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Can We Control God by Giving Money?
By David A. DePra
As I watched Christian television tonight, there was a fund-raiser in progress. The woman speaking made some of the usual claims that are made at these times. They are actually quite extraordinary claims. And I wanted to look at them.
She is, of course, promising people the blessing of God in exchange for their money. Nowadays, this is openly preached, promised, and claimed. Yet in the book of Acts we read:
But Peter said unto him (Simon), "Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. " (Acts 8:20)
Peter is talking about the Holy Spirit in this case, but the principle is clear: You cannot buy God. You cannot control Him. Not even by your faith and obedience. And thank God we canít!
People even try to say that GOD HIMSELF tells us to control Him. What an abominable lie! It almost makes you want to ask what Bible they are reading, and what kind of God they have. Such thinking is incompatible with the Truth that is found in Jesus Christ.
A Wrong Motivation
If you think you can get God moving on your behalf by giving someone money, well, then go ahead and try it. But you know, what is wrong about that is more than believing a wrong teaching. What is wrong is that if I am trying to get God moving by anything I do, Iím actually blind to some of the most basic Truth of scripture as to the purpose of God. And worst of all, I really am trying to control God. I may not realize that, but if I think that I can move God by giving an offering, then that is exactly what I am suggesting.
You cannot move God. You cannot control God. The real question is whether God has moved YOU, and has control of YOU.
Why do people fall for such false teaching? Well, error often plays upon FEARS. Or greed. The best news possible for someone who wants their way, or wants out of their financial trouble, or who wants a blessing, is to be told that all they need to do to get God moving is write a check. That actually requires very little faith in God, because it gives YOU control over Him. It gives you a way to get God to solve your problem, rather than leave you in the place where you have NOTHING you can do but trust God.
The irony here is that God often wants to bring us to the place where there is NOTHING we can do to help ourselves, and to the realization that there is NOTHING we can do to move HIM. It is there that we must fully rely on HIS INITIATIVE to be faithful. It is there that we discover that all of the promises of God find their amen and yes in Him. It is there that we finally discover what the Bible harps on from Genesis to Revelation: That there is nothing in us, and nothing we can do, to merit a blessing from God.
But you know, if all we had to do to get God moving was write a check, well, then it would be much easier on us, wouldnít it? And weíd never grow in faith or dependence upon God.
We cannot control God Ė not even by doing what He says to do. Indeed, if we REALLY want to get into the will of God, and be free of any hindrance to Him doing HIS will in our lives, the first thing we must do is STOP TRYING to control Him. God doesnít need our help. He wants our surrender. The Bible says, "Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God." That sure doesnít sound like we are to control God, or do something to move Him.
Of course, we are never told in Godís Word to surrender to situations, but we are told to surrender to God in them. Surrender to God, FOR HIS WILL, in all things. You surrender to God and you will find His will for you Ė indeed, you will find God Himself.
God Has a Will
God has a will for each of us. He is not confused about it, or making it up as He goes along. But He cannot work out His will in our lives as a thing separate from a relationship with Him. Thus, He works on the relationship, and adjusts US to fit HIM. Then He can bring His will. This is nothing more than another way of saying that if we seek first HIS kingdom and HIS righteousness, that all things we need will be added. Seek first GOD. And if you do, what you will find IS GOD. And everything that goes with His will.
Actually, anytime I do something to push or move God, I may be doing what the Bible calls, "tempting the Lord your God." Itís like jumping off the pinnacle of the temple for the deliberate purpose of forcing God to catch you." Again Ė we donít think of it that way, but we need to be careful about trying to get God moving. It is a step into error.
I am not talking here about making mistakes. It is possible to think it is Godís will for me to do something, but to be mistaken. That is not necessarily presumption or tempting God. I tempt God when I have a goal in mind, and then deliberately force the issue, believing that God will have to respond my giving me what I want.
The fact is, you and I never moved God. Ever. Again -- the only question is whether God has moved us. What really does require faith is to recognize that there is absolutely NOTHING I can do to move God, but to believe that God will move when He knows best, and how He knows best. In the meantime I seek God so that I am in HIS WILL.
As I watched this lady on TV talk about giving money, she rehearsed example after example as to how God has blessed her, and those she knows, through the pattern she is promoting. But you know, I could not care less about these stories. People claim to have, "planted their seed," and claim to have reaped exactly the, "harvest," they expected. Itís not that I am doubting the facts they share. But I do doubt their interpretation of those facts, such that they use their experience to try to prove a teaching.
You see, all that matters is what the Bible teaches. The Bible, if you will, brings Godís definition to our facts and experience. We are never to base anything on our interpretation of our experience Ė on whether something, "works." We are to read what the Bible says. Do we realize how many more times many of these things taught by people do NOT work? Where are all of THOSE testimonies, and why arenít THEY set up to establish Truth?
Furthermore, have we realized that cults teach much of these same financial errors, and all of them have their examples of how God worked this or that miracle to build their ministry? I have personally HEARD them to this. Do we realize that for every person on Christian television with a miracle story that there is a person in a heretical cult with the same kind of thing to share? Or that for every miracle, there are people who never have miracles, but who nevertheless have faith, and love Jesus Christ?
I believe in miracles -- healings and every other kind of miracle. God DOES bless people and does do miracles today. But to make a formula out of it, and worse, to tie Godís moving and willing to bless to MONEY? Let me quote another scripture:
If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw yourself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. (1 Tim 6:3-11)
Not only does God pronounce this stern admonition upon those who teach such things, He even says, "from such withdraw yourself." Does anyone get the feeling that God takes this kind of stuff quite seriously?
If there is a preacher on TV who is obviously rich, with a big ministry, and this person is teaching YOU how to get rich, well, that can be quite persuasive to some Christians. After all, the teaching must work! It worked for them! So why canít it work for me?
God has a better idea. Seek first HIS kingdom Ė which is HIS WILL AND RULE Ė and His righteousness. If you do, you may never be rich, but you will have everything you need in abundance. But more importantly, God will have YOU.
Formulas and rules keep people in line. But in order for rules to keep people in line, you must attach to those rules rewards and punishments for obedience and disobedience. You must say, "If you keep this rule, God will respond in such and such a way. If you break it, then God will do this to you." This provides motivation. In fact, you can train animals by that kind of a system.
Some Christians obey God because there laws and rules given in the Bible, and they have noticed that there are rewards and punishments attached to our conduct to those laws. Some of these rewards and punishments have to do with the afterlife, but many of them have to do with THIS life. Thus, many glean from the Bible lists and principles, which, if obeyed, will result in Godís favor. If disobeyed, well, there will be consequences. Depending upon whom you talk to, these results of our conduct in the here and now will vary.
Now make no question: There ARE consequences for our conduct. All the time every time. And you donít even need to be a Christian. What a man sows, he will, sooner or later, reap. So no one is arguing that.
The question, however, is where all of this stuff fits into life in Christ. The trouble is that many who compile these principles to live by sever the principles from the Person. Instead of the Bible being a guide to a relationship with Jesus Christ, it becomes a list of things to believe and to obey.
One example is exactly our subject: Giving. There have always been folks who have taken the Bible teaching on giving and turned it into a blessing machine into which we ought to plug ourselves. Give this to God, and He will give that to you. Keep this law about giving, and God will bless. But violate it, and God will curse you financially. And on it goes. And if you read scripture on the subject, it can sound that way. Yet there is more to this than can be captured in a law or principle. There is a relationship with God behind it.
For instance, what would you suppose the Bible says is THE KEY to all financial freedom? To tithe? To give? To plant a seed into a ministry and wait for, "your harvest?" Nope. None of those things. The fact is, you cannot even start to be free financially, until you REPENT OF SERVING MAMMON instead of SERVING GOD. I can say that because there isnít a one of us that hasnít served mammon Ė it is born in us. Many Christians, in fact, serve mammon all the time in the name of the Lord!
How do you serve mammon in the name of the Lord? Just GIVE to GET. Sure. Say you are giving to the Lord, but really give for what you think God owes you in return. If you do this, you are not serving God, but your own interests, which in this case, is probably money, or something equal to it. That is serving mammon.
Jesus said, "Seek you first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you." But what we do is this: Seek first, "all these things," and hope that the kingdom of God will be added unto us. In short, we use the kingdom of God to legitimize our serving mammon, and donít even grasp what we are unwittingly doing.
Jesus says, "I am giving you no options. I want it all. But not merely your money, possessions, and plans. I want you. I want your worship and service. If I get that, all of the rest will fall into place." In short, to seek the kingdom is to seek the Person. And once we enter into a relationship with Him, the rest of what we own will likewise belong to Him. Then we will keep and obey plenty of principles.
This is why God loves a cheerful giver. "Cheerful," is an attitude with no strings attached. There is no giving to get in a cheerful attitude. In other words, I give because I delight to do it unto the Lord. And since God has already promised to supply me with everything I need, when I need it, in the amount HE chooses, I can afford to give without any bargaining with God. Furthermore, a, "giver," is not someone who is making deals with God. He gives and lets go.
Note also that the Bible doesnít say, "God loves cheerful giving." No. It says, "God loves a cheerful GIVER." In other words, itís not keeping the principle, or the act of giving that pleases God as much as the heart of the giver. Atheists can give to keep some principle. But Christians are supposed to give because it is the outcome of their relationship with the Person.
Is God Really Hindered?
The lady preacher I saw also said, "Take the handcuffs off of God, and let God be God. Go to the phone and plant your seed." Her teaching was that God is bound until YOU give your money. He canít bless you until YOU make it possible.
This is obviously the, "flip side," to saying that IF YOU GIVE, God must give to you. Sure. Follow that logic through and it certainly would mean that UNTIL you give, God cannot give to you.
But didnít Jesus say, "Give and it shall be given unto you." (Luke 6:38) Yes, He did. And that IS the Word of God. But notice: Jesus was not really talking about giving to ministries only. He was talking about giving to those in need. Furthermore, if we want to talk about giving to ministries, do we really think that Jesusí promise applies if we give to ministries teaching error? Is God going to bless our giving in that case? What if someone in the Mormon church gives money to the Mormon church. Does God bless them in that case, because they planted a seed? And what about the passage we just read about, "withdrawing from such," Ė from those that say that financial gain and godliness are tied together as one? If we give to them, instead of withdrawing from them, is God going to bless our disobedience?
Jesusí words in Luke, if you read the whole passage, do contain a qualifying statement. He says, "The measure you give will be the measure you get." The Greek helps here, and indicates that, "the method of calculation by which we give, will be the method of calculation by which we receive from God." Thus, if I GIVE TO GET, that is my method of calculation Ė I am calculating as to what I will GET in return. Now ask: Do you want God to give to you only if He is able to get from you? See what I mean? I would rather freely GIVE without any expectation of return Ė which Jesus said in Luke 6:35, in the same passage. Then God can give to me freely. This is the character of God and the essence of grace.
I do realize that sometimes our conduct determines what God does in response. But when that is the case, it isnít a matter of us, by our conduct, or even by our faith, "taking the handcuffs off of God." No! In that case, God has taken the handcuffs off of us. We are then obeying and believing because we love God, and because we are free towards God, God can be free towards us.
The only thing that ever hinders God is our unbelief. Or, if you will, we hinder God by trying to get Him moving. Thus, if you want to supposedly release God, stop trying to release Him. The fact is, God loves us by His own initiative, and God blesses on His own terms and initiative. He will do it no other way. When will we learn this Truth?
When God Cannot Bless
Ask: WHY are there times when God canít bless us? Well, the tragic irony is this: God often cannot bless us because we are trying to force Him to bless us. Trying to control Him. If you want to talk about handcuffing God, here is where we hinder His blessing: By thinking that we can merit it, release it, or control it. The moment we are on that basis, we are hindering God Ė not because HE is bound Ė but because WE are bound.
This is a Truth all through the Bible. Just take a look at salvation. As long as we try to earn it, merit it, or do something to try to get God to save us, we donít have faith in Christ. Rather, we have faith in the thing we are using to move God. The only solution is to confess we have NOTHING. Then we are beginning to have faith. And guess what? God saves us.
With regards to material things Ė and this also does apply to the spiritual -- Jesus said that if you want God to bless you, be faithful over little. Whatever you presently have. Then God can give you much. But to be faithful really means to surrender it all to God. A faithful steward doesnít own anything. He simply does with his masterís possessions what the master would do. Jesus said if we surrender all, "our little," in faith, then because we are faithful in little, God can trust us with much.
The key here is the faithfulness, not the much or the little. God wants faithfulness, not our money. You can give millions and not be faithful, if you do it out of Godís will and purpose Ė for the motive of personal gain. But if you give a nickel, and do it in faith, then God has what He wants Ė your faithfulness. Not your nickel!
The whole thing comes back, not to whether we DO the right thing. It comes back to where we are in our RELATIONSHIP with God. God cannot bless those who are in spiritual condition wherein the blessing would harm them. In that case, the only blessing is to NOT bless them. Iím not playing with words. When God doesnít prosper us, or give us what we want, His refusal IS a blessing. He knows exactly what we need, even if we think we know better.
I believe that God is the most generous Being who exists, and that He longs and desires that we be prosperous and have abundance. I believe He longs to bestow that upon us. But I also believe that God cares about something else more: Our relationship with Him. THAT is eternal. So God will bless to the extent where it will not become a hindrance. And you can give until you are blue in the face Ė but He isnít going to violate His purpose.
God can use financial hardship, and anything else He desires, to bring us to the place where He wants us to be. For example, if you are prone to serving mammon, and do love money, and put your trust in it, you may very well respond to a preacher who tells you that you can become prosperous by giving money to her ministry. You may respond because you believe it is the way to get God to give you what you want. But God, knowing you are serving yourself, mammon, and that you love money, isnít going to feed that sin in you by blessing you in that way! He just wonít because He loves you. Rather, He wants to BREAK you of that bondage and motivation.
You might also give to a ministry out of desperation, and God knows, some of these preachers prey on that! But that isnít faith. To give money because you think it is the only way to get God moving is really fear. Why not seek God for the Truth on these matters? If you do, youíll find that you cannot move God.
Of course, we must eventually come to this question: If what this woman was teaching is ERROR, and you obey her, and give money in order to get a blessing from God, will God then turn around and bless you for obeying ERROR? Nope. If God did do that, He would be promoting error. Paul said, "We can do nothing against the Truth, but only for the Truth." I would suggest that God is at least that committed to His own Truth!
Again -- God isnít wearing handcuffs such that He cannot bless me, until I set Him free from those handcuffs by giving money. Rather, the one wearing the handcuffs is ME Ė if I am trying to force Godís hand. Through my unbelief and practice of error, I am kept from the freedom of the Truth.
Money does not set God free. Money doesnít even set ME free. The Truth sets me free. And since God is the Truth personified, I think it ridiculous to ever picture God as being handcuffed.
Ask yourself a question: If starting right now, God removed every single reward for faith, obedience, and good work, and also removed every single consequence for unbelief, disobedience, and bad work, how would you live? What would your relationship with God be like? Would you obey Him even if it gained you NOTHING? Or would you disobey because there was no penalty?
Our answer to this question will reveal more than we probably imagine. Our answer will show the true condition of our hearts toward God Himself.
The book of Acts is a book of FIRSTS. There we often see Godís mind in matters BEFORE people began to bring religious flesh into the picture. Notice the motivation for giving money that we find there: No mention of a payback. No bargaining. Rather, we have people in absolute abandonment giving to each other. And these folks were not rich. They did this out of love. In fact, when Ananais tried to introduce corruption on this very point, he died. This tells us plenty about how seriously God views these matters.
To try to control God is sin. God wants us to believe and obey Him Ė and then to leave it to HIM as to how to respond. That is FAITH, and really, reverence for God. That is the, "method of calculation," he wants us to use Ė He wants us to FREELY give, because we have freely received. And if we do, then He will do what? Well, freely give all the more. THAT IS RELATIONSHIP based on grace. It is the way God desires to work.
Godís people, going all the way back to Jacob, have a history of trying to do something to control God Ė of trying to do whatever they think is necessary to force God to bless them. We even use the Bible to legitimize our attempts. But all the while, God is seeking to get us to the place where we STOP trying to get God to do, on OUR terms, what He has always been willing to do on HIS terms. Once we get to the place where we finally confess this unbelief, and let God be God, He will bless us in abundance Ė as it fits into His specific plan and purpose in our lives.
God wants us to give to ministries which preach the Truth about Him, but just as much, God wants us to give to those in need. He wants us to give FREELY. But giving to get? To do that is simply equal to, "the buying of indulgences." It is an error which is burned into Christian history. The Truth is, God is more willing to bless us with money, and everything else, than we are willing to receive it. But on HIS terms. In HIS time. And through HIS means. Would that we would surrender ourselves to God and become spiritual paupers, so that He would find no reason in us to withhold His blessings. Would that the church today would let God be God, and stop trying to direct Him.
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