pastor who surrounds himself with a system of layers; making it nearly impossible to get valuable time with him. Still, he makes sure to appear personable and approachable in public settings. He insulates himself because he’s CEO-minded and deeply believes that the best way to grow the church is to be distant from the people. This pragmatic approach gives him a sort of “holy-aura” as he attempts to make himself a novelty to his followers. Like the Pope waving from an ivory tower in the Vatican City, the pastor who insulates himself can remain god-like in status while doing whatever he pleases out of sight. You won’t find him doing a whole lot of discipleship. This guy is the show-and-go type. You see him Sunday – then he’s gone!

  1. The Pastor is Threatened by Smart Individuals

This is the pastor who can’t stand educated and discerning people who ask tough questions. He will tolerate some question-asking because he’s smart enough to appear fair and tolerant. However, you won’t find men with a high degree of theological knowledge hanging around for very long. This threatens his pride. Instead of receiving constructive wisdom from those who may even be wiser, or being open to feedback from people within the congregation, he patronizes those with less experience and demeans those with less knowledge. This pastor draws influence and power from knowing more than others do – or appearing like he does. He maintains a long term following by drawing unsuspecting people he can manipulate.

  1. The Pastor Punishes Those Who Disagree

This is the pastor who creates a punitive culture within the church. This church becomes a place where it’s the dogmatic pastor’s way or the highway. Should you or anyone else even think about gently pointing out inconsistencies in the theological positions he holds, you run the risk of being privately shamed. Think about addressing something unbiblical or unethical within the church, and you run the risk of public retribution. For staff members, this means the loss of livelihood. For church members, this could mean the loss of reputation in the community as the pastor publically or privately paints an opponent in a negative light.

  1. The Pastor is Obsessed with His Own Vision

This pastor knows exactly what he wants and his will, ahem…I mean God’s will be done. You may hear this pastor say something like, “I started this church and this is how it’s going to be!” or “This is my church and no one is going to take it from me!” Those exclamatory statements may seem shocking but they are not uncommon. So is all “vision” bad? No. It’s actually beneficial when a leader has a plan for the future of a church but all a pastor needs to say about “his vision” is that his vision is to do what the Bible says to do. Unfortunately, many churches only hire people if they sign on to serve “Pastor Steven’s vision” (or Mark’s, Jim’s, and Greg’s). Guess what? The church has nothing to do with a man’s vision. It’s about Christ’s. No church growth book can change that, no advice from a pragmatic guru can change that, and no amount of pastoral kicking and screaming can change that. The church belongs to Jesus.

  1. The Pastor Twists the Bible to Fit His Own Rules

From elders who aren’t really biblical elders, to using money for whatever he deems noble and necessary, this pastor views stewardship and accountability systems as very fluid concepts. In other words, stewardship is really about what he wants to do vs. what he must manage on behalf of the church. Accountability, to this pastor, is about putting “yes” men in key positions. In most cases, this pastor will boast about his high level of accountability and adherence to Scriptural authority in order to appear trustworthy. He will claim them to be his deepest convictions until those things infringe on his decision making process, then the twisted game begins. Instead of admitting a mistake or facing the difficult pain of owning a poor decision, he twists (even ignores) the Bible to fit his own rules and make excuses for his decision making.

This kind of leadership is not the kind of leadership that Jesus had in mind when He promised to build His church (Matthew 16:18). If this is the kind of autocratic ruler that dominates your assembly week-in and week-out, run to safety – even if it means switching denominations for a while.

Recommended Resource: “9Marks of a Healthy Church” by Mark Dever

 

A Biblical View of Signs, Wonders, & Miracles

This article is a guest post by Justin Peters. To hear more from Justin or interact with him you can follow him on Twitter or connect with him on Facebook.

Is God still in the miracle business? There is an entire swath of professing Christianity that would answer that question with a resounding and enthusiastic, “Yes.” The Word-Faith and New Apostolic Reformation movements (WF/NAR) are twin movements that, though there be a bit of distinction between them, have far more in common with one another and, in fact, they are today essentially melding into one. They both teach that there are modern day Apostles, that Christians are entitled to guaranteed physical healing and financial prosperity, and that signs and wonders are to be a normative part of the believer’s life. Though this author holds that these movements are doctrinally heretical and teach a different gospel,[1]such serious concerns are beyond the scope of this article. We will focus here specifically on whether or not their claims of the continuance of modern day signs and wonders are valid.

What is a Miracle?

We should begin by defining exactly what a miracle is because this is a term that is often misunderstood and misused even by theologically conservative believers with a high view of Scripture. A miracle is “an observable phenomenon effected by the direct operation of God’s power, an arresting deviation from the ordinary sequence of nature, a deviation calculated to beget faith-begetting awe, a divine in-breaking which authenticates a revelational agent.”[2]In other words, a miracle is an act performed by God that is an indisputable change in natural law that validates one of His revelatory messengers.

There is an important distinction we must make between a miracle and God’s providence. Floating ax heads, parting seas, talking donkeys, fire from Heaven, and resurrections from the dead[3]are miracles. The Lord snatching Philip away (Acts 8: 39) is a miracle whereas fortuitously running into someone who lends us aid is not. A man lame for 38 years suddenly walking is a miracle (John 5:1-9), but slowly recovering from cancer is not. We should give thanks to God for sending us people to lend aid and we should give thanks when one recovers from a disease (even when one does not recover from a disease!), but such things are not to be called miracles. Rather, they are acts of God’s good Providence.

Were Miracles Common?

Many have this idea that God was performing miracles all the time throughout the Bible. We think that had we been living in biblical times we would be seeing God perform one miracle after another. Such is not the case, though. For one, if miracles were commonplace then they would cease to be, well, miraculous. More definitively, though, is that even in biblical days miracles were quite rare events. Consider this: Between Adam and Moses, about 2500 years passed with precisely zero miracles. Then Moses and Joshua arrived and performed a dozen or so miracles. After they passed from the scene another 500 years passed with no miracles until the arrival of Elijah and Elisha who performed another handful of miracles. There then commenced another multi-century long drought of the miraculous (and of God even speaking) until the ministries of Jesus and His disciples[4]who between them, for a few decades, performed many miracles. With the closing of the Apostolic age until now there has been no one who can credibly claim to perform miracles. So, for the 6000 year or so history of mankind less than 200 of those years saw any miracles performed and only by 100 or fewer individuals. Surprised?

The Purpose of Miracles

Many professing Christians today believe that God performs miracles for our own benefit. If someone is sick, God desires to heal that person and would gladly do so if that person only has enough faith. The clear teaching from Scripture, however, is that God does not primarily perform miracles for the benefit of a particular individual. Rather, when God performed miracles He did so with the primary purpose of authenticating one of His messengers. The miracles of the Old Testament authenticated Moses and the prophets as coming from Yahweh and also showed Him as the one true God over pagan deities. The miracles of the New Testament authenticated Jesus as the Messiah and the Apostles as His spokesmen.

Individuals certainly benefited from the healing miracles of Jesus, but these acts were always done to authenticate Who He was and to affirm His divine mission to atone for sins. Jesus certainly had compassion on the sick, but their physical comfort took a distant back seat to his concern for their spiritual well-being. He knew their greatest need was not healing from sickness and disease but from sin.[5]

Are there Apostles Today?

Given that after Jesus was resurrected and ascended into Heaven it was primarily His Apostles who performed signs and wonders,[6]a crucial question to ask regarding the continuance of the Apostolic gifts is, “Are there modern day Apostles?”

In order to be an Apostle a man had to meet three requirements:

1) He had to be an eye witness of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ[7] 

2) He had to be directly appointed by Christ to be an Apostle[8]and 

3) He had to be able to perform the signs and wonders of an Apostle.[9]

None of the men who saw Jesus raised from the dead are around anymore. They have all been in Heaven now for almost 2000 years. This takes care of the first two requirements. As for the third, no one can do what the Apostles did. No one. No one today can heal the sick and raise the dead as did the Apostles. A careful reading of Scripture shows that the ability to perform signs and wonders were unique to the Apostles even in the days of Acts.

Consider Acts 2:43, “Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place among the Apostles.” Notice that the signs and wonders were being done by the Apostles. Acts 5:12 is even more clear, “At the hands of the Apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people.” Notice the specificity and clarity of the Holy Spirit as He inspires God’s Word. The signs and wonders were being performed “at the hands of the Apostles” who were “among the people.” Signs and wonders were simply not being performed by Christians at large, but by the Apostles and there are no more Apostles today. Period.

Has God Changed?

One of the primary arguments that believers can perform signs and wonders today is the biblical truth that God does not change.[10]The reasoning is that if God did miracles in the past (which He did) and God does not change (which He doesn’t) and “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (which Hebrews 13:8 states) then He should be performing miracles today with the same frequency as He did back then.

But this is to fall into a logical fallacy. Using this logic then one would be compelled to say that we should still be sacrificing animals today. He required it in the Old Testament, and God does not change, so we should be doing it today. But no believer today is sacrificing animals. Why not? Did God change? No, but His revelation of Himself has progressed through the ages culminating in the Person and work of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:2-3). Jesus’ single sacrifice on the cross put an end to the need for animal sacrifices.[11]

One of the interpretive errors made by adherents of this movement is to assume that everything that occurred in the book of Acts should be occurring for believers and the church today. If it happened in the Bible, it should happen today they reason. However, this is to confuse the descriptive with the prescriptive. In other words, even though every event recorded in the Bible happened, not everything recorded in the Bible is to be considered normative. Not everything that the Bible described is prescribed. As we’ve already mentioned, God made a donkey talk but I sincerely hope you haven’t been seeing any talking donkeys lately. If you have then I would recommend Ephesians 5:18 as your next memory verse!

Are Their Claims True?

There is certainly no shortage of miraculous claims today. One would be hard pressed to watch “Christian” television networks such as TBN, Daystar, INSP, etc. for more than about ten minutes without hearing a televangelist make claims of regularly operating in signs and wonders. Bill Johnson, pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California claims that gold dust and angel feathers fall from the sky in his services. Todd White, head of a ministry called “Lifestyle Christianity” can be seen on YouTube going up to people at random on the streets and commanding them to be healed. One of his more well-known tricks is to command a person’s leg to grow about half an inch.

All of these things, though, are just that – tricks.  I have researched and studied this movement and its claims for over 20 years now and can tell you that there is not a single verifiable case of anyone performing a genuine physical healing – much less a resurrection – as did the Apostles. No one. God is not dispensing gold dust and angels are not dropping their feathers. And if Todd White can heal people randomly on the streets then the first place he should be going is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and heal those sick and dying children of cancer. If he can command a leg to grow then surely he can command cancer cells to die.

But you won’t catch Todd White or Benny Hinn or any of the other panoply of fake miracle workers anywhere near a hospital. They can’t do what they claim they can do. They are charlatans who prey upon the poor, the sick, the desperate, the widows, and the gullible for personal financial gain.

Conclusion

Many in this movement accuse someone like me of not believing in the Holy Spirit, not believing in the spiritual gifts, and not believing in the power of God. Nothing could be further from the truth. I fully affirm both the Person and regenerating, indwelling work of the Holy Spirit of God. I fully affirm that genuine believers are given the spiritual gifts of teaching, mercy, administration, exhortation, etc. (I only assert that the Apostolic gifts[12]have ceased). I also fully affirm that God not only can but does physically heal people today when it is His sovereign will to do so. I reject, though, that anyone possesses the gift of healing as did the Apostles.

This is not a question of God not being able to heal people or perform miracles. Of course He can. God can do whatever He wants to do (Psalm 135:6). The greatest miracle, though, is not when the blind see or the lame walk. The greatest miracle is when the dead are raised, not physically, but spiritually. The greatest miracle is when God takes those who are spiritually dead in sins and makes them alive in Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul states, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16).”

Want to see the real power of God unleashed? Preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

_________________________________________________________________________________________

[1]For more information on the cultic origins of these movements and documentation on their doctrinal heresies, see my DVD entitled Clouds Without Water available at www.justinpeters.org

[2]Harrison, Everett F., Baker’s Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1960), pg. 356.

[3]Floating ax head (2 Kings 6); Red Sea parting (Exodus 14); Talking donkey (Genesis 22); Fire from Heaven (1 Kings 18; 2 Kings 1); Resurrections from the dead (1 Kings 17; 2 Kings 4; Luke 7; John 11; Acts 20; Jesus’ resurrection recorded in all 4 gospels and referenced many times throughout the New Testament).

[4]This would include the 72 disciples commissioned by Jesus as recorded in Luke 10.

[5]See for example Matthew 9:1-8.

[6]The only two exceptions would be Steven (Acts 6) and Philip (Acts 8) who were close associates with the Apostles.

[7]Acts 1:22, 10:38-41; 1 Corinthians 9:1, 15:7-9.

[8]Matthew 10:1-7, Acts 1:24-26, Galatians 1:1.

[9]2 Corinthians 12:12.

[10]This biblical truth is referred to as the “immutability” of God.

[11]See Hebrews 7:27, 10:1-18; 1 Peter 3:18.

[12]The Apostolic gifts, or, “sign gifts,” to which they are also referred, include the gifts of tongues, interpretation of tongues, miracles, and physical healing.

Will a Man Rob God? 5 Key Questions About Tithing 10%

A Twitter poll on my page last week asked a simple question about tithing. After well over 1,000 votes (with 17 hours still left in the poll) the results were both encouraging and concerning. It seems that the modern church is still in a hot debate over tithing.

For your consideration, here is a snapshot (with link) to the results and comments:

For your edification, here is a biblical examination of tithing and the model for New Testament giving:

“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows” (Malachi 3:8-10).

The usual passage of choice for most tithe-pushing preachers is Malachi 3:8-10. The typical pre-sermon message you may hear on a Sunday morning before the offering is taken could last any number of minutes. We could probably recite it together having heard it so many times in churches of varying denominations – especially prosperity gospel churches.

It starts a little something like this:

Now I want to talk to you this morning before we take the tithes and offerings. Open up your Bible to Malachi chapter 3 and ask yourself, ‘Am I robbing God’? If you’re not tithing 10% to God, you are.”

Whether it lasts ten minutes or thirty minutes, what follows is an application of a passage from a book of the Bible in which God speaks through the prophet Malachi to the people of Israel about about their spiritual condition at that time. This is before the coming of the Messiah – Jesus. God is displeased with the people concerning their defiled sacrifices (1:7), their profaning of His name (1:12), their corrupted priests (2:9), and their open disobedience (3:8-15). This is excellent prophetic literature to preach in a church and there is so much to learn about Israel, God’s character, and the coming of Christ.

Unfortunately, it is primarily used to tell modern-day churches that they have to tithe 10% of their income or else they will be under a curse (Malachi 3:9), and that they have to bring those tithes into the “storehouse” (Malachi 3:10) – interpreting the “storehouse” to mean the church, or in some cases, the pastor’s bank account.

When it comes to “tithing,” so much is assumed because of ignorance, or bad Bible teaching. Some say that tithing is a command from the Old Testament that carries over to the New Testament. Others say it’s just a useful principle, while others insist on certain eras of church history being our model for tithing. Finally, there are those who simply believe they must tithe because it’s what they’ve always been told.

Let’s answer some important questions based on the Bible – not assumptions. This may alleviate a heavy burden you’ve been carrying concerning this subject.

What is a “Tithe”?

Tithing simply means “the tenth part” or “one-tenth.” We see the tithe instituted in the Bible in the Old Testament law, and in a few select cases before the law when some made vows or one time offerings (Genesis 14:20; Genesis 28:22). The tithe involved a percentage of one’s livestock, seed, or produce. When the Old Testament law for the tithe is studied, one discovers some foundational truths that cannot be overlooked:

  • Total tithes would have conservatively been over 20% when multiple tithes are added up (Leviticus 27:30-32; Numbers 18:21, 24; Deuteronomy 14:22-27; 14:28-29).
  • The Priesthood was not allowed by God to own land or inheritance so the tithe provided for their living and needs (Numbers 18:24).
  • The tithes acted as a kind of taxation system that helped provide for the poor, annual festivals, and the operation of the governing priesthood system (Deuteronomy 14:22-29; Nehemiah 12:44).
  • Tithing did not primarily involve money except for certain circumstances (Deuteronomy 14:25).
  • Withholding the tithe was viewed as defiant disobedience in God’s eyes (Malachi 3:9).
  • Tithes (produce and other) would have been kept in a literal storehouse for proper distribution (1 Chronicles 27:25-27).
  • God views the storehouse and His house as distinctly separate (Malachi 3:10).

With that in mind, let’s draw biblical conclusions:

  • Israel gave of its produce, seed, and livestock.
  • The Priests were supported by tithes because they were not allowed to own things.
  • Tithing far exceeded 10%.
  • Tithing was law, much like a taxation system caring for national Israel.
  • Storehouses were literal, not “spiritual” or references to the temple.

How is Old Testament Teaching Misapplied Today?

Firstly, anytime someone is misinterpreting the Bible we need to be careful not to jump to aggressive conclusions. No one is a heretic for getting certain things wrong, but error is serious and can mislead people – that is a stewardship issue of its own.

Secondly, we need to determine what people are teaching and why. Do they have certain theological positions that lend to merging the Old Testament into the New? Do they make a habit of basing their teachings merely on historical “principles” and extra-biblical research, rather than biblical texts and proper exegesis (the process of “excavating” a biblical text)? Or, are they twisting Scripture in an obvious fashion to suit their financial desires and abusive ministry patterns? All of these are important questions to ask upon seeing a misapplication of Scripture.

Here are some common ways the “tithe” is misapplied today. Some of these are more dangerous than others, but all are worth noting:

  • The “storehouse” in Malachi 3:10 is taught to be God’s house – the church – or in many cases the pastor’s bank account.
  • Insisting that a 10% tithe is law while leaving out all of the other laws on tithes and offering.
  • Tithing is taught as a command for New Testament church goers and they are threatened with divine judgment if they do not give 10% gross on all their income.
  • Tithing is accompanied by a special anointing that can unlock special blessings like job promotions, debt-freedom, or even salvation of loved ones.
  • Avoiding Paul’s instruction on giving in favor of teaching Old Testament law.
  • Concluding that because Jesus didn’t denounce tithing that we must still do it.

Did Jesus Talk About Tithing?

A select few New Testament passages bring up the tithe, but nowhere is the church commanded to tithe. Some will insist on tithing in the modern church based on the fact that Jesus didn’t denounce tithing in passages like Matthew 23:23, and Luke 11:42. However, what Jesus said in certain situations (such as scolding the Pharisees in Matt. 23:23) had more to do with calling these people hypocrites than mandating the tithe as command for the church. The Pharisees would keep one aspect of the law but turn around and break another for their own gain. They oppressed people with laws they couldn’t even keep themselves! One cannot take an honest interpretive leap into presuming the church must tithe based on that.

To use Jesus’ words as an argument for tithing is a slippery slope when proper context is understood.

Can Tithing Be Assumed for the Church?

Some may argue that the New Testament church would have already known about tithing because they were familiar with Jewish law and assumed it to be a rule of thumb. Or, that at the very least, it could be a principle they could apply as an essential practice to obey. Aside from numerous interpretive holes in this argument, one glaring oversight is that the church was not comprised of merely Jews, and obedience to the law was not the focus of the church – Christ was. Paul was assigned to the Gentiles and the early church was packed with Gentile converts. If tithing was something for the early church to carry on from Jewish law, then why wouldn’t tithing be taught in his letters to the Corinthians? Galatians? Colossians? Not only are commands or teaching about tithing completely absent from New Testament imperatives for the church, the concept of giving is taught explicitly without teaching on tithing. What Paul teaches about giving is a grace-filled, New-Covenant-focused, Gospel-centered rewrite altogether.

We are no longer under the law.

How Should We Be Giving Today?

If we base our teaching and giving on the proper context of what the New Testament actually teaches, we will find both clarity and freedom. Many churches are scared to loosen the noose of “tithing” from their people for fear that no one will give. In other words, they assume that instead of giving bountifully and generously as the Spirit leads, people will either decrease or even cease giving altogether. This is a pessimistic view; thinking quite low of Christians and their propensity to obey the Bible. It also neglects to remember that giving generously is still very much a part of the Christian life.

When properly instructed, doesn’t every true believer want to do what is right in God’s eyes? If we teach and obey the Bible properly, won’t giving increase as God blesses the church for His glorious work? Won’t the needs of the saints be met? Won’t the church thrive in joyfully unity? Wouldn’t the rich live as gospel patrons and the poor give sacrificially as equal partners in God’s eyes?

Think of it this way: giving 10% could be under-giving for a millionaire, and back-breaking for someone in poverty. But if both gave the way the New Testament instructs, the millionaire may give upwards of 80% and still have quite a surplus, while the impoverished and sacrificial giver may give 2-3% and be stepping out in faith. God sees the heart, and the sacrifice – not the amount. Some people may desire to use 10% as a baseline, or a group of leaders may commit to giving a certain amount together to support the church – great! But none of this is mandated “tithing,” it is simply a commitment.

The Holy Spirit’s words through Paul in 2 Corinthians 8 should be taken more seriously, as should the Macedonian example of giving. Instead of teaching law-driven tithes to church-age saints, why not just trust the God who wrote and preserved the Bible (Isaiah 40:8; 2 Timothy 3:16-17) to work powerfully through His truth rightly applied?

Based on two of the premier New Testament chapters on biblical giving that were written by Paul, here are ten ways we should be giving in the church today. Not tithing…giving:

  1. As a result of the grace of God (2 Corinthians 8:1).
  2. In tough times and in poverty (2 Corinthians 8:2a, 2c).
  3. Joyfully and cheerfully (2 Corinthians 8:2b; 9:7).
  4. Based on ability, not mandated percentages (2 Corinthians 8:3a).
  5. Sacrificially (2 Corinthians 8:3b).
  6. Voluntarily, not by way of manipulation or compulsion (2 Corinthians 8:3c; 9:7).
  7. With a sense of eager participation in Gospel work (2 Corinthians 8:4).
  8. Out of love for the Lord (2 Corinthians 8:5a).
  9. Generously as the Lord provides (2 Corinthians 9:6).
  10. Trusting God to replenish what is given so more can be given (2 Corinthians 9:10-11).

What a refreshing difference Paul’s words are from so many sermons that pull Old Testament verses out of context and apply them however a preacher fancies. Like the grace of God shattering the old bondage of the law and pouring out upon the church age, New Testament instructions on giving are liberal, generous, and Gospel-motivated! Not only is applying the requirement of a 10% tithe part of an inconsistent system of interpretation, it’s highly limiting when you think about how generous the church is encouraged to be. Giving isn’t an issue of the law, it’s an issue of the heart. The Macedonians were poor, but they gave like they were rich. They didn’t scour in obedience to the law, they rejoiced in the privilege of being a conduit of God’s grace. That is the perfect picture of how a Christian is to give in the New Covenant.

When properly understood in context and faithfully taught with conviction, the Scriptures give us all we need to be biblically minded – and biblically balanced – generous givers.

Reaching Those Caught in Deception

Like all generations throughout church history, one of the primary focuses we need to be pre-occupied with today is taking the gospel to those who have never heard it before. However, as apostasy increases and seemingly faithful men and women go rogue theologically, we’ll need not only “outreach” (to those who’ve never heard the gospel), but great emphasis on “inreach” (to those believing in a false gospel). Yes, many false Christians are getting the teachers they raised up for themselves (2 Timothy 4:3-4), but within the masses of apostates there are sheep who need to be rescued. We’re faced with the tall task of evangelism within our own ranks and it’s no walk in the park. One moment we see a glimmer of hope in someone we reach try to reach, only to experience another moment of sorrow when someone we love is swept up in deceit. Maybe you’ve blown up a few Thanksgiving dinners trying to tell people like it is, or held personal crusades at work during a lunch break. In the end, many Christians who are trying to reach those caught in deception are left wondering how people could be so blind? How do they not see that what they believe or are being taught is not in line with Scripture? Even when you show them the Bible and put that up next to the lies they’re being taught, they just don’t see it! Why won’t they change in light of the truth? Questions swirl in our mind as we wonder what to do and how to do it.

A Biblical Roadmap for Rescue

No doubt that’s what Jude’s readers would have dealing with as well back in the early days of the church. Apostasy suddenly everywhere; people who’d seemed to have made a genuine confession of faith were being carried away by false doctrines. It was hard to tell who the good guys were and who should be avoided. Further, they would have been seeing friends and family get targeted by deceivers just like we do today.

Is there a clear roadmap for distinguishing when to walk with someone patiently, when to rush in and go for the all-out rescue, and when to put distance between ourselves and the danger? We undoubtedly need to share the truth and be on mission as Christians, but biblical strategies need to be employed.

Jude shows us how: 

Jude 22 – “And have mercy on some, who are doubting…”

The Doubters are the group that may challenge your patience the most because you just want them to wake up and see the plain truth.  Doubting (diakrino) literally gives the picture of someone wavering on the line, then partial to one side but uncertain, then in the middle but hesitant to fully cross over. Imagine the people who drive you a little crazy because you just want them to make a decision already! These are confused individuals; vulnerable and have been manipulated by clever false teachers. Keep the door open for them. Get into their life. Take off your shoes, stay a while, and build relationship with them for the purpose of reaching them. You don’t drive by and toss a study Bible at them saying, “Here! Figure this out then we can talk.” You buy them a study Bible and commit to coffee meet-ups for however long it takes. Your goal is to live between the tension of convincing them about the truth, and depending on God to open their eyes to the truth. Put your own heart issues before the Lord and resist the urge to use brash and harsh words. Remember God’s mercy towards you, learn patience, ask questions, and stick with them. God has you in their life for a reason.

Jude 23a – “save others, snatching them out of the fire…”

The Deceived are fully convinced they have the real truth. We are to be in full rescue operation mode with them – boldly confronting their errors and calling them to repentance. Like a coast guard helicopter flying into an offshore storm, we’re on the lookout for those drowning in the sea of apostasy, dropping the rope, and pulling them up. And if they reject the rope? We never stop praying, never stop trying, and never stop hoping they will be awakened to the danger they are in. Jude undoubtedly understands the sovereignty of God in saving His children and in keeping His children saved, but he’s equally aware of the vessels through which God so often saves. That is, the faithful witness of His people! (Acts 1:8; Romans 10:17). Snatching (harpazo) is the same word used in John 10:12 of the wolf snatching the sheep away from the hireling shepherd, and in John 10:28 of no one being able to snatch Jesus’ sheep from His hand. Jude has in mind a quick and alert state of readiness to rescue people. Notice there is no opt-out clause. No amendment. No free pass because of God’s sovereignty. No giving up because they reject you. A true Christian is patiently, yet relentlessly looking for opportunities to snatch brands from the burning.

Jude 23b – “and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.”

The Dangerous are those whose garments have been soiled with Satanic deception. They are those who fly the flag of false doctrines with pride, convincing people with their smooth talk and flattery (Romans 16:18). They fill the seats of churches, infiltrate the highest levels of authority, and undermine Christ through greed and heretical teaching (2 Peter 2:1-3). They are bold loyalists to apostasy, enemies of the truth, and set against Christ. We must never sacrifice the truth in the name of unity with these, yet we are called to be merciful so as to not be indifferent to the fact that they still have a soul in need of salvation. Yet, we show mercy with a fearsome devotion to our own morality and doctrinal purity. One commentator writes, “Mercy takes into account moral distinctions. It does not treat evil as of no consequence. Christians have mercy with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” What this means is we are acutely aware of where they are heading but believing that God can change anyone so long as they’re breathing. We’re aware that many will fall away but we’re also fixated on our role to evangelize everyone in sight. We’re wincing in agony for their defilement of the gospel but calling them to repentance from a healthy distance.

It is biblical instruction like this that keeps us both tough and tender. Tough on truth – unwavering in our commitment to it. Yet, tender in our hope that apostates turn to the truth – praying for their souls.

Sometimes we’re playing offense. Sometimes we’re playing defense. All along, we must be trusting God’s power to save His people (Romans 1:16), and being faithful to play our part.

Embracing God’s Timing as a Pastor-in-Waiting

At times in the early years of training and ministry, you’ll find yourself in the uncomfortable position of waiting. You may be waiting on a ministry opportunity, waiting to complete seminary, or waiting on what you think you’re ready for – but haven’t seen God open the door yet. No matter the tension we feel when waiting on God’s timing in ministry, He has a specific purpose in mind.

We often have the highest view of our own “readiness” for certain aspects of ministry but it is God who has the highest (and most reliable) view of such a thing. He sovereignly places you in seasons of waiting, and releases you from waiting in His own timing. Anybody who has tried to jump the gun on God’s timing for ministry has undoubtedly learned Who knows best. Men of God who are called to lead God’s flock as pastors will be pressed – actually, squeezed – dry of themselves in several ways before being made ready. Seasons of waiting prove to be useful conduits for such a “divine press,” leading to healthy tension for the man as he is emptied of himself.

Waiting is training. Here are three things that waiting does for God’s glory, and our good:

  1. Waiting Teaches Submission

Perhaps there is no greater example of someone who had to wait for what they seemed to be ready for than King David. Gene Edwards, in his book A Tale of Three Kings, writes concerning David’s difficult season sitting under the “mad king,” Saul:

God has a university. It’s a small school. Few enroll; even fewer graduate. Very, very few infeed. God has this school because he does not have broken men and women. Instead, he has several other types of people. He has people who claim to have God’s authority…and don’t – people who claim to be broken…and aren’t. and people who do have God’s authority, but who are mad and unbroken. And he has, regretfully, a great mixture of everything in between. All of these he has in abundance, but broken men and women, hardly at all. In God’s sacred school of submission and brokenness, why are there so few students? Because all the students in this school must suffer much pain.

It is likely most of us are under no “mad king.” How much more can we then happily submit to the process of God’s training through waiting? Submission is quite possibly the ultimate test for a man’s heart because it determines at what level he can be trusted with authority. He that cannot submit to authority will be dangerous with authority. Saul, albeit anointed by God, was used by God to exemplify the kind of leader we can become if we do not learn to submit.

  1. Waiting Teaches Humility

Entitlement is to a pastor what too much candy is to a child who is eager for it – it rots teeth. Or in the pastor’s case, his heart. We’ve all heard the old cliché that good things come to those who wait, but I would argue that waiting should not so much focus on the good things to come, but the process by which those good things come. Let me explain: Waiting allows for training in our craft and cultivates humility for a pastor-in-waiting. It increases discipline. Like a soldier waiting for deployment, a pastor-in-waiting doesn’t sit around day dreaming about the future or talking about what he should/could be if he were given the chance to preach. He embraces his station in the season of waiting and engages in practices that will produce success for his entire calling – and he does this humbly and patiently. He evangelizes the lost. He counsels the hurting. He balances budgets. He sits at the feet of elders. He studies critical doctrines. He learns his blind spots. He deals with marital issues. He confronts sin. He completes his assignments. If you’re a pastor-in-waiting who takes advantage of such seasons, you will be humbly confident when God moves you forward. Humble in that you did not make anything happen – God did. Confident in that God has put you where you are.

  1. Waiting Teaches Suffering

A pastor who has not learned to submit to God’s work through waiting is bound to learn these lessons one way or another. Waiting thickens the skin of man who is destined to suffer in service to Christ. David experienced this as you’ve seen already, and New Testament leaders were not off the hook either. In his letters to Timothy, what does Paul highlight multiple times? That Timothy discipline himself and get ready for suffering and tough times. He said that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). That Timothy was to “be sober in all things” and “endure hardship” (2 Tim. 4:5). And that Timothy should “discipline [himself] for the purpose of godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7-8). A pastor will go through seasons of doubt, despair, attack from both insiders and outsiders, and spiritual assaults from the enemy. He stands firm in suffering because his patience and trust in God were tested and developed in seasons of waiting.

Everybody’s seasons of “waiting” may look different, but the lesson God teaches us is the same: He’s calling the shots, and we can trust Him to work things out for His glory, and our good (Rom. 8:28).

4 Ways Pastors Can Cultivate Discernment in Their Church

Pastoral ministry is a serious work that requires work. When it comes to a pastor’s mandate to proclaim the truth and protect God’s people from error, The task is nothing short of a divine burden.Pastoral ministry can be described as a daily spiritual battle for souls that never seems to end. There are times when it can feel like a constant warzone across the landscape of the Christian world with causalities in the pulpit and in the pew. – and it probably is.

One of the ways to reduce spiritual casualties is equipping church members to be discerning. With false teachers using blending so much truth into their poisonous errors, people need faithful leaders to consistently provide objective truth they can depend on. Charles Spurgeon said it perfectly when he explained, “Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right.”

There are many ways that pastors can cultivate discernment in their church. I’ve offered 4 here that can help you get started in the right direction:

  1. Make a Big Deal About Sound Doctrine

A pastor who wants to cultivate theological discernment within the church needs to first be excited about teaching sound doctrine himself! A congregation that is fed a steady diet of sound doctrine is going to be growing like a well-rounded, balanced body. Like resistance to muscles in the weight room, solid doctrinal teaching breaks down old ways of carnal thinking and builds up the mind; bringing a believer to maturity. A pastor shouldn’t view doctrine as an inconvenience, but rather, as essential to the health of the church. Theological discernment can be cultivated not by merely telling the church to be discerning but by serving them a feast of sound doctrine that makes them discerning. Making a big deal about sound doctrine will be rooted in making much about Christ. A pastor ought to teach straight out of the Bible on Christology, Pneumatology, and other “ologies” that help people have a proper view of self and a high view of God. Sound doctrine is kryptonite to biblical illiteracy and protects people from falling prey to false teaching.

  1. Make the “Why” Clear

Pastors can be guilty of assuming people know the reason for everything they’re teaching. In order to cultivate discernment in a church, people have to know why any of it matters. A congregation’s lack of understanding is usually at the root of their indifference to discernment. Furthermore, the word “discernment” sparks thoughts of sinister behavior, deception, and conflict. Those are not things the average church member is eager to face. Most of them are just trying to make it through another day at work without any conflict. A pastor’s passionate sermon may leave them asking, “Why is the pastor on this bandwagon about doctrine and discernment?” or “Did our pastor just turn into one of those guys looking for a heretic around every corner?” Look to biblical examples of faithful men who explained the “why” along with instructions to be discerning and defend the faith. Paul did this in his farewell to the elders at Ephesus (Acts 20:17-38), and when he had to teach the Corinthians concerning their use of spiritual gifts and correct a few things in the process (1 Corinthians 12:1-14:40). Jude did this when he wanted to write about the common faith he shared with his readers, but instead, had to deal with false teaching and apostasy (Jude 3). Train your leaders, and your church on why doctrine and defending the faith matters.

  1. Make Sure You Model It

People are quite often a reflection of their leadership. Chances are, if it matters to you, it will eventually matter to them. Pastors who are absent-minded when it comes to theological discernment will often produce a flock who is as well. Modeling discernment is showing people how you got to your conclusions, and more importantly, what the bible says on the issue. If you’re praying for a culture of theological discernment and trying to take steps towards equipping your church to be theologically discerning, make sure you are practicing what you preach. Your example will be a powerful tool in God’s hands.

  1. Make Resources Available to Your People (God’s People)

There is arguably nothing worse than majoring on the problem without offering a solution. Yes, a sermon will certainly do the job and the Bible is all we need to show people the answers they seek. Still, excellent resources are available to engage people’s minds and equip them in specific ways. Online blogs and popular books are bombarding your people each day. If you let the latest Christian marketing fads guide their discernment, you’ll get the results – and they probably won’t always be on point. Give them a fighting chance by resourcing them with trusted material. As the old saying applies: Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he’ll feed himself for the rest of his life. A false teacher, a “new gospel,” and the winds of culture are no match for a church who is equipped to know the truth and discern the truth for themselves.

One of the most loving things that a pastor can do for his church is to equip them to be theologically discerning believers at a time when many are falling prey to divergent doctrines.