Many writers have pointed out that Jesus spoke more about money than He did about heaven. Paul was not too far behind, with two full chapters on giving plus significant statements in seven other epistles. With so much nonsense and deception being displayed by some Christian ministries and Christian giving at its lowest for many years, it is way past time for believers to get back to the Word on this crucial truth. Even Mark Twain wrote that he was so disgusted with the long appeal for money at church that he put his money back in his wallet and took some bills (notes) out of the plate!
The two chapters mentioned are II Corinthians 8 and 9, which start off with the testimony of the churches in Macedonia who “in the midst of an ordeal of severe tribulation, their abundance of joy and their depth of poverty [together] have overflowed in wealth of lavish generosity on their part” (II Corinthians 8:2 Amplified).
I have quoted many verses from these chapters in my book Four Keys to Prosperity and I’ll just give a few here. These principles or keys are for believers only, in fact, for believing believers only. See verse 5, “Themselves they gave first to the Lord and unto us by the will of God.” This is not for “Sunday-go-to-meeting-Christians”, nominal Christians as we call them today, but for people totally embracing the Lordship of Christ over their lives. This is the starting point to prosperity — not your need but your response to God’s grace given freely to you. Giving “proves the sincerity of your love” (verse 8b).
“Give whatever you can according to what you have” (verse 11, NLT). This is an important principle or key. God never asks you to give what you don’t have! That is, He never asks for a pledge or a promise as verse 7 commands us not to give reluctantly or under compulsion. But you say, I don’t have anything to give. Of course you do, you always having something to give! Remember the widow’s mite in the Gospels (Mark 12, 41-44), when she gave two coins, all that she had, and the Lord commended her as being a greater giver and more blessed than all the rich people visiting the temple. The principle is repeated in verse 12, “according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have” (ESV). And in verse 15 Paul quotes Exodus 16:18, “Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough.” Paul’s God-given prosperity plan works for poor and rich alike.
“But I want it to be a willing gift, not one given under pressure” (9:5 NLT; I’ve used the NLT as the KJV uses words no longer in common use, as does the ESV). This verse (and verse 7) contain another great principle that too many Christians ignore. In the Old Testament God told His people to pay their tithes or pay the penalty, but in the Church age His instructions are different.
God now says, “Do not give under pressure” and in verse 7 expands on this: “You must each make up your own mind as to how much you should give. Don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves the person who gives cheerfully.” Now watch some Christian TV or visit a local church and see how “pressure” has become an art, maybe subtle but still solid. God’s Word says you decide how much you give and by implication if you will give at a particular opportunity. I imagine you haven’t heard that before the offering was taken! And the word “cheerfully” is from the Greek word “hilaros” (only here in the NT) which we use in English — “hilariously”. That’s right, belly-laughing giving!
God loves the person who loves to give. Verse 8 gives the promise to the givers, “And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” I was never told that when I was growing up; I was not told that God loves givers and I should make up my own mind; I was only told to give and “to give until it hurt, and then give some more” in one church of which I was a member.
“Yes, you will be enriched so that you can give even more generously” (verse 11). “You cannot outgive God” was a statement Oral Roberts often made. This is true in the Old Testament (Malachi 3:10), the Gospels (Luke 6:38) and here in the Church epistles. When you give, God multiplies the seed you sow (verse 10) and gives back to you so that you have “plenty left over” (verse 8), out of which you should give again. In the doing of all this, you will be bring glory to God. What a prosperity plan! What a rich, divine, prospering heavenly Father we have!
Another passage that contains Paul’s Prosperity Plan is Philippians 4:10-19. I was reminded of this recently when I read in a book the Amplified Bible version of Philippians 4:15: “And you Philippians yourselves well know that in the early days of the Gospel ministry, when I left Macedonia, no church (assembly) entered into partnership with me and opened up [a debit and credit] account in giving and receiving except you only.” The Philippians supported Paul and he gave to them.
Notice the phrases at the end of the verse, “giving and receiving” and “debit and credit”. In no other passage of the Bible do these words appear together in the one phrase. It is hinted in II Corinthians 9:8 but not stated as precisely as here, and of course is clearly taught by Jesus in Luke 6:38. Let me state again that I was never taught this in the first two denominations of which I was a member. The emphasis was always on giving but no mention was ever made about a benefit to be derived by such giving or that God had promised you would be better off. In one of those churches I was told that I could live better on 90% of my income with God’s blessing than to live on 100% without it. They didn’t seem to know I was already blessed with Heaven’s best (Ephesians 1:3)!
The mention of a debit and credit account in Philippians 4:15 in the Amplified reminds me of my first career — accountancy. The translation does fit the passage, because “your account” (KJV) appears in verse 17. The principle of double-entry bookkeeping first appeared at the end of the 13th century, and basically means that for every transaction there has to be two entries: a debit and credit. When both sides are added up they should be equal, and thus errors are reduced to a minimum (though, for example, you can still put an entry on the right side but in the wrong account). In single-entry bookkeeping (such as in your check register or bank statement), only one entry is made, which is why sometimes you have trouble balancing your check register with your bank statement.
From the first book of the Bible onward (“seedtime and harvest”, Genesis 8:22), God always taught giving produces results! And this truth is at the heart of Paul’s Prosperity Plan. Give nothing and you receive nothing — it’s that simple. Yet the interesting point is that God never expects equality in His accounts. He quite clearly states “And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others” (II Corinthians 9:8 NLT). The incomings will always exceed the outgoings; in business this is called “profit”, in your personal finances this is called being “financial”. You can never outgive God. Thank God it has always been that way.
Even in the great tithing encouragement for Old Testament believers in Malachi 3:10b, God reminded them that He would “… open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” A floodtide of blessing! A flood occurs when the earth can no longer soak up any more water, so it sits on the surface until it can drain into the sea. Paul does not promote tithing in his writings, but he does strongly encourage proportionate and regular giving — “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him” (I Corinthians 16:2). I’d suggest that you follow Paul’s Prosperity Plan and enjoy the benefits God has promised.
God takes care of givers
Now I will look at the conditional promise in verse 19. “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from [according to, KJV] his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” (NLT). So what is conditional about that statement? I’ve often heard it said that a text without a context is a pretext! So look back at the context. Verse 14, you’ve “shared with me in my present difficulty”; verse 15, you “gave me financial help no other church did this”; verse 16, “you sent help more than once.”
It does not take a college degree to understand that the promise of verse 19 is only for those who are givers. Giving is the catalyst that starts the receiving process. You give nothing, you receive nothing. Paul taught proportional, persistent giving — that is, proportional to what you have, and persistent, once a week or once a month, whenever you have income. See the previous discussions for verses that teach this. It is also limited to those who are “in Christ Jesus”, believers in Christ.
Now let’s go into verse 19 just a little deeper. “God will supply all your needs.” The word “supply” is pleroo, from which we get “complete, replete”. It means to cram (a net), level up (a hollow), to furnish (an office), according to Strong’s Dictionary. All those word pictures show God filling to capacity. An accurate translation would be “according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus”, not “from his glorious riches” as that implies He has less now that He has filled your needs. Yet our God is limitless, so the principle of standard applies, that is, in proportion to what the giver has. The widow in the Gospels actually gave more proportionally than did the rich men, for she gave all she had.
We must also understand the word “needs”. It does not mean “greeds”. It means “a lack, a necessity” (Strongs), not something you want, like a vacation, but a necessity — food, clothing, shelter, and some seed to sow to keep the process going, and some left over to help others in need. Are your present circumstances covered? I would think so. “But my God will fill your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” So apply the context by giving and receive the promise by your act of faith!
A dangerous root
Another passage relating to Paul’s Prosperity Plan is found in I Timothy chapter 6. A friend recently asked me to comment on an online article opposed to the prosperity teaching of a popular TV evangelist, and under the heading of “False Promise #1: Financial Prosperity for Believers” this verse reference was given: “[Paul] wrote that a Christian must flee the desire to get rich (1 Tim. 6:10-11).” Let’s read the Bible first, “For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. But you, Timothy, belong to God; so run from all these evil things [verse 9], and follow what is right and good. Pursue a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness” (I Timothy 6:10-11 NLT).
Ah, where have I heard verse 10 before? Yes, the Andrew Sisters — “Money is the root of all evil, Money is the root of all evil, Won’t contaminate myself with it, Take it away, take it away, take it away.” Or the paraphrase we sang as teenagers: “Money is the root of all evil, Don’t contaminate yourself with it, Give it to me, give it to me, give it to me!” Verse 10 is perhaps the most misquoted of all Bible verses. It clearly says “the love of money…” and we use the Greek root word from which this comes as “avarice.” So the verse does not say that money is an evil at all. It is amoral, a tool, a medium of exchange to make life easier. In this series of teachings we have already seen that Paul encouraged believers in the right use of money.
Most commentators and recent translations will say “For a root of all evils is the desire for money…” Jesus used money and had a treasurer to take care of it. Paul encouraged believers to give proportionally and persistently, and to give to those less fortunate. So it is not the use of money that Jesus or Paul discouraged but the chasing after money, the blind trust in money, and blatant materialism. In chapter 3 he specifically writes that church leaders such as “elders” (verse 3) and “deacons” (verse 8) were not to be people who “love money” or are “greedy for money.” So there is a godly use of money and a dangerous chasing after money.
Nor does Paul take a swipe at rich people. He wrote in I Timothy 6:17-18, “Tell those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which will soon be gone. But their trust should be in the living God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and should give generously to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them.” All of nature is based on growth, and as you grow it is not evil to “enlarge your tent” or to develop a store of money, for you will need such a store to help others.
When you take God as your financial partner, you give him his share of your increase first, and this in itself helps you keep the balance you need in respect to money. John Wesley, that godly preacher who transformed England, taught you should give 10 per cent to God, save 10 per cent for yourself [superannuation?], and live off the balance. Such proportional giving and proportional saving still works in our society today.
Fruit that increases
Finally, I want to emphasize an illustration Paul employs in Philippians 4:17, “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit” (ESV). Notice the word “fruit”, the part of the plant that contains its seed. That fruit abounds or increases to the account or credit of the one that sows the seed.
This is a principle. We not only give but we receive; there is a seedtime and a harvest. No credit squeeze or tightening of monetary policy should affect any believer. We are not dependent on outward circumstances — we are poised and balanced in Christ. The economy will cycle through ups and downs constantly, but your circumstances are dependent on your believing of the integrity of God’s Word.
This illustration of fruit is from nature. The best way that fruit can abound and continue to benefit us is not by swallowing the apple whole, but by getting the seed of that apple, planting it, and encouraging it to increase. Every seed has a small shoot ready to sprout, usually tucked into one end of it, and at the other end is another shoot that will become the root. In between is the endosperm containing food for its initial growth. There is often a hard case or shell to protect the seed until the moisture and warmth levels are right for that particular species.
However, one thing is certain. The seed will not sprout until it is sown in the ground. As Jesus reminded his listeners, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone [a single grain]; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). Its only hope is to do what it was designed to do — to send out two shoots, one for leaves and the other for roots, and grow into a healthy plant that produces more seed. Without sowing there is no reaping, without seedtime there is no harvest.
The Philippian believers had sown some seed into Paul’s traveling ministry and Paul is reminding them that his emphasis is not on receiving another gift but rather that they experience the joy of recognizing the harvest hidden within the fruit. “You can count the apples on the tree, but who can count the apples in a seed?”, as the old saying goes. By the eyes of faith, “calling those things which be not as though they were” (Romans 4:17), you need to see that the harvest is yours and it is sure. “Seedtime and harvest… shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22). So Paul’s Prosperity Plan is for you to take the first step and sow some seed, stand firm on the integrity of God’s Word, and accept the harvest for His glory. “For we are God’s fellow-workers” (I Corinthians 3:9).
— Peter Wade
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