Evaluating Evangelical Begging



"Evangelical Begging" is a phrase which I use sarcastically to refer to what modern day popular preachers do on television and on other public platforms. This is a study whether that phrase and my convictions behind it are something I should maintain or not, in light of orthodox and historic Christianity.

What does the Scriptures say on money?

The scriptures speak a lot on money. Most of it are warnings on how dangerous and deep seated the love of money is in our hearts. In Luke 16:13, Jesus said money is the only one thing that epitomizes "the other master" whom man worships and loves other than God. Quite contrary to radical pentecostal teachings, it is not Satan that fallen man worships. Fallen man serves the devil in ignorance, but his heart worships money. That's what Jesus taught in Luke 16. When you love God, you hate money and when you hate God, you love money. All men who are not true worshippers of God, love only their personal profit and care nothing about the glory of God.

Jesus also taught in Luke 12:15 that the abundance of riches does not mean anything for a man's eternal life. If eternal life is one's aim and desire then money should not be one's priority. So all trusting in worldly riches is futile and foolish. This is what the Apostles also taught.

Regarding ministers of the gospel, the Scriptures are clear that he should be a man who is not a lover of money (Titus 1:7, KJV). In I Timothy 6:3, Paul told Timothy the marks of a person who teaches "a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness" is that he "thinks godliness is a means to financial gain"(1 Timothy 6:5, NIV). In other words, according to Holy Scriptures, the mark of a false teacher is that he thinks religion is just a way to get rich. So Paul admonishes all who reads I Timothy to stay away from ministers whose aim is to pick pocket their hearers. Their aim is to tickle the ears of their hearers and get money out of them. The motive of all those who teach false doctrine as "lust for filthy lucre" is stated by Paul again in Titus 1:11,KJV. Now in 2 Timothy, Paul very clearly says about the type of people to be found in the Last days. In chapter 3, he says that "men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God", and in chapter 4 he says "the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.". So it is no wonder that in the last days there is an increase in preachers who are after money and a great following after them.

According to the Holy Scriptures, money is thus a dangerous thing which tests our motive and especially the intent of ministers. Balaam, Gehazi and Judas are all examples of men in ministry who destroyed themselves with their love of money.

What did the Lord Jesus and The Apostles do?


Even though money is a dangerous thing and love of money is a sin into which anyone of us can fall so easily, it is a fact that money is needed to live on this earth. It is also needed in ministry. So is it permitted in the Scriptures for ministers to solicit their hearers to give money to meet their personal needs?

In the entire Bible, there is not a single incident where you would find any man of God, Lord Jesus or the Apostles imploring people to give them money to meet their personal needs. Sure they had many ministry needs, but there is not a single incident where the Lord and his men ever bid people to give them money for the expansion of the Lord's work.

Why?

For this simple reason, the Lord's work is not done or expanded by money. The Lord's work is done by the gracious and efficacious working of God's blessed Holy Spirit. It is by His working that the Kingdom of God expands. So the argument that the Kingdom of God would not expand without begging for money is a preposterous one.

Do not forget that the Sovereign Lord God who owns the whole universe is able to provide money that is needed for the needs of the minister and the ministry, without the minister going around begging to people.

No where in the Bible will you find the Lord Jesus or the Apostles telling their personal or ministerial needs to their hearers. No they shared that to our Father in heaven. They trusted in the Father to support them. They knew that the Father is well able to burden the hearts of those who are able to give and thus meet their needs. They resolved in true God-honouring faith that 'if God does not help us, we should not be helped.' [1]

Ministers who call themselves the ambassadors of Christ ought not to beg. How will you feel if some one knocks at your door and asks you for money claiming to be the ambassador of United States? You will laugh at him. Well why? Because United States is the richest nation in the world. The ambassador of United States will not and should not beg, for it dishonours his nation. Well is God or United States greater? Think for yourself. [2]

Did not the Apostles ask Christians to give?

Yes they did instruct and encourage believers to give. But a notable difference from their conduct and today's practice of men on Christian TV is that the apostles never asked money for them or their ministry. They always encouraged believers to give someone or somewhere else, especially the poor and the needy.

For e.g : Paul encouraged Corinthians to give money for the need of poor believers in Jerusalem. (I Corinthians 16:3)

What does the history of Church teach us?

One of the things that Christians of the 21st century do not recognise is what church history of 2000 years teach us. We should not forget that the Kingdom of God has been expanding all these years without ministers begging like these charlatans on TV.

Its only in the recent past and especially after the entry of Christian television that you find ministers asking money unashamedly like this.

So has there been a change of plan?

No there is no change of plan in God's heart how the Kingdom shall be expanded, which is clearly stated in His word. As noted earlier, it is not by money that the kingdom is built. It is by the matchless work of the Holy Spirit. Also even if money is used for this process, there is no Scripture that warrants ministers to coerce people to give money. This is also testified by the history of authentic Christianity.

The earliest non-canonical Christian literature "The Didache", which is more of a manual of the instructions of the apostles to the various churches, consists the following on false prophets -

"Now about the envoys and prophets, do just as according to the tenet of the good message. Now each envoy who comes to you, accept as you would the Lord.... Now when the envoy departs, he should take nothing except bread until he lodges. But if he should ask for money, he is a false prophet.... But whoever says with the spirit, "Give me money (or something else)," you will not listen to him. But if he says to give on behalf of others who are in need, no one should judge him." [3]

So in the first and second century, it was clear that any itinerant preacher who asks money is a false prophet. Anyone who claims to be speaking in the Spirit and demanded money was a false prophet. But if he requests believers to give, pointing to a need not of his but of someone else, then believers should give. This is exactly like Paul asking Christians at Corinth to give for believers in Jerusalem.

If we come down through church history, through the early fathers, the Reformers, the Puritans, the Methodists etc and come all the way up to mid 20th century, we will not find anyone other than false preachers and sidelined heretics preaching to get money from their hearers. Sadly with the rise of Christian TV in mid 20th century, the heretics (who in all ages have been popular than true men of God), now have a world wide appeal. Hence many Christians sadly, consider the methods used by these men on TV as a norm and even scriptural.

Is it not a matter of individual calling?

Some people have argued that due to the differences in our calling, we would find some of the actions of other Christians as not fitting to a minister. Thus we should not criticise the methods of another, especially who has a different calling. Now I doubt whether that is the case here? It is true that we differ in our callings, but that does not mean a person can claim to have a different calling than ours and do something clearly against the Scriptures. In other words, when I find a man who does things contrary to the Bible, then even if I have a different calling, on the basis of the Bible, I can say what he does is wrong. So it is not a matter of individual calling.

Should Not Christians Give?

Yes, we Christians should excel in our giving. We who do not count anything other than Jesus Christ as precious, should by our giving prove that we do not treasure money. It is clearly taught in Scripture.

It is also clearly taught in Scripture that we should support ministers so that they can spend all their life and energy on studying the word of God and not in some other work. The reason we should support ministers is because we should relieve them from all other work so that they can dedicate their entire time and energy in studying the word and in prayer.

Many pastors and preachers who do not understand this reason, take advantage of this privilege and pick pocket their flock. These pastors at the same time are not diligent in their study of the word. Like Paul said, these who love money end up teaching false doctrine. It is very clear in Scripture that a true man of God is one whose aim is to be diligent in prayer and study of the word.(Acts 6:4) It is also clear that a true man of God is one who will never take advantage of his privileges to meet some personal need of his.

Listen to Samuel, the Prophet in the Old Testament :

"Here I am; bear witness against me before the LORD and His anointed. Whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken, or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed, or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? I will restore {it} to you." They said, "You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man's hand..”  (1 Samuel 12:3-4)

Listen to Paul, the Apostle in the New Testament :

"I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:33-35)

So Christians should give to ministers, especially those who do not ask.

Conclusion

After a careful examination of Scriptures, the practice of our Lord Jesus and the Apostles, and the testimony of church history, we can conclude that there is neither any scriptural validity or historic precedence for the modern day solicitation of money by ministers for their personal and ministerial needs. Hence it is accurate to call it sarcastically that it is "Evangelical Begging". I refuse to withdraw my stand regarding these and my use of this term, as this study has only reinforced my convictions.

Well what about those Christians who are reluctant to give, stingy and tightfisted?


Scripturally speaking, rather than just repeatedly imploring them to give, they need to be taught the matchless worthiness of our true Treasure in heaven - Lord Jesus Christ. It is only when they become reluctant to part with Christ Jesus, that they will part with all other treasures. (Hebrews 10:34)

If after repeated instruction and encouragement to see the worthiness of our Lord and thus part with all earthly treasures is neglected by the individual, then it is doubtful whether in the first place, that individual is saved or not.

For

"The mark of a saint, a child of God, is not that we have attained or are perfect but that we long for Christ, we thirst like hungry babies for his word and fellowship and power. No Christian is satisfied with his present condition. We are hungry and the more we taste the hungrier we get for Jesus. His value does not diminish with time - it increases. And the better we know Him the more we love him. And when we finally enter into his presence with rejoicing our endless song will be, 'Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.' Your mouth is always full of praises for what you value most. 'To you who believe he is precious.'(1 Peter 2:7, NKJV)" [4]


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Notes :
[1] Paul Washer in the sermon "Journal Reading And Prayer". 
[2] A famous illustration used by Zac Poonen
[3] THE DIDACHE, Translated from the Greek text published by Roswell D. Hitchcock in 1884 - Section 4.
[4] John Piper in the sermon "How Much is Jesus Worth", preached on January 1982, © Desiring God

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