THE WORD-FAITH MOVEMENT
WOLVES IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING
By: Victor T. Stephens
"For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears." (Acts 20:29-31)
Confession and Wealth
Another domain where the cultic formula of the "force of faith-positive confession" theology is applied to by Word-Faith teachers entails the gospel of wealth; aka the "prosperity gospel". The passages below are among a multitude of others which they utilize to suggest it is God's will for every believer to be financially rich.
So they rose early in the morning and went out into the Wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, "Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper." (2 Chr. 20:20)
But He answered and said to them, "You give them something to eat." And they said to Him, "Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?" (Mark 6:37)
So Jesus answered and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or fathers or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time---houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions---and in the age to come, eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)
"Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you." (Luke 6:38)
"And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it." (John 14:13-14)
"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 Cor. 8:9)
"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us." (Eph. 3:20)
"And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." (Phil 4:19)
"Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers." (3 John 1:2)
Employing these passages, Word-Faith proponents brashly claim that if a believer lives in poverty, then he/she lacks faith and is living outside the will of God. According to John Hagee:
"Poverty is caused by sin and disobeying the Word of God." (John Hagee, TBN, April 16, 1993)
Jesse Duplantis states:
"If you're not anointed, poverty will follow you all the days of your life." (Jesse Duplantis, "Voice of the Covenant", Page 5)
In their ambitious efforts to prove and promote their gospel of wealth, many Word-Faith teachers often announce with trumpets how God has prospered them with financial and material riches. "We are King's Kids; and God wants us to be rich!" they boast. It is claimed that they receive much on account that they give much ("seed money") to the ministry and to those in need. And like the Pharisees, they exhibit their works to make themselves appear sacrificial and spiritual (Luke 16:14-15).
As pointed out in the Book of Luke, honorable works are not always an indicator of truth and godliness. Even Judas, who was one of Jesus' closest disciples, pretended to care for the poor while he was stealing money from Christ. Judas' regard for the needy was nothing more than pretense that was exhibited to cloak his love for money (John 12:5-6).
Similarly, in today's church age, the Word-Faith camp ... under a veil of pretense, is employing double-dealing tactics (Psalm 12:2-4) that involves theft by deception. Thus, their prosperity does not come via God's blessings, but by the satanic strategy of fleecing the flock (2 Peter 2:1-3). They donate "some" money and resources to the poor while grasping much for themselves in order to build their own kingdoms and live a life of luxury. In the words of Benny Hinn:
"Years ago they used to preach, 'O we are going to walk on streets of gold.' I would say, 'I don't need gold up there. I've got to have it down here." (Benny Hinn, TBN, April 2, 1991)
Sadly, his followers support and cheer him on, completely incognizant that they are caught in a web of deceit. Let's now examine the passages of Scripture listed above and uncover the errors, perversities, and scams utilized by Word-Faith teachers.
Analysis of 2 Chronicles 20:20
Word-Faith teachers allude to 2 Chronicles 20:20 as a psychological ploy to gain trust from their congregants. They promise their followers prosperity if they trust their "man of God" and sow a monetary "seed of faith". John Avanzini says:
"I'm telling you if you'll believe the prophet you will prosper. Don't wait until you hear something that makes sense to you. But if you will right now, right now hear the prophet, go to the phone; get on the line and say, 'I'm believing for miracle debt cancellation. I'm believing the man of God...I'm giving the $100 seed. I'm planting a $100 seed and with that $100 seed, I'm believing it's going to bring forth a harvest to get me totally, completely out of debt.'"
(John Avanzini, LeSea Miracle Telethon, May 3, 2004)
The Hebrew word for "prosper" is "tsa'leach." In the context of 2 Chronicles 20:20, it means to "overcome." Thus, in light of the entire chapter, this passage does not portray a promise of debt cancellation or any other type of financial gain. It was, however, God's promise of victory (to overcome) to the nation of Israel in a forthcoming military campaign (v 21).
In a deranged attempt to make this verse fit her agenda and solicit biblical countenance to Avanzini's claims, Marilyn Hickey makes the following statement:
"If you have been fighting too long without a breakthrough and you're ready for a change, then it's time to sow a "Battle Seed" for the victory you need. Just pick up the phone and call the number on the screen and say, 'I want to sow a 'Battle Seed' for the victory I need." (Marilyn Hickey, Marilyn Hickey Show, June 18, 2004)
Such outrageous interpretations by Word-Faith teachers exemplify reckless handling of the scriptures. Instead of properly reading and teaching the text in its correct context, they distort God's Word in a manner that makes it subjective to one's personal agenda or preconceived notions.
Analysis of Mark 6:37
In reference to Mark 6:37, Word-Faith proponents use this verse to argue that Jesus' disciples were rich. According to John Avanzini:
"You don't think these Apostles didn't walk around with money? I mean, they had money...Paul had the kind of money that people, that government officials would block up justice to try to get a bribe out of old Paul."
(John Avanzini, TBN, January 20, 1991)
Since two-hundred denarii was equal to eight months pay, Avanzini and other Word-Faith leaders contend that the disciples "offer" to purchase 200 denarii worth of bread was indicative of their great wealth. Close examination of this verse, however, does not prove that the disciples were "mega" rich. In context, the disciples were not offering to purchase this amount of bread, but were actually indicating to Jesus that 200 denarii worth of bread was beyond their means. Since they did not possess the funds to feed 5,000 people, Jesus took five loaves of bread, two fish and induced a miracle that produced more than enough food to feed the multitudes (v 38-43).
While the Word-Faith teachers are contending that the disciples were rich, Peter is saying:
"Silver and gold I do not have..." (Acts 3:6)
Paul, the man who Avanzini claims had enough money to block up justice, says,
"To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless..." (1 Cor. 4:11)
Paul also says,
"But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: ... as poor, yet making many rich (spiritually); as having nothing, and yet possessing all things (spiritual riches)." (2 Cor. 6:4, 10)
Again, Paul states:
"I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked." (2 Cor. 11:27)
He continues stating,
"And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content." (1 Tim. 6:8)
The author of Hebrews states:
"They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented --- of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth." (Heb. 11:37)
Furthermore, in Luke 22:36, Jesus says to the disciples:
"But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one." (Luke 22:36)
If the disciples were rich, they would be able to purchase a sword rather than sell their clothes in order to buy one.
How anyone can read these passages, yet contest that the disciples were rich is nothing short of a convenient denial of reality. With militant vigilance, Word-Faith proponents blatantly defy doctrinal purity to shield their program of flock fleecing; confidently aware that the flock will gladly tolerate their false teachings (2 Cor. 11:4, 13-15).
Analysis of Mark 10:29-30
Another ploy of the Word-Faith teachers' prosperity gospel involves the "hundredfold" principle. They refer to Mark 10:29-30 and use it as a guaranteed jackpot formula. To the discerning eye, "Word-Faith Teachers Gone Wild" can be viewed periodically on "The Blasphemy Network (TBN)" pushing their "hundredfold" doctrine to those who will "just go to the phone" with their credit cards and plant a "seed of faith." If you plant ten dollars or tithe on your income, God is obligated to reciprocate with a hundredfold return in the amount of one-thousand dollars or tenfold of your tithe respectively. The investment returns can also include cars, homes, divine health, etc. In her book, Gloria Copeland says:
"Give one house and receive one hundred houses or one house worth one hundred times as much. Give one airplane and receive one hundred times the value of the airplane. Give one car and the return would furnish you a lifetime of cars. In short, Mark 10:30 is a very good deal." (Gloria Copeland, "God's Will Is Prosperity", Page 54)
So what is the correct interpretation of Mark 10:29-30? Using a metaphorical expression, Jesus was telling the people that if they will leave everything and follow Him, they will receive a "hundredfold" return in a way that relates to inheriting an entire new household of believers. They would enter into the family of God and experience a compounding of close fellowship with others (Mark 3:31-35; Acts 2:41-47; 1 Timothy 5:1-2). The natural result of this new family would yield a sharing of "houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands...." If this passage was about acquiring money, purchasing new homes, cars, and obtaining divine health as professed by Word-Faith teachers, the rich young ruler would have followed Christ rather than go his own way (Mark 10:22).
Analysis of Luke 6:38
In reference to Luke 6:38, wealth advocates teach that, "good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over", are code terms meaning an abundance of wealth and miracles. After citing this verse, Creflo Dollar encourages his followers to:
"Pray over your seed and expect an abundant harvest." (Creflo Dollar Ministries Website)
While it is true that God will bless those who give liberally, it is the misuse and abuse of this verse that promotes more scriptural revisionism. Not surprisingly, Word-Faith proponents have redefined the context of this verse ... teaching an extreme viewpoint that contradicts the Word of God.
In proper context, "good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over" was simply another metaphorical expression that Jesus exerted to illustrate the rewards one is recompensed if he gives to those in need. Jesus used this metaphorical expression in a manner that could be identified with the food market. A salesperson, obliged for earlier generosity, is inclined to return generosity to his customers. So that a liberal amount of grain could be given, the salesperson would "press down" and "shake" it "together" to make room for more grain until it eventually overflowed. Although there were some men in the Bible who possessed an abundance of material wealth, this synopsis is a far cry from a blanket prescriptive policy for attaining worldly riches.
Wealth proponents incessantly refer to Acts 10:34 to argue that God is not a "respecter of persons." If He will make some men in the Bible wealthy, then it is assumed that it's His will for everyone to be rich in material possessions. This syllogism, however, contradicts scripture; and violates God's sovereignty. In Exodus 33:19 and Romans 9:15, God says, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion." These verses clearly indicate that God is not obligated to anyone; and He gives according to His sovereign discretion. Thus, in proper context, Acts 10:34 is pertaining to salvation. Anyone who accepts Jesus Christ will be saved (v 35-36).