God and his 'cash-back bonus'

Thursday, August 2, 2018
 | 
Bill Bumpas, Steve Jordahl (OneNewsNow.com)

Church offeringA new study reveals that the so-called "prosperity gospel" has a solid following in the evangelical church.

According to a survey conducted by LifeWay Research last year, nearly seven in ten Protestant church attenders (69%) believe God wants them to prosper financially. Nearly four in ten (38%) say their church teaches that God will return blessings to them if they give more money to their church or other charities. A solid one-fourth (26%) agree that to receive material blessings from God, they "have to do something for God."

Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, says it's clear that the teaching of prosperity theology has influenced the thinking of many.

"... Oftentimes, I think it's also people kind of selectively picking even the parts of verses that they like," he explains. "And so when we see in scripture definitely many promises of God wanting to bless us, it's easy to assume that that means financial prosperity [or] financial blessings."

Christian apologist and lecturer Dr. Alex McFarland says that's not what the Bible says. In fact, he argues it's a heretical teaching that focuses the Christian's attention on the gift, not the giver.

"If there's anything that is very often an obstacle to holiness and to being conformed to the image of Christ, it's money," he observes, then asks: "Why would God want to make sure every Christian's life is filled with that thing that may be the most serious obstacle to Christ-likeness?"

According to McConnell, many of those promises upon which the prosperity gospel relies are "more holistic" and describe things other than finances or in a context that's very specific.

"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse ... Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it." (Malachi 3:10, NIV)

Pastor Scooter Noland of Hope Church in Tupelo, Mississippi, agrees that scripture does promise a blessing for those who handle money correctly – but acknowledges that it might not be financial. Still, he's willing to offer a money-back guarantee to his congregation, based on a literal interpretation of Malachi 3:10 (see sidebar).

"... We just encourage [our folks] Hey – test him, try him. [We tell them] if you begin tithing, if you begin giving through the local storehouse or the church house and God doesn't fulfill this promise [in Malachi 3], then please call the church office. We'll be happy to refund you every bit of your tithe for the last three months."

And the result? "We've had people who have taken the challenge – but we've not yet had anybody come back and say Pastor, I want my money back."

Another take away from the study, according to McConnell, is that it's important for church leaders to be teaching the "whole gospel and the whole counsel of scripture."

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