In college, I used to enjoy watching a late night TV preacher named Gene Scott (not to be confused with my co-blogger Eugene Scott!). Rev. Scott was cut from a different cloth from other men of the cloth. He smoked a cigar onstage, hawked his paintings of naked women, and obviously held a solid grasp on the Bible and theology. Oftentimes, he would dissect passages of Scripture on a chalkboard, delving into the finer points of Greek and Hebrew. The man was a genius. Later I learned that he married stripper who continued working in her profession while they were married. To say the least, he provided great entertainment.
Every night Gene Scott unapologetically looked into the TV cameras and asked for money and promised a divine return on the people’s “investments.” On slow nights, he threatened to run a video of his Gospel-singing quartet until people started giving.
One night, I decided to test the integrity of Gene Scott’s ministry. I called the phone number at the bottom of the television screen and when a voice answered, I acted like I was distraught. “I’m desperate,” I pleaded. “I’m thinking about taking my life. Can you tell me more about Jesus?”
“Just watch the television program,” the voice responded.
“But I need help NOW,” I pleaded once again. “Can’t anyone there help me?”
“I’m sorry, you just need to keep watching Rev. Scott.”
I hung up the phone and realized that Gene Scott’s ministry was interested in only one thing: making money.
Christian television is filled with preachers asking for money and promising miracles. But does God agree with them? Does God believe in prosperity?
Please join us for today’s daily Bible conversation.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Psalm 51:1-19. When we reach the end of ourselves, we discover our deepest desires. After David was confronted for committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering Uriah, we discover his deepest desire—a clean heart. That same yearning resides deep within us. It’s the desire for forgiveness and purity.
Proverbs 22:24-25. “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.” Note to self: bad habits are contagious.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
True confession: Ten years ago I made a living writing books for televangelists. If you’re acquainted with this particular Christian subculture or prosperity theology, you’d likely recognize the names of many of the men for whom I wrote. Usually, a publisher contracted me and then sent me a batch of sermon manuscripts that I tailored into a book.
The majority of these men treated me with the utmost respect and integrity, so I have no personal ax to grind. However, their treatment of Scripture became increasingly stressful. Not only did many regularly misinterpret the word of God, but they used it to manipulate people to give.
While reading through the transcripts of one famous preacher’s worship services, I noticed that he consistently spent more time asking for the offering than he spent preaching the sermon.
Yet while reading through 2 Corinthians, I noticed that Paul spends two chapters out of 13 talking about giving (chapters 8 and 9). And he doesn’t mince words about its importance.
He also promises a return on this people’s gifts. In 2 Corinthians 9:6, he exhorts his readers, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”
In verse 11, he promises his readers, “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”
Was Paul an ancient televangelist?
Absolutely not. While Paul was collecting an offering for the impoverished church in Jerusalem, we also know that he made his living as a tentmaker, which means he received nothing from the collection.
Unlike many televangelists, he never promised a specific return, nor did he urge his readers to give with a specific personal need in mind. Most televangelists challenge us to think of a specific need (i.e. a job, restored health, an unsaved loved one) and a demand for a hundredfold (or more) return on our gift.
But Paul believed in the importance of generosity, and that God rewards it. Generosity changes us as well as the recipients of our gifts. Sometimes he blesses us with increased finances, other times he gives us good health, and other times he brings us a spiritual touch. Actually, the potential benefits are limitless.
The key here is to avoid any type of formula.
Also, notice that Paul encouraged the people in Corinth to give “not reluctantly or under compulsion” (verse 7). The word for “compulsion” means “under pressure.”
In other words, if a TV preacher looks you in the eyes and tries to make you feel guilty or lacking in faith unless you give, turn off the TV.
So does God believe in prosperity? Absolutely. But we must give him room to decide how he’ll reward us.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- Why do you give?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.