Recently, one well-known televangelist preached a sermon entitled “Releasing the Wealth Anointing.” He repeatedly exhorted the congregation to demand of God that He follow through on His promise to give them “goodly houses,” and higher paying jobs. Then, as is usually the case, this “sermon” was concluded with the obligatory call to the listener to sow a seed of faith, which will unleash the blessing of God. You have probably heard it before, “You have to spend money to make money.”
It would almost seem as though there is no difference between preaching and selling cars: tell the customer (I mean congregant) whatever it takes to seal the deal. The preacher gets the offering to support the multi-media ministry (and a not-so-modest lifestyle), and if the “seed” fails to yield heaping dividends, just use the ever favorite “You didn’t have enough faith” clause. (Let the buyer beware: I guess we should have read the fine print.)
What, then? Do the blessings of God come with fine print? What do they cost? In God’s economy, what is the going rate for physical healing? What about emotional healing?
There are a number of scriptures that are more popular than others. On any given day, you can turn on a Christian radio or television program and find an “evangelist” or “prophet(ess)” speaking directly “to you,” declaring, “You are the head, and not the tail!”
I decided to read the fine print on the promise myself. The quotation was from Deuteronomy 28:11-13, “And the Lord shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers to give thee. The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath...”
Well, Praise the Lord! I’ll be plenteous in goods, children, livestock and land. Everything I touch will be blessed. I’ll be on top of the world. Hallelujah!
But wait... Is there any fine print? Maybe I had better start with the first couple of verses:
“And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God.”
Uh-oh. What’s with the “IF”? Wait, something about that sounds familiar. Maybe we should finish reading verse 13. “And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them: And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.”
What if we don’t obey? What if we seek our own will above the will of God? We Christians in America, in particular, have become very complacent. We have blurred the lines that separate us from the sinners, until very little (if any) difference exists. We dress the same, go to the same events, and do the same things. So extreme has become our conversion from Strangers and Pilgrims to members of mainstream society, that the only hope many of us have to hear our Savior say “Well done,” is if we were to ask Him how He would like His steak.
Not long ago, a professing Christian played in a reality TV game show. She proved that she could lie as well as anyone in the game, so much so that she won the million dollar prize. Afterward, she “gave God glory” for helping her win. I can only imagine Him answering, “Don’t thank me, I didn’t have anything to do with it.”
There is a litmus test to prove who is really, truly a child of God. God said in Isaiah 63:8, “Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so He was their Saviour.” When you lie, you bring your heritage into question, for Jesus said that “Satan was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). All to often, however, the Christian seeks to justify himself in the things that he enjoys, never bothering to inquire of the Lord what is His will.
When they prosper, who preach the “name it, claim it” heresy, is it because the Lord is pouring out a special blessing on them, or because they live in a land where the showers of blessing fall on the just and on the unjust alike? Is financial prosperity a sign of righteousness? Why then would King David exhort the believer in Psalm 73, “I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. ...They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. ...Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain ... Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou didst cast them down into destruction. ...For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go whoring from thee. But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.”
This covetous, idolatrous (Col. 3:5) approach to the Scriptures has created the conditions in which Christianity now finds itself. The answer to the question, “What if we don’t obey?” is found further down in the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy. “But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee: ...The Lord shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me. ...The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low. He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him: he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail.”
Today, in this country that was founded by protestant Christians, it is the open expression of Christianity that is under attack. While proclaiming itself to be tolerant and inclusive, American society has turned its back on Jesus Christ. Worse, it has all but declared true, Bible-believing Christians to be an obstacle to the nation’s social progress, and vowed to stifle it in every possible way. The “strangers,” with their “strange” ways have become the head. Public schools, while vehemently forbidding Christian expression, gladly promote other religions and their expressions; such as Buddhism, Islam, Yoga, Secular Humanism, etc.
Dear friend, know this, that every promise of God, every blessing, comes with a condition. The wicked may prosper, but it is for but a moment. When we, the people of God, come into the promised land at the coming of our Lord, we will be blessed beyond measure. But if we are to have such a hope, we must seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. We must hearken unto His commands, and observe to do them. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Pet. 5:6).