Section 10A .. The Contemporary Church/
... Serving A Different Master


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The Prosperity Doctrine
Part VI... Covetousness and Greed, The Crown Without The Cross? Prayer
and The Sovereignty of God

Carol Brooks

    Index to All Sections

    Section I: Introduction and Origins
    Section II: The Whole Counsel of God
    Section III: Supposed Proof Texts. Rhema Vs. Logos
    Section IV: Joel Osteen.. The Blind Leading The Blind
    Section V: General Principles, The Tele-Evangelists
    You Are Here 001orange Section VI: In The Service of God OR Mammon, Covetousness and Greed, The Crown Without The Cross? What Happened to Prayer?, The Sovereignty of God
    Section VII: Conclusion



    In The Service of God OR Mammon
    Covetousness and Greed
    Needs Vs. Wants
    The Best of Both Worlds?

    The Crown Without The Cross

    The Prosperity Doctrine, Prayer and The Sovereignty of God


    In The Service of God OR Mammon:
    Mammon, a word of uncertain origin, was a term used by Jesus usually as an indication of some unworthy aspects of wealth, or people's attitudes towards wealth.  Jesus' words in the book of Luke were very telling, contrasting as He did "unrighteous mammon" and  "true riches". Speaking to the Pharisees, who were lovers of money Jesus said that what they valued was detestable in God's sight

      If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. And the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things; and they scoffed at him. And he said unto them, Ye are they that justify yourselves in the sight of men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. [Luke 16:11-15]

    Very obviously, service of God and service of mammon are mutually exclusive. As Jesus said, we cannot serve two masters. Either we will hate the one and love the other, or we will be devoted to the one and despise the other.

    Covetousness and Greed
    Covetousness is the tenth commandment in the Old Testament and it is easy to see why. While temptation may come from the outside world, it is only when we allow that temptation to rest and grow in our hearts that it becomes the seed for sin. Jesus made it very clear that sin originates from within the human heart.

      And he said, That which proceedeth out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, evil thoughts proceed, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, covetings (Greek pleonexia), wickednesses, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, railing, pride, foolishness: all these evil things proceed from within, and defile the man. [Mark 7:20-23]

    Note: pleonexia, used some ten times in the New Testament, means avarice or greed.

    There are several outstanding examples in the Old Testament of the terrible consequences of greed and covetousness

      In 1 Kings 21 we are told the story of Ahab king of Samaria who so desired some land owned by Naboth that his wife Jezebel conspired to have Naboth killed. His reward? God told Ahab that dogs would lick his blood in the same place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth.

      In Joshua 7, a single act of covetousness on the part of one man Achan who purloined and hidden away that which had been dedicated to God (Joshua 6:19), led to a terrible defeat of the Israeli army at the hands of the men of Ai. Achan's words speak for themselves... " when I saw among the spoil a goodly Babylonish mantle, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it". [Joshua 7:21]

      King David coveted Bathsheba, his neighbour's wife which led to her becoming pregnant, David murdering her husband to cover up his sin and finally serious repercussions for, not only David's family, but the entire nation of Israel.

    In the New Testament, the covetous man is linked with idolaters and with those who are entirely excluded from the kingdom of God. in the New Testament. Paul even warns the Corinthians not to keep company, or even eat with a brother who is covetous.

      but as it is, I wrote unto you not to keep company, if any man that is named a brother be a fornicator, or covetous (Greek pleonektes), or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one no, not to eat. [1Corinthians 5:11]

      But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as becometh saints; ... For this ye know of a surety, that no fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous (Greek pleonektes) man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God [Ephesians 5:3, 5]

      Put to death therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry; [Colossians 3:5]

    Needs Vs. Wants

    However a distinction has to be made between normal human need or want, and covetousness or greed, defined as an intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food. Everyone on the face of the planet has, to one extent or the other, needs and desires which obviously varies with the circumstances of the person concerned. While there probably is a large difference in world view, the basics are well explained by Craig Nathanson, a Vocational Coach... 

      We need food, clothing, shelter, reliable transportation, education, enrichment, and the technology necessary to do our work. Also, we need the occasional small indulgence to treat our children and ourselves. We do not need 500 cable TV channels, brand new luxury cars, 5,000 square foot homes in exclusive neighborhoods, lavish ski vacations, and smart phones that do everything but think for us. [34]

    The Best of Both Worlds?

    Matthew 19:16-30 and Mark 10:17-45 both relate the incident of the rich young man (Luke calls him a ruler) who came to Jesus claiming to be righteous and to have followed all of the commandments from his youth. (It is evident that he was telling the truth since verse 21 in Matthew tells us that Jesus loved him). However this young man seemed to want to take no chances and wanted to know what the one thing was that he could do that, so to speak, would take him over the edge and guarantee him eternal life.

    Jesus' instruction to sell all and follow Him revealed that although this young man claimed to desire the key to eternal life, he actually wanted the best of both worlds. (One has to wonder how our wealthy evangelists would respond to a similar request from the Lord) In the final analysis, his earthly possessions and lifestyle meant more to him than becoming a follower of Christ. 

      But when the young man heard the saying, he went away sorrowful; for he was one that had great possessions. [Matthew 19:22] 

    This triggered Jesus' teachings about wealth and the kingdom of Heaven in which He said that it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God [V.24]. This greatly astonished the disciples since it went against the conventional thinking of the day. The belief, prevalent both in that day (and in too many of our modern day churches), is that richness was clear evidence of God's blessing on a person's life and the rich would automatically be in the kingdom. By implication this means that the poor are either doing something wrong and/or are being punished for sin.

    The reasoning of the disciples was that a rich person was blessed by God and therefore had to be a righteous person. And if this rich, righteous person could not get into the Kingdom, then who could?

    However Jesus turned this belief on it's head comparing the difficulty a rich man has in entering the kingdom to that of a camel going through the eye of a needle. It again has to be noted that Jesus was not saying that no wealthy man could be saved since, as already pointed out, some of the stalwarts of the Old Testament who will have a share in the kingdom, were men of wealth. 

    Peter then brings up the fact that he and the other disciples had abandoned everything to follow Jesus and asks what they will have as a reward. (Note that Peter's words also reflect the belief among the Jews that God's favor could be earned). To this our Lord replied that their inheritance in the kingdom would be very great.

      And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, that ye who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath left houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit eternal life. [Matthew 19:28. Emphasis Added. Also See Mark 10:29-30]

    In the words of Allen Ross of Bible.org....

      Jesus closed his teachings with a proverbial saying--many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. Like so many proverbial sayings, this is open to differing interpretations. But in this context the message has to do with who has a reward in the world to come. It is clear that eternal life (both the salvation and the life in the world to come) is a work of grace; and the common notion that the rich, powerful, and prominent of this day will advance in the kingdom beyond the poor, the weak, and the obscure, is here denied. A rich man on earth is not guaranteed a greater place in the kingdom than a poor man, even if people think the rich are blessed by God; that is a worldly notion of eternal life (remember that the widow who gave a pittance was received by God above those who sounded the trumpet). Those who surrender to the Lord with a childlike trust will find advancement in the kingdom and great reward; but that surrender will involve being willing to relinquish all that this world has provided for the sake of serving Christ. [35]

    In other words.. the rich and famous in this world may not be the rich and famous in the next.. especially since Jesus was very clear that His followers had to deny themselves and daily take up their crosses, adding that those that did not do so were not worthy of Him.. which bring us to ...

    A Note of Caution
    This piece is about the false teachings in the church and the rank greed that accompanies too many ministries, but one has to caution that the whole issue of money can not be overly simplified.

    The debate rages over the question of the Christian and material goods. While the early Christians tended towards the ascetic and considered an excess of wealth morally and spiritually damaging, in their days (as through so much of human history) a small and powerful elite owned everything while the vast majority lived in sub human conditions. The rich lived off the back of those too weak to be able to fight back.

    However times have changed .. Most people now have gained their wealth not through inheritance or by exploiting the poor, but through honest work. The middle class is in the majority... at least in the west.

    This has led to many Christians being able to live far more comfortably than every before. But there are yet questions that need to be addressed. While we take personal possessions for granted how much is too much? How should we live? How much should we keep and how much should we give away?

    When does the respect for money become a worship of the god mammon?

    What the Prosperity Doctrine teaches is that a believer can have ...

    The Crown Without The Cross

    The Cross
    I am certain that most Christians will have little argument with the claim that a believer's life is to be patterned on that of Jesus... that disciples of Christ walk in His footsteps or they aren't disciples. But in order to walk in Christ's footsteps, we have to have some idea where He walked and how He got there. Even the most cursory look at the Messiah's life tells us that when He came to earth He voluntarily relinquished the throne of heaven to give His life for us. Philippians 2:7 says He

        "emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men".

    ...and, according to Matthew 8:20, did not even have a place to lay His head while here on earth... “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (I have absolutely no idea how exactly this fits in with the claim that Jesus was a rich man... heard in some prosperity churches).

    The eternal Son of God willingly waived His rights for a lowly birth, a life of poverty constantly opposed by the religious leaders of the day.  He rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey and endured the deepest shame of not only being crucified between two thieves but actually becoming a curse.

    Our modern world focuses a great deal on self and our rights.. Self Image, Self Esteem, Self Gratification, Self Empowerment... Embracing One's Self etc.

    But, in passages that seems to be often overlooked, Jesus said that His followers had to deny themselves and daily take up their crosses, adding that those that did not do so were not worthy of Him. While there are many circumstances in which we are justified in demanding our rights, our faith demands a different mindset... it demands a willingness to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, make sacrifices and often forgo our "rights" and gazing into the mirror of self. Becoming a disciple of Christ means to totally surrender to His will and cause. Total surrender includes being willing to relinquish all that this world has provided, and can provide, in order to serve Him.

    As so well said by pastor Chris Strevel of the Covenant Presbyterian Church in Buford, GA...

      By his entire life our Savior demonstrated the meaning of cross-bearing. His life was essentially and definitively marked by self-denial, a willing renunciation of his rightful claims as the eternal Son of God (Phil. 2:5-8). His lowly birth, life of poverty and suffering, and constant conflict with sin and Satan all indicate the nature of cross-bearing...

      The essence of Christian discipleship is cross-bearing. Cross-bearing is not stoic acceptance of the creaks and pains of advancing age. It is not bearing the morning drive, doing without because the credit cards are maxed, or trying to please an implacable boss. Such things, great and small, are the common lot of fallen humanity. Cross-bearing is not finding that Starbuck’s has run out of your favorite latte flavor or that someone snatched up the coveted EBay item right before the auction closed. Such trivialization of cross-bearing is exerting a baneful influence upon the church. Something far more pointed and glorious is intended by our Savior’s frequent declarations about bearing the cross...

      Will Christians cease depending upon political candidates, a bottom-of-the-ninth save, and "seven steps to save the world?" Will we return to Calvary, to the old rugged cross?

      Cross-bearing means that we must not confuse being a Christian with being an American, or a capitalist, or a devotee of Constitutionalism. It means that the primary battle is not in Washington D.C. or Hollywood. It is in your life and my life.. [36]

    The Crown
    Paul tells us what happened after Jesus was resurrected from the dead...

      But as wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth.and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  [Philippians 2:9-11 ]

    Humility came before honour.

    It is well to remember that Jesus warned that, like Him, our rewards will come later. He assured his disciples that those who have willingly given up "houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit eternal life". [Matthew 19:29]. Bearing this in mind they were to rejoice when they were persecuted.

      And he said unto all, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. [Luke 9:23. Also Matthew 16:24]

      And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me [Matthew 10:38]

      Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you. [Matthew 5:11-12]

    Both Peter and Paul echoed this principles when they exhorted believers to give themselves up as living sacrifices, because if we suffer with Him we will also be glorified with Him. Suffering is a trial by fire.

      I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. [Romans 12:1] 

      The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward. [Romans 8:16-18]

      Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, ye have been put to grief in manifold trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold that perisheth though it is proved by fire, may be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ: [1 Peter 1:6-7] 

    In the early days after Pentecost, the apostles were frequently threatened and beaten in efforts to stop their preaching. But they counted it an honor to suffer for His name, while Paul, who went through any number of trials, including being imprisoned, called all his suffering a "light affliction".

      "So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name" [Acts 5:41].

      For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory;  while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.  [2 Corinthians 4:17 -18]

    Certainly none of this indicates that all believers will be persecuted for the faith or come to gruesome ends, but the principles of carrying ones cross and denying oneself applies to every facet of our lives. Jesus' warning about counting the cost and denial of self is diametrically opposed to the Prosperity Doctrines mantra of "Your best life now".

    However self-denial is not a very popular part of the faith. In fact I am not sure if self-denial has any part in the faith of all too many modern Christians, who want salvation on their own terms, with as little personal sacrifice as possible.

    The Prosperity Doctrine, Prayer and The Sovereignty of God.
    In The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale says

      It is important to realize that you are dealing with the most tremendous power in the world when you pray.

    Which makes one think that this most tremendous power he refers to must be the God of the Bible, but it is not. Peale continues 

      "You can receive guidance in problems if prayer is allowed to permeate your subconscious, the seat of the forces which determines whether you take right or wrong actions... If you have not experienced this power, perhaps you need to learn new techniques of prayer. It is well to study prayer from an efficiency point of view. Usually the emphasis is entirely religious though no cleavage exists between the two concepts. Scientific spiritual practice rules out stereotyped procedure even as it does in general science. If you have been praying in a certain manner, even if it has brought you blessings, which it doubtless has, perhaps you can pray even more profitably by varying the pattern and by experimenting with fresh formulas. Get new insights; practice new skills to attain greatest results.

      ...New and fresh spiritual techniques are being constantly discovered by men and women of spiritual genius... bear in mind that the secret of prayer is to find the process that will most effectively open your mind to God. Any method through which you can stimulate the power of God to flow into your mind is legitimate and usable.  [Page 43]

    Clearly the problem here is that Peale, although an ordained Methodist minister, went so far down the wrong path that he seemed to have lost sight of what prayer was.   Prayer is simply talking to God, and it is God that can and does guide believers, not our "subconscious".

    I do not know what god Peale was referring to but the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob does not give the thinnest kind of whatever about "fresh formulas" and "new skills". He cares about the heart of a person. He cares about obedience and fruits of the Spirit. His children do not have to have the formula down pat in order for Him to respond. To even suggest that He regularly wants us to learn "new techniques" is beyond ludicrous and very very far from anything the Scriptures say... For example

      Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need. [Hebrews 4:16] 

      in whom we have boldness and access in confidence through our faith in him. [Ephesians 3:12]

      Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 4:6-7]

    In August 1980 the General Presbytery of the Assemblies of God issued an official statement regarding positive confession, which included the following 

      When the positive confession view teaches that believers are to confess rather than to pray for things which God has promised, it overlooks the teaching of God's Word concerning importunate prayer. According to some who hold this view of positive confession, God's promises are in the area of material, physical, and spiritual blessings; believers are to claim or confess these blessings and not to pray for them.

      The instruction not to pray for promised blessings is contrary to the teaching of God's Word. Food is one of God's promised blessings, yet Jesus taught His disciples to pray: "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11). Wisdom is a promised blessing of God, yet Scripture states, if any man "lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not" (James 1:5). Jesus called the Holy Spirit the promise of the Father (Luke 24:49), and yet He also taught that God would give the Holy Spirit to them that ask (Luke 11:13).

      While there were times God told people not to pray, as in the case of Moses at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:15), there are many Scriptures reminding believers to pray, and that, without ceasing (Romans 12:12; Philippians 4:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:17).

      Jesus emphasized the importance of importunity in prayer. The illustration of the persistent friend who came at midnight asking for bread to set before his guests became the basis for Christ's statement, "Ask, and it shall be given you" (Luke 11:5-10). The parable of the widow and the unjust judge became the occasion for our Lord to emphasize importunity in prayer (Luke 18:1-8). These people were commended for importunity and not for prayerless positive confession.

      While God's ways are above man's ways, and we cannot understand the reason for every command in Scripture, we do know that in His wisdom God has ordained prayer as part of the process included in meeting a need. Rather than an indication of doubt, importunate prayer can be an indication of obedience and faith. [37]

    At the same time it has to be noted that the Bible clearly stipulates conditions for receiving answers to prayer. For example, we are told that we must abide in Christ and have His Word abiding in us [John 15:7]; that we must not ask with wrong motives [James 4:3]; that we must have our earthly relationships in order [e.g., 1 Pet. 3:7]; and that what we ask must be according to His will [1 John 5:14]. While it is wrong to use these verses as excuses never to ask God for things, it is also wrong to ignore these verses and teach that one can get anything one wants in prayer.

    All of which bring us to the topic of

    Sovereignty of God.
    The prosperity teachers do not refer to faith as a person's belief and reliance on the power of God who alone can move mountains, but teach that the words themselves have creative "power". As mentioned before Andrew Wommack Ministries says [Emphasis Added]

      faith is released by speaking words. Notice that speaking is emphasized three times in this one verse, and the Lord commands us to believe that what we say will come to pass. We are to believe in the power of our words. [38]

    While Joel Osteen claims almost the same thing.

      "One of the best ways that we can improve our self-image is with our words. Words are like seeds. They have creative power. It says in Isaiah that 'We will eat the fruit of our words.' [39]

    Proponents of Positive Confession seems to forget that they are dealing with the God of the universe. They imply or even directly state that the right technique and an adequate amount of faith requires God to act. His will, or what He wants, becomes of no account. Instead the desires of a man's heart backed by positive Confession is a binding mandate on God... making the believer the one who is calling the shots. 

    Which, in effect, means that He has surrendered His sovereignty...

    What happened to Paul's many exhortations to learn and conform to God's will?

      Wherefore be ye not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. [Ephesians 5:17]

      Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your reasonable service (or worship). Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is— his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2:

    In Romans Paul exhorts the Roman Christians to actively choose to do what is 'reasonable'... which is to present or offer their bodies as a living sacrifice. This is a metaphor taken from the Old Testament where the offerer's gift placed on the altar was thus presented to God and became His property. Paul goes on to say that only the heart that is renewed is able to ascertain what the will of God is... or what is perfect and acceptable to God.

    Seems to me that the Prosperity Doctrine states just the opposite...

    The Bible talks of believers becoming obedient servants and yielded instruments in the hands of God. The prosperity Doctrine talks of compelling God to do what they want him to do... using God's power to further their own agendas. They are unconcerned with what God's will is, but wants what is perfect and acceptable to themselves

    To teach people that their faith, or the amount of their faith, takes precedence over the will and sovereignty of God is a not only a gross perversion of the Bible, but takes God off His throne and seats man's faith in His place.

    Conditions of Answered Prayer
    1 John 5:14 tells us that if we ask anything in accordance with His will He hears us. Therefore it stands to reason that if what we ask for is not in accordance with His will, He will not grant our wish regardless of how sincerely we ask or how great the magnitude of our 'faith'.

      And this is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us:

    John 15:7 says we must abide in Christ and have His Word abiding in us before we are granted our prayers. However abiding in Christ means that His words are the guiding principle of our lives. anyone who abides in Christ is not going to ask with the wrong motives nor are they going to ask to indulge their own pleasures... as the verse shows.

      If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

    James 4:3 says we ask and do not receive because we ask amiss (with wrong motives) which James defines as physical desires/pleasures and self-indulgence.

      "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may spend it in your pleasures".

    1Peter 3:7 says our relationships must be in order

    Ye husbands, in like manner, dwell with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor unto the woman, as unto the weaker vessel, as being also joint-heirs of the grace of life; to the end that your prayers be not hindered.

    Part VII... Conclusion [HERE]


    End Notes
    [34] Craig Nathanson. The Difference Between “Need” and “Want”.

    [35] Allen Ross. Wealth And The Kingdom Of Heaven (Matthew 19:16-30)

    [36] Pastor Chris Strevel. Covenant Presbyterian Church. Buford, GA.

    [37] The Believer and Positive Confession. http://ministers.ag.org/pdf/Confession.pdf

    [38] Andrew Wommack Ministries. Commentary on Mark 11:23. http://www.awmi.net/bible/mar_11_23

    [39] Joel Osteen. Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day. Free Press; (2009) paperback. Pg. 109


    Index To The Prosperity Doctrine ..
    Does God Want Us To Be Rich?