Money is a requirement for most in this society to survive. It’s a tool used by some to share the Word of God. It is discussed in the Bible on many occasions and most would consider it a necessary evil. Is the “evil” part of money becoming more of a problem today? Absolutely.
There are obvious examples that draw the attention of both the secular world as well as the church that give us a universal enemy towards which to point a finger. I’ll discuss some of those, but a deeper dive into the motivations of many who are more subtle in their endeavors will reveal a terrible truth: many attempts to spread the Gospel are driven too fervently by a need for profit or even survival.
Discernment that is given when we wear the Armor of God is all that is needed to see through the deceptions, but the need to fight this trend goes beyond the goal of not being misled as individuals. There is a very clear danger of the Word being corrupted and the spreading distortions of the Biblical worldview makes this more than something to avoid. It is something that believers should strive to abolish. This is where we get into murky waters.
Nothing done by man is pure. Even the best acts guided by the Holy Spirit, righteous as they may be, will have at least a hint of corruption from our sinful nature. In these finite bodies, we are incapable of being “good” even when doing the Lord’s Work and following His Will. For example, one might work fervently to expose a person to Grace and that person may accept Yeshua as their Lord and Savior. Even the most humble and obedient person doing this in the name of Yeshua will feel at least a hint of pride or accomplishment because it became part of our nature once sin was introduced into these bodies. That pride is corruption, so even the good act is tainted.
And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. – Mark 10:18 (KJV)
Even Yeshua, when He was in his earthly body, would not allow His disciples to call Him good because He was bound by the limitations of this body at the time. He ate. He could feel pain. He was killed. When He returned to His true form, those limitations were gone, but while He walked the earth He did not want to be called good.
It’s important to understand this point so we recognize that corruption seeps into everything we do. In business, in life, in all of our endeavors, there’s a scale that we must tip in the favor of our true mission. On one side is the persistent evil that is part of the nature of our world. On the other side is the body of actions that are driven by a calling to serve man for our Father. It’s a scale that measures what we do for the world and what we do for our Lord. Today, many scales are tipping towards the world. This is the risk we face.
Let’s explore different types of corruptions so that we can start to recognize what we can do to tip the scale.
The obvious deceptions
Depending on which Christian you ask about Trey Smith, they’ll likely either love him or loath him if they’ve seen his works. To some, he’s a bold and truthful believer on the quest to expose information not usually discussed on Sundays. To others, he’s a conspiracy theorist crackpot spreading an invalid message. I watch his videos for both information and entertainment, though some of them are way out there.
One of his quests is to bring to light the evil natures of popular evangelists like Benny Hinn and Mike Murdock. These men are examples of the obvious deceivers. They utilize the business of faith to build empires and live lavish lifestyles through corruption and deceit. There are so many examples of people like this who will say anything they can to get more “love money” from the people they deceive.
Unfortunately, they influence millions of people who want to walk with Yeshua. Keep in mind that truth versus deception is also on a scale. There are many things these people say and do that benefit people. Just because someone follows them doesn’t mean that he or she is also corrupted. There are plenty of true believers in their congregations despite the corruption that surrounds them. With that said, those with discernment should be able to see through their lies and realize that they are driven by greed rather than the advancement of the Kingdom of God.
Here’s a fun video Smith made about Hinn:
We don’t need to talk too much about these people. If you’re reading this article, you probably already see through their deception.
A quick note on cults
Televangelists and other scammers are often called “cult leaders” because they generate the same sort of devotion that is associated with cults. The dangers of the various cults around the world are well documented, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve even more attention because of the way they mislead people and turn them away from the true faith.
I don’t want to downplay the role of cults in any way, but it’s important to note that they are not driven by greed. There is a more sinister force driving them that we won’t discuss in this article; it’s something we’ll dive into in the future. For now, we want to make a clear delineation between the “business of faith” and the perversion of spirituality that is also rising in the world.
Classifying them in the same category as people often do is not a fair comparison. People like Benny Hinn can have a positive effect on some of those they reach. People like Jim Jones, pictured here, and the modern occult leaders that have risen in his wake conform to a different type of evil that has only the required traces of a positive effect in the world. Though nothing can be purely evil, these cults are about as close as humans can get to achieving that level of deception and damage.
The real problem with faith as a business
We cannot look into the hearts of those who are clearly misleading people such as the popular televangelists. Therefore, we do not know if they are completely fraudulent in their endeavors or if they believe they are doing God’s Work and just happen to be benefiting as a result.
The bigger problem lies in the people who believe in their hearts that they’re doing the right things but who have made sacrifices to doctrine, methodology, venue, or messaging in order to accomplish what they want to accomplish in a financially feasible way. Rather than trying to describe it as a concept, let’s look at some examples so that hopefully you’ll understand what we’re really discussing here:
I’ll start off with one that would garner many arguments from supporters. It is becoming a popular business model to sell items to Christians. It’s an extremely lucrative market and there is a growing need for people to pronounce their belief of God in a world that is shifting to a secular mindset. Many are righteously calling for people to be bold in their faith, to accept that there will be criticism and ridicule, and to display their beliefs in all that they do.
These are all wonderful things in the fight for the faith, but there’s a risk. Often in an effort to increase sales and improve the profits or viability of the business model, companies will often resort to the use of inappropriate messaging or pop culture icons in order to keep sales flourishing. This takes people down a dangerous path because it can portray both the person displaying the message and the message itself in an inappropriate light.
The Conference Circuit
I had a difficult time reconciling the way that many respected, intelligent Bible scholars promote a pretrib rapture doctrine. It seemed that many of them, particularly the most popular ones, would seem exceptionally aligned with sound doctrines, even if they went against the mainstream church teachings, but on the topic of the rapture they would fold. In some cases, they would contradict themselves when the discussion of the rapture came up, describing how this truth or that truth followed a certain doctrinal style but that the rapture was a topic that pushed logic out the window.
Then, I watched a documentary (wish I had bookmarked it at the time) that explained it all in a few short sentences. If a Bible scholar wants to be in the “club” that allows them to speak at the right conferences, appear on the right shows, get invites from the right churches, and sell books, they had to be aligned on this particular issue. We’ve seen Bible scholars who have risen in popularity only to plummet into obscurity if they switch their teaching to be against a pretribulation rapture. Conversely, I’ve seen one example where a lightly popular Bible scholar switched to a pretrib view, allowing him to get into the “club” and start making real money.
I’m not suggesting that any popular Bible scholar who preaches a pretrib rapture is doing so for popularity or out of greed. Many truly believe it. However, it seems to be a pragmatic approach to teaching the Bible. If you want to be able to spread the Word, you have to be pretrib (at least that’s what many are forced to concede).
Again, this is not about passing judgment. We still watch and learn from many who hold this questionable doctrine because other things they teach are solid. However, it’s a shame that a sacrifice of integrity and a willingness to participate in questionable teaching is perceived as necessary in order to be a successful professional Bible scholar.
This is a hard pill for many to swallow, but a good chunk of the churches across America and the world are sacrificing the delivery of the right messages in order to grow or even maintain their congregational size. It costs a lot of money to operate a church (too much, in my opinion), so many have been forced to be driven by a business model rather than focused on spreading the Gospel.
It has created a rash of lukewarm churches and congregations. It has church leaders who feel they are obligated to do what it takes to keep the doors open rather than promote the proper Word of God. It has created taboos within churches where certain important topics are avoided so they don’t turn away people who may be giving an offering.
There’s another challenge that I’ll discuss below in detail: Flinstone Vitamin Theology
Why this is Dangerous
I’ve spent a great deal of setup time to get to a very basic point. These sacrifices are made by Christian businesses for three reasons that all lead to one core.
- You need money to continue spreading the Word.
- You need customers (buyers, website visitors, conference attendees, or church members) to get the money.
- It’s okay if the message is a little off as long as they’re getting the main message of Jesus Christ being the Lord.
This brings us to the core: many are so focused on providing for themselves, their businesses, and/or their ministries that they go against the Bible. It isn’t tolerance that is bringing more churches into acceptance of non-Biblical or even anti-Biblical doctrines. It’s fear. We’ve seen numerous occasions just in the last couple of years where truly fighting for the faith is going against a worldview that can be crushing.
The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. – Søren Kierkegaard
The justification that many hold onto is the Flinstone Vitamin style of theology. They believe that if you want to spread the Word and cure the disease of ungodliness, that you will reach more people with a sweet, chewable little pill of Bible teachings rather than a 3″ hypodermic needle preaching fire and brimstone. Strict adherence to the Word is what Yeshua taught. It’s what God has always wanted. We are to strive to worship and honor our Lord every moment of our lives, yet so many churches are doing what they think they must to get people into their buildings for an hour a week.
We need the hypodermic needles. This cannot be a bulk play. When the goal is to make enough money to sustain a ministry or turn a profit, the message is what gets sacrificed and that’s simply unacceptable. One may wonder why I would spend the time to write a 2200 word article on the topic when it won’t reach 1/10th of the people that one of Rick Warren’s short Facebook posts will reach. It comes down to faith.
Popularity and profit are not part of Yeshua’s equation. It’s better to reach a single person with the right message than to reach the masses with the wrong message.