Archives For August 2009

       So far in our New Covenant Giving series, we’ve looked at giving yourself to God first and giving in response to Jesus’ gift. Today, we’re going to look at the importance of giving with a sincere desire and love. When you give yourself fully to God, His love will live in you and will be evident in your desire to help others – especially the needy. Without God’s love and the sincere desire it produces, giving does you no good.

Having the Desire to Give

       Christian giving should be the result of a sincere desire to give. This sincere desire comes from God’s love dwelling in us, which compels us to look after the needs of others. In following Jesus’ teaching that we should love others as ourselves, we look after their needs as much as we do our own.

       1 If there is therefore any exhortation in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassion, 2 make my joy full, by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; 3 doing nothing through rivalry or through conceit, but in humility, each counting others better than himself; 4 each of you not just looking to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others.

Philippians 2:1-4 (WEB) emphasis mine

       Jesus compels us to love each other, just as He loved us. Our love for one another is manifested in our desire to look after each other’s needs and to meet those needs as we are able. In fact, it is our desire to give that makes our gifts acceptable and pleasing to God.

       10 I give a judgment in this: for this is expedient for you, who were the first to start a year ago, not only to do, but also to be willing. 11 But now complete the doing also, that as there was the readiness to be willing, so there may be the completion also out of your ability. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what you have, not according to what you don’t have.

2 Corinthians 8:10-12 (WEB)

       It is our desire, willingness, and love that make our gifts acceptable – not a certain amount or percentage. We know that God loves a cheerful giver, and this is why He wants us to give willingly what we have decided in our hearts. Christians aren’t going to give less because they’re no longer under a compulsory tithe. If we’re following God’s Spirit, we’re much more likely to give generously – even beyond our means. It’s all because God’s love is acting through us, and God’s extravagantly lavish love for us has been made evident to us through His Son.

Give with Love

       Jesus taught us that we will keep the whole Law if we focus on loving God and loving our neighbors. Love is the essence of God’s Spirit. And if we’re following His Spirit, we will do everything with love. Giving with love is so vital to New Covenant Giving that Paul said our giving does us no good if it’s not done with love.

       If I dole out all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but don’t have love, it profits me nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:3 (WEB)

       God doesn’t want us to give because “we’re supposed to”, because “that’s what Christians do”, or even because “it’s just the right thing to do”. He wants us to give because we love one another and have a desire to show that love through our giving. Even giving everything we have to the poor is meaningless if it isn’t a result of love. Giving sacrificially will mean nothing unless it comes from love. And giving 10% is certainly meaningless if it’s only done because of a commandment, obligation, guilt, misunderstanding, or a false teaching.

       We should do good because we love one another – not because we feel like we’re just supposed to do it. Our love for God and our love for each other are made evident in our actions – our deeds show proof of God’s love living in us.

       10 In love of the brothers be tenderly affectionate one to another; in honor preferring one another; 11 not lagging in diligence; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope; enduring in troubles; continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 contributing to the needs of the saints; given to hospitality.

Romans 12:10-13 (WEB) emphasis mine

       When God’s love is living in us, we will do those things that show our love for each other. Giving to help each other is one way that we prove our love and the sincere desire that God places in our hearts. Freewill, sacrificial giving demonstrates the sincerity of our love and the fruits of the Spirit in our lives.

       I speak not by way of commandment, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity also of your love.

2 Corinthians 8:8 (WEB)

Give Even to Your Enemies

       The love of God is so powerful that it can even impel us to love and give to our enemies. God has shown His compassion and mercy to the whole world by giving His Son to die for our sins even while we were still in our sins and unrepentance. It is clear that once we accept His wonderful gift His love in us will be made evident in the good we’ll show not just to each other but to our enemies as well.

       32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive back as much. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back; and your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil.

Luke 6:32-35 (WEB)

       So do not give if it’s not out of a sincere desire that God has placed in your heart. And do not give if you’re giving for any reason other than love. God’s love will lead you to give according to His will – to give generously, lovingly, cheerfully, and even sacrificially when needed.

       And if you find you do not have God’s love producing that sincere desire in you, seek God’s Spirit and pray for His love to live in you. Give yourself fully to Him. Remember His unspeakable gift in Jesus Christ. Pour yourself out to Him, and He will surely give you His love and desire to care for others.

       We’re bombarded with sales pitches and advertisements all day long. But there’s one very easy way to conquer any sales pitch with little effort or time. Corporate America has no power over someone who has “enough”. The power of that little word will help you overcome any attempt to part you from your money.

“That’s OK. I have enough already.”

       Whether it’s clothes, food, gadgets, tools, or any other stuff someone might try to sell you, telling them you have enough already will stop them cold. You can’t sell to someone who is content and has “enough”. Telemarketers don’t have a scripted response for “I have enough already.” Salesmen haven’t perfected their pitch so much that they can sell to someone who’s happy with what they already have.

       It may be important to add the fact that you’re already satisfied with what you have. Maybe a better response would be “Thanks. But I have enough _______ , and more _______ won’t make me any happier.” There will be some salespeople who will attempt to continue their sales pitch, but if you repeat that response a few times they’ll give up quickly.

       You can use that statement in a variety of ways. Here are a few that come to my mind:

  1. I have a big enough house, and a bigger house won’t make me any happier.
  2. I have a good enough car, and a newer car won’t make me any happier.
  3. I have clothes that are warm enough and good enough, and more clothes or fancier clothes won’t make me any happier.

       When we find satisfaction in what we have already, we break the power of consumerism in our lives. When we realize that what we have is enough, and more can’t make us any happier, we’ll learn to look to the true source of happiness. We’ll find that once we have Jesus we no longer need more of what the world has to offer. We’ll find our full joy, contentment, and purpose in following Him.

       The power of enough has exciting implications for our personal finances. By learning to be content and knowing what our “enough” is, we can have much better control over our spending and habits. We’ll be able to handle our money much better and use it more wisely. Contentment is so powerful that I’m going to spend some time looking at how we can be more content in many areas of our lives – our homes, cars, clothes, food, and even our taxes and savings among other things. So be sure to sign up for free updates to Provident Planning if you’re interested in gaining more control over your finances and finding contentment in your life!

       So far we’ve looked at the greed gospel claims that God wants to make all Christians rich and that poverty comes from a lack of faith. The Bible is clear that these false doctrines hold no truth. Today we’re going to look at the “Name It and Claim It” or “Blab It and Grab It” idea that’s taught widely by many of the prosperity evangelists.

Claim #3: To Get What You Want, Just Name It and Claim It

       The idea of saying what you want and believing God will give it to you is based on a false concept of God as your personal ATM. The “Word of Faith” movement teaches this belief as if God is more or less obligated to give you whatever you ask Him for. But this view of God is not Biblical at all. Yes, Jesus taught us that whatever we ask of God will be done, but does that mean we should ask for riches? Would Jesus have expected His disciples to pray for riches or anything that was against the will of God? Where did He ever teach us such a thing? We are to look to God for our needs, but He is not obligated to give us anything and everything we want.

       It’s really quite the opposite. We are obligated to give God everything we are and all that we have because of His great gift to us. Have those who seek material abundance from God forgotten the gift He gave us in Jesus? How can we need anything beyond Him? Jesus taught us to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first and God will take care of our needs.

       But seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:33 (WEB)

       This is after Jesus teaches us that we shouldn’t worry. Instead, we should be completely focused on letting God rule our lives and on seeking His righteousness. Pray for God’s Spirit to lead you in His holy ways and to help you live in a way that honors and glorifies Him. Don’t get caught up in praying to Him about getting rich or having great health. Trust that His will is the best for you, and seek only that. Jesus warned that those who get caught up in the deceitfulness of riches and the cares of this life will not prosper in the Kingdom of God:

       That which fell among the thorns, these are those who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.

Luke 8:14 (WEB)

       Don’t get caught up in what the world deems successful or good. Seek God in all things and pray only for His will to be done. Jesus didn’t teach us to pray for wealth or anything that is not within God’s will. In the Lord’s Prayer, we’re taught to pray for God’s will to be done on earth just as it is in heaven. We’re also taught to pray for our daily bread – just enough for our needs – not riches and wealth and prosperity and earthly honor.

       7 In praying, don’t use vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their much speaking. 8 Therefore don’t be like them, for your Father knows what things you need, before you ask him. 9 Pray like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. 10 Let your Kingdom come. Let your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. 13 Bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.’

Matthew 6:7-13 (WEB)

       Jesus even prayed for God’s will to be done even when He knew it would require Him to give up His life. We should emulate Him in this as in all other things. We should pray for God’s will to be done even if it’s something we don’t want.

       41 He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and he knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him, strengthening him. 44 Being in agony he prayed more earnestly. His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.

Luke 22:41-44 (WEB)

       God will provide the strength to get us through any trial that comes our way. Even if it results in death, His plan is to have us in Heaven with Him. Only those who value the world and this life would count that as a loss. Those who believe the greed gospel’s teaching that we need only name and claim whatever we want are being misled. God doesn’t just give us whatever we want whenever we want it. We must pray with the right motives.

       You ask, and don’t receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it for your pleasures.

James 4:3 (WEB)

       Asking for your own pleasure is not a right motive. Asking for more than you need is not a right motive. And asking for anything other than God’s will is not a right motive either. We’ll only have the right motives when we’re seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness above all else!

       Do not forget that the Father knows what we need. Do not be deceived by riches or the cares of this world. Set your heart on seeking God in all things and following His will regardless of your own wishes. Then you will prosper in the Lord and fully know what it means to have an abundant life in Him.

       The other day I was playing around with an Excel spreadsheet I made. I was looking at how much you need to save to reach your retirement goals. At one point, I thought to myself, “What happens if you save more than necessary? How much will it increase your chances of reaching your retirement goal?” The answer I found was very interesting and backs up a verse in Proverbs. But before I can tell you what I discovered, I’ll have to explain what I was doing and how I was doing it.

Monte Carlo Analysis

       In financial planning, we use Monte Carlo analysis to simulate random stock market returns among other things. When you’re planning your retirement, it doesn’t make sense to assume you’re going to get an 8% return every single year. The stock market just doesn’t work that way. Monte Carlo analysis gives a more realistic, though not perfect, representation of how the stock market actually delivers returns.

       Monte Carlo analysis uses the assumptions you give it to randomly pick numbers within a specific range. I used Monte Carlo analysis to pick random stock market returns within a range based on historic performance results. I looked at how a person’s savings would grow as they invest for 45 years to reach their retirement goals.

       Each 45 year investment period is called a “trial”. The success or failure of a trial depends on whether or not you reach your goal at the end of the period. I was testing to see whether you would have accumulated enough money to retire at the end of 45 years based on your retirement goals.

       Running just one trial isn’t enough. To get a meaningful result, you have to run thousands of trials. To figure out your success rate, you divide the number of successful trials by the total number of trials you ran. In my example, I ran 5,000 trials (that means 5,000 sets of 45 year investment periods). An 80% success rate would mean that 4,000 out of my 5,000 trials were successful.

       Monte Carlo analysis is useful because it incorporates the uncertainty of the stock market into your retirement planning. It has some limitations, but it’s the best we can do for trying to predict the future. The stock market doesn’t work exactly the way the model works, and there’s also the question of what a good result should be. Traditionally, a success rate of 80% or higher is “good” because there are so many assumptions built in to the model. Trying to go for a higher success rate means you’re placing much more importance on your assumptions being correct.

       I found that saving 20% of your desired retirement income and increasing it by inflation each year would give you an 82% success rate to reach your retirement goals. That’s pretty good, but then I wondered what would happen if you saved even more. How much would your success rate increase if you saved even more?

The Results: The Diminishing Marginal Utility of Hoarding

       So I proceeded to run a Monte Carlo analysis at different savings rates. I started at 0% and increased it by 5% for each new analysis all the way up to 100%. Here’s a graph of my results:

Success Rate As a Function of Savings

       As you can see, saving 0% gives you a 0% chance of reaching retirement – which makes sense, right? Saving 10% gives you about a 60% success rate, and saving 20% gives you an 82% success rate. But do you notice the interesting part? As you begin to save more than 20%, your chances of successfully reaching your retirement goals go up less and less. After you hit that 20% savings mark you don’t get very much bang for your buck.

       It might be easier to see what I’m talking about using this chart:

The Marginal Utility of Hoarding

       So when you go from saving 0% for retirement to saving 5%, you increase your chances of success by 37%. If you go from 5% to 10%, you increase your success rate by another 23% giving you a success rate of 60%. From 10% to 15% increases your chances of success by 13%, and from 15% to 20% gives you another 9% increase. Once you get to 20% though, saving another 5% only increases your success rate by 3%. Every little bit more that you save gives you a smaller and smaller increase in your chances of success.

       This shows what I call “the diminishing marginal utility of hoarding”. In economics, the law of diminishing marginal utility says that for each additional unit you use you get less satisfaction than you did with the last one. For example, eating one chocolate bar tastes good. A second one right after doesn’t taste quite as good, the third a little less so, and so on. Eating seven chocolate bars in a row just gives you a sick stomach.

       What we’re seeing here is the law of diminishing marginal utility applied to saving. Saving money for retirement is good. But once you get to a certain point (which depends on how long you have until retirement and how much you have already saved), saving more and more doesn’t increase your chances of success quite as much as it did before.

How Can This Be True?

       Because Monte Carlo analysis is looking at thousands of possible scenarios, you’re going to have some scenarios where the stock market loses money for several years in a row. While that’s (hopefully) not as likely in real life, saving more and more isn’t going to help you much if that happens. You’ll just keep losing the money, and the impact is even greater if you already have a lot saved. So this phenomenon is partly due to the method we’re using, but it also illustrates a fundamental truth – being stingy doesn’t help you quite as much as you might think it will.

What God Has to Say about It

       I was so excited to see these results because they help illustrate some of God’s wisdom about giving:

       24 There is one who scatters, and increases yet more. There is one who withholds more than is appropriate, but gains poverty. 25 The liberal soul shall be made fat. He who waters shall be watered also himself.

Proverbs 11:24-25 (WEB)

       Maybe you’re thinking I didn’t really prove that point, and you’d be right if you’re only thinking about dollars and cents. When Jesus talked about giving our money to the poor, He never said that it would make us rich in this life. When we give to honor God, we store up treasures in Heaven. This is precisely how one person can give away a lot of his money and become wealthier while another is stingy but becomes poor.

       Being a stingy miser won’t give you a better chance of reaching your retirement goals. Once you’re saving enough, you have to be content that you’re doing what you should and hand the rest over to God. Hoarding money for yourself doesn’t help you that much in this life, and it will severely impoverish you in the next.

       So how do you know when you’re saving enough? To find out, sign up for free updates to Provident Planning. I’ll be examining that question and many more that will help you prepare for a retirement that honors God and live a life that glorifies His name.

       Last week when we talked about New Covenant Giving principles, we looked at giving yourself to God first. Today, we’re going to look at giving in response to Jesus’ gift. True and complete generosity is possible only when we fully accept Christ’s gift of the cleansing of sin and eternal life for all that it really is. Once we understand the full power of His gift, we will see the things of this world in the light of eternity and value our heavenly treasures above our earthly riches.

God’s Sacrifice and Christ’s Gift

       The most powerful motivation we can have for giving generously to glorify God’s name is to look at His abounding and extravagant love in sacrificing His Son for our sins. We need only look at the gift Jesus gave us when He died on the Cross and freed us from the condemnation that we deserve.

       For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich.

2 Corinthians 8:9 (WEB)

       Because of what He did for us, we will have eternal life in Heaven if we will only believe in Him and repent from our sins. Then we are free from all chains – the chains of this world and the chains of death. We will live forever with Him. We have to remember that forever means eternity. If we don’t accept Him, our life on earth is as good as it gets because Hell is all that awaits us after we die. But if we do accept Him, we have our time on earth, and all of eternity after our death, to draw closer to Him. Our life on earth is just a shadow of the good things to come in Heaven. We cannot even imagine the riches we’ll enjoy there with Him. Once we realize that this life is nothing compared to the next, we can be free to give generously because of Jesus’ Gift.

       As a Christian, you must fully realize the implications of what Jesus has done for us and how it affects the decisions we make in this life. This life is not all there is! Your death is not the end. It’s only the beginning of your true life!!! That changes the perspective of everything! The things you have or can have in this life are absolutely nothing compared to what you’ll have in Heaven. That’s why we Christians should be giving so generously and freely in this life. What we have here is worthless compared to our treasures in Heaven! When we give generously we not only glorify God’s name in our loving gifts, but we also testify to the power of Christ in our lives. We show that we value His gift above worldly riches. We exemplify His teaching on giving to the poor. And we demonstrate our love and appreciation for Him and His Gift.

       Now thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift!

2 Corinthians 9:15 (WEB)

       Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!!! There are not just words to describe the amazing love God poured out on us and the abounding grace afforded to us through His Son!! Our generous giving (resulting from love) shouts this statement to the whole world! When you’re faced with a decision or opportunity to give, remember to give thanks to God for His unspeakable gift. With that attitude, His love can flow through you to give more than you ever thought possible. You’ll lavishly give of yourself to others, and your sacrifice will result in many thanks to God, glory to God, and the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

       This is where contentment in Christ works with the rest of God’s Provident Plan for your personal finances to propel you into sacrificial and generous giving that truly glorifies His name. Once Jesus matters more to you than any worldly wealth – once you truly love God with all your heart, soul, and mind – you’ll be happy to give generously because you count everything as a loss compared to knowing Christ. Troubles, trials, and tribulations will have no effect on you because your hope lies completely in Him. This is the power of Christ in our lives, and this is the power of the Cross against all the evil we’ll endure in this world.

       Embrace the unsearchable riches of Jesus’ gift. Know and fully experience the power of His love and generosity in your life. Then you’ll understand the joy of sacrificial and generous giving motivated by pure love. And you’ll testify with your life and your words to the power of Christ and the glory and love of God.

       It’s wise to have about 6 months (or more, depending on your situation) worth of your living expenses saved up in an emergency fund. Almost any financial expert will tell you this is a good idea. But is having an emergency fund a good idea for a Christian? Doesn’t that mean you’re no longer trusting in and relying on God? Let’s look at what the Bible says about this issue.

Danger Ahead

       Life is uncertain. Life is difficult. We can all agree on those two facts. Having faith in God doesn’t change the truth of those statements – it only changes how we deal with the difficulty and uncertainty of life. We all know we’ll hit snags along the way, and many of these snags will have financial consequences. Cars break down, people get sick, companies downsize, and disasters happen. Only the (figuratively) blind or delusional would deny those realities.

       So how should we cope with the inevitable trials of life? Proverbs provides a good reflection for this question.

       The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.

Proverbs 22:3 (WEB)

This verse is also found in Proverbs 27:12.

       The New Living Translation says “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions.” Prudence and wisdom are strongly praised throughout the Bible as gifts from God and virtues of the righteous. They are something every Christian should strive for. Here, the Bible tells us that the prudent see dangers ahead and prepare for them. They get ready to handle the inevitable trials they will face. Those who do not prepare are called “simple” – naive, dumb, stupid, or foolish. If you know trouble is ahead, you’d be a fool not to get ready to handle it the best you can.

You Don’t Know What Will Happen

       You might think, “Well, I’ve got a good job and my boss likes me, so I’ll be fine.” Or, “My car is pretty new. It won’t need repairs for a long time.” Or maybe, “I’m in good shape. I shouldn’t have any medical bills until I’m old.” While the preventative measures you take may reduce your chances of running into trouble, the truth is that you just don’t know what will happen. Ecclesiastes 11:2 is often used to promote the idea of investment diversification to Christians (and that’s a logical application), but we can see how it relates to emergency funds as well.

       Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.

Ecclesiastes 11:2 (WEB)

       This verse fits perfectly into the idea of diversification (even though it would have originally applied to agricultural practices). But the gist of it is that we should take appropriate precautions because we don’t know what will happen or what disasters may strike. An emergency fund is a very appropriate precaution against the financial difficulties or disasters we may face. Therefore, it is prudent for a Christian to have an emergency fund.

Take Care of Your Family

       Without proper savings, financial troubles can be very strenuous on a family – often forcing you to make difficult choices between necessary expenses. Putting your family in a bind is neither wise nor loving, and the apostle Paul warned Christians to care for their family’s needs.

       But if anyone doesn’t provide for his own, and especially his own household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:8 (WEB)

       It is a testament to the wisdom and providence of God when Christians take care of their family’s needs through hard work and good judgment. We have a responsibility to provide for ourselves if we can, else we will give non-Christians a reason to criticize Christianity. It’s another stumbling block we can put in the way of others. But taking care of our families puts us in a better position to give generously when the occasion arises and makes it much easier for love to be expressed without worry, anxiety, and other unnecessary burdens.

Don’t Trust in Money

       It’s clear that it is wise to prepare for emergencies ahead of time, and an emergency fund is one way a Christian can exercise prudence in this area. However, it’s important that we don’t begin to trust in our emergency funds instead of God.

       He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous shall flourish as the green leaf.

Proverbs 11:28 (WEB)

       We must always hope and firmly rely on God’s goodness and mercy and love to see us through the difficult times in life. Through His strength and power, we can overcome the emotional trials we will face. And through the blessings He provides and our prudent management of those blessings, we can save up to prepare for the emergencies and unexpected problems we’ll face. Trusting in God and having the wisdom to save up for the future work hand in hand to help us flourish as a green leaf.

       We could try to keep our emergency funds at 2, 3, or even 5 years worth of our expenses, but time has shown that this isn’t really necessary. We can do what’s prudent and necessary (save 6-12 months of expenses as an emergency fund), or we can go overboard and have more faith in money than God. That’s the difference between trusting in riches and trusting in God. How far are you going to take the wise actions the Bible commends? Once you begin hoarding, you no longer honor God because you have become stingy and not willing to be generous. The balance is doing what is wise while still honoring the other areas of God’s plans for your finances – and the biggest aspect is generous giving.

       So feel free and confident in saving up a wise amount for your emergency fund. But don’t take it so far that you begin to trust in riches instead of God.

       Previously, we looked at the “prosperity gospel” (I prefer greed gospel) claim that God wants to make all Christians rich. Today, we’re going to look at the claim that poverty comes from disobedience to God or a lack of faith in Him. This idea is preached strongly by Benny Hinn, but it has absolutely no basis in Scripture.

Claim #2: Your Poverty Comes from Your Lack of Faith in or Disobedience to God

       One of the most disgusting claims of the greed gospel is that poverty comes from a lack of faith or disobedience. This idea is not Biblical and is so far removed from the teachings of Jesus it’s heretical. On the contrary, Jesus often praised and blessed the poor and warned the rich:

       20 He lifted up his eyes to his disciples, and said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.

       24 “But woe to you who are rich! For you have received your consolation.

Luke 6:20 and Luke 6:24 (WEB)

       I haven’t found a single place in my Bible where Jesus says, “Woe to you who are poor. If you’d only have more faith and be obedient, you’d be rich. All you need to do is send a seed of faith offering (or love offering) to my ministry to show your faith in the abundant riches God wants to give you!” Maybe you should check your Bible for yourself, but did I miss something in the Sermon on the Mount???

       Jesus never claimed that everything would go well for those who choose to follow Him. He often warned of the trials His disciples would face because of their faith in Him. The only riches He promised were heavenly treasures and spiritual wealth. We only need to consider the apostles and the entire history of the Church to see that wealth and health do not always come upon those who follow Christ. On the contrary, they often give up the worldly riches they could have otherwise gained for themselves. If all those of the most faithful men and women of Christ were not rich and healthy, why do the greed evangelists claim that poverty comes from a lack of faith?

       Throughout the New Testament we see a strong indication that we shall share in the sufferings of Christ. In fact, many have gloried in the fact that they share in Christ’s suffering and are persecuted for His name:

       9 He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then am I strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (WEB)

       Compared to knowing Christ, everything else is a loss. Riches don’t matter. Health doesn’t matter. Even death in this life doesn’t matter because we have gained Christ and the righteousness that comes from Him – guaranteeing us eternal life with Him.

       7 However, what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yes most certainly, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death; 11 if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 3:7-11 (WEB)

       And if you’d like to read Jesus’ words on the matter:

       57 As they went on the way, a certain man said to him, “I want to follow you wherever you go, Lord.” 58 Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Luke 9:57-58 (WEB)

       I have told you these things, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have oppression; but cheer up! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33 (WEB)

       Jesus doesn’t promise wealth and health to those who choose to follow Him. He warns of the persecution they will face and acknowledges that in this life we will have troubles and burdens. But what does He tell us? That we should give money and have faith that God will make us rich? No! He told us to cheer up because He has overcome the world. The Gospel of Christ is not that we were all made to be victors and become rich and healthy because God wants to bless us. The Gospel of Christ is that Jesus died for our sins, rose again, and overcame Hell and the world so that we might have eternal life in Him where the afflictions of this world will never affect us again. In light of that truth, we see that poverty, persecution, and disease have no power over us because they are only temporary conditions. No matter what happens to us in this life, we who follow Jesus have heavenly riches and spiritual health that can never be taken away.

       Poverty is but an affliction of this world. It doesn’t matter for those who are in Christ, for we have riches in a bank that can never fail. Our investments in Heaven will never crash and lose all value. We have a secure hope in Jesus. Lack of faith does not produce poverty. But believing that your poverty comes from God is a lack of faith in His goodness. The Bible and the Church testify to the goodness of God – and we all know the unsearchable riches in the gift of Jesus Christ.

       Do not be blinded by these charlatans who claim to profess the Word of God. They twist and contort the Gospel to make themselves rich, and they will be judged for their actions and words. They will be given the greater condemnation because they are leading so many of God’s people astray! They curse the poor and blast them for their “lack of faith”, but the poor who follow God in their integrity are much more blessed than those rich, greedy preachers:

       Better is the poor who walks in his integrity, than he who is perverse in his ways, and he is rich.

Proverbs 28:6 (WEB)

       There are two more false claims of the greed gospel that I want to examine. You can make sure you don’t miss the next two parts by signing up to get free updates to Provident Planning.