In my previous post, I wrote about how God does want to prosper the poor but not to bring them to a state of luxury and wealth but to a state of generosity and sharing so that there may be equality for all. I wrote that the dangers of the prosperity teaching is that it glorifies gluttony and despises simplicity. But I didn’t mention the, in my opinion, greatest danger of the prosperity teaching here in Africa – the theology of sowing and reaping.
I was listening to a pastor teaching other pastors about how to break poverty bonds. He talked about prosperity and giving. At first I thought it was a nice combination – sure God can prosper the poor but it’s also the responsibility of the rich to give. Then I realized that what he was saying was that it is the responsibility of the poor to give to the pastor or the ministry in order for God to prosper them, because you reap what you sow.
He was exhorting these South African pastors never to be afraid of demanding generous offerings even in very poor churches, because “no one is too poor to give”. His proof texts for these statements were 2 Cor 8:1-4 and 9:6, where Paul is telling the Corinthians about how the Macedonians, despite their “extreme poverty”, gave generously over their ability, and that if you sow generously you will reap generously.
I raised my hand and argued against him. Firstly, the Macedonians and Corinthians were giving to the poor of Jerusalem, not a pastor or a church building (the latter didn’t even exist). Secondly, 2 Cor 9:6 is not necessarily talking about a financial reward, especially in the light of Mt 19:21 and 1 Tim 6:5. Finally, while Paul seems impressed of the Macedonians giving so generously despite their poverty, he is careful in pointing out that he doesn’t want the Corinthians to do the same:
“Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.” (2 Cor 8:13).
When the poor get poorer to make a richer pastor richer, the result is inequality. If the poor neglect their own children or parents in order to give to the pastor, the church has denied the faith (1 Tim 5:8). Promising people that they will get rich if they give a lot to the church is just as wrong as promising them they will get healed if they pay you – you cannot sell what God is giving according to His will and understanding, and you cannot guarantee His blessing because the Kingdom is not fully manifested yet.
I was in a poor shack church a while ago where an Afrikaaner was invited as a guest speaker. He quoted Malachi 3:8-10 and said, literally: “I know that many of you are struggling with money, but if you don’t give tithe, you are cursed because you are robbing God.” Sweet. If he had checked what tithing really is, he would have realized that it is what those who have land give to the Levites, immigrants, fatherless and widows (Deut 26:12), that is to those who don’t own land, to those who are poor. It is an economic distribution from those who have to those who are in need, not from those who are in need to those who have.
Of course, some pastors are poor in need of offerings, especially in developing countries, but they should seek to get their offerings from the rich, not the poor, or get a job like Paul so that their hands supply their own needs, not coveting somebody else’s resources (Acts 20:33-34). Sure, if the poor want to share their resources with the pastor, support evangelism or help other poor people, they are free to do that as long as they are not neglecting their own family. But to claim that “no one is too poor to give” or that you are cursed if you don’t give to the church, is just wicked.