Ministry has become big business, especially in North America. Common sense would tell us that the moment a ministry becomes an organization it is no longer ministry in the true sense. All too often it becomes a part of organized religion, with all the baggage that comes with organization. Depending on the size of a ministry, there may be a need for administrative staff with department heads for accounting, media relations, maintenance, and every other department known to business enterprise. Then there is the ever-increasing need for income to keep the enterprise profitable. Jesus said, "No servant is able to serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (riches, or anything in which you trust and on which you rely)." (Luke 16:13 Amplified).
As Jesus spoke those words about money and servitude, the Pharisees--those covetous money lovers--began to sneer and scoff at Him. But Jesus always had an answer for them. He said, "You are the ones who declare yourselves just and upright before men, but God knows your hearts."1 A minister may have been called of God at one time, but the demands of growth can detract from his pursuit of God to the point that he turns to chasing after mammon. Without realizing it, he can become a "lover of money." It is one of those subtle things happening in the church due to ignorance of the truth.
If a ministry is large it is assumed to be good. By the same token, people may assume of a small ministry that "God must not be in it, otherwise it would be growing." God does not gauge growth numerically--He looks for growth on the inside of man where His Spirit dwells. And He will accept only the fruit of His Spirit.
There are many of the "prosperity persuasion" who believe that only good can come from God, and when difficult times come, they blame Satan. Lamentations 3:38 (Amplified) asks, "Is it not out of the mouth of the Most High that evil and good both proceed-- adversity and prosperity, physical evil or misfortune and physical good or happiness?" Satan is more than happy to have man erroneously blaming him so he can keep man from knowing the Truth. As long as we keep our eyes on Satan as the bad guy, we will not recognize the evil of our own flesh--or even the fact that a loving God may be desiring to get our attention by allowing adversity.
Some teach that God wants man to prosper financially, and if a Christian is prosperous, he must be godly. The bible tells us we are proud--knowing nothing--if we teach other than the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are also told that those "knowing nothing" are obsessed with arguments over words, "from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain." We are to withdraw from those destitute of the truth, knowing that we brought nothing into this world and will certainly take nothing with us--but "having food and clothing, with these we shall be content."2
Paul followed up with some advice regarding those who suppose that "godliness is a means of gain." He said that those who "desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many harmful, foolish lusts which lead to destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil: which some reaching after, have been led astray from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (1 Timothy 6:9-10).
Paul then urges Timothy to "charge them that are rich in this present world" not to set their hope in the uncertainty of riches, but rather to hope in God Who gives us all things to enjoy. It is better to be rich in good works, liberal in giving to lay up a good foundation for the days ahead, "that they may lay hold on the life which is life indeed." Timothy is then encouraged to shun profane babblings and struggles against so-called "knowledge," which some have professed and have "erred concerning the faith."3
Many believe that success and prosperity is the message of 3 John 2, but the context proves otherwise. John is writing to only one individual, Gaius, when he says, "Beloved, I pray that in all things thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." John was rejoicing at hearing testimony of Gaius' walk in truth, and told him that he had no greater joy than to hear that his children were walking in the truth. The children had borne witness of Gaius' love, and John encouraged him to escort them on their journey "worthily of God: because that for the sake of the Name they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles."4 We would do well to follow Gaius' example and John's advice. How many ministers of the prosperity gospel TAKE FOR THE SAKE OF THE NAME, when for the sake of the Name they SHOULD TAKE NOTHING?
There is a favorite phrase often spoken in some Christian circles: "God gives power to get wealth so He can establish His covenant." The interpretation suggests that man can help God establish His covenant by attaining wealth. However, the eighth chapter of Deuteronomy holds the context. The first verses speak of how God humbled Israel in the wilderness to reveal what was in their hearts and to know whether or not they would keep His commandments. He allowed them to hunger, then fed them with manna to teach them that man lives by everything that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD. He promised them a land of plenty, but warned them to obey the LORD their God, not forgetting Him and His provision, lest they become puffed up. The scriptures tell us that if the Israelites were to exalt themselves, because of all the LORD had provided, they might say in their hearts that it was the power of their own hands that had gotten them wealth. Then they are admonished to remember the Lord their God, for it is He Who gives power to get wealth "that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day." (Deuteronomy 8:18b Amplified). The LORD continued by telling them that if they did forget Him, they would perish in the same way He destroyed their enemies. The emphasis was on the fact that it is God alone who gives power to get wealth, and that He should be acknowledged. The emphasis was not on "getting wealth."
The Apostle Peter told of false teachers who will come, surreptitiously5 bringing in destructive heresies and "denying even the Master that bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction." Many will follow these false teachers in their lascivious ways, and through
To make "merchandise of the people" means that they make a grand living by feeding fictitious words to the "itching ears" of the hearers. This passage speaks of all those who make a living by preaching "another gospel" that fails to point the hearers to Jesus Christ, Son of the living God.
1. Luke 16:14-15a Amplified
2. 1 Timothy 6:3-8 NKJV
3. 1 Timothy 6:17-21
4. 3 John 1-7
5. Greek #3919
6. Greek #1223
7. Greek #987
8. Greek #4112