AUDIO VERSION: YouTube Podbean
When Christians talk about sacrificial giving, they are referring to a doctrine or teaching about God which is 100% wrong. Simply put, the doctrine is that we can control God with money. If you want God to bless you, just pay Him by dropping money into the offering plate at your church. The more you give, the more you’ll get in return. Sacrificial giving is promoted as a kind of magic investment system in which you can get God to turn your cash into other forms of blessing, such as a spouse, a fancy car, or a big house. This system appeals to all human beings for two key reasons. First, it says that we can get a God of infinite powers to do our bidding. Second, it says that we can make all of our carnal dreams come true in this life if we just do a little upfront sacrificing. But because we’re guaranteed to always get back more than we give, it feels like a risk free investment. Unsurprisingly, sacrificial giving is enormously popular among Christians, and it also has a strong appeal to unbelievers who figure they can’t go wrong taking a shot at bribing God.
Sacrificial giving falls into the category of prosperity theology. As the name suggests, prosperity doctrines promote the idea that God wants us to prosper materially, physically, emotionally, financially, and socially in this world. Prosperity teachers push you to live for priorities which are totally opposite from what God says you should be living for. God says that pleasing Him is what matters. Prosperity teachers say that getting God to please you is really where it’s at. God says that you should consider your spiritual well-being to be far more important than pleasing your earthsuit. Prosperity teachers say it’s all about the earthsuit. Now of course they’re not going to come right out and say: “Wallow in carnality, exalt yourself, and tell God to shove it.” But in practice, this is exactly where you end up.
In this post, we’re talking to those of you who are stewing with jealousy over all of these smiling rich people who are telling you how blessed their lives became after they poured all of their money into the coffers of their church. When Mary mortgaged her house, sold her car, and started living on Top Ramen just so she could give every spare penny away to God’s Kingdom on earth, what do you think happened? A grateful God parted the clouds and rained down buckets of sunshine, money, and love onto lil’ Mary’s head. Now Mary is living in her twenty room mansion, showing up to church every week in a different hot rod, sporting all of the latest fashions, and being treated like a queen by her handsome hunk of a husband. Mary does an impressive job of getting all misty eyed and emotional every time she gives her testimony of how she got God to step into the role of her personal slave just by giving till it hurt for a short season of her life. And of course the church leaders love it when Mary gets up to share because hearing her rags to riches story inspires the desperate minions to get out those wallets and start writing out hefty checks to Christian Scam Incorporated. And yet here you sit, buying the whole phony routine and just broiling with envy. So how do we get you out of your perpetual funk because God’s refusing to treat you like He’s treating Mary? Well, if you want to get freed up from the passed over blues, there are two things you’re going to have to do: change your priorities, and get some education. We can help you with the education part, but only you can decide to change your priorities.
UNDERSTANDING THE SCAM
Let’s start by getting you better acquainted with how this whole sacrificial giving scam works. There are three key groups who run this show: the guys who take your money, the testimony givers, and the suckers. Let’s go through these each in turn.
THE GUYS WHO TAKE YOUR MONEY
Why are you so steamed over the fact that God’s not letting you manipulate Him with your cash? Because you’re greedy, selfish, and pleasing your earthsuit is currently more important to you than pleasing God. Does that sound harsh? It’s not: it’s just human. We’re not out to insult you, but if you want real help, it’s time to stop trying to dress up your ugly motivations. This griping over God not blessing you is really about Him not letting you control Him. It’s also about Him not doing things your way. You want a husband, darn it. You’re sick of being single. So you throw money in God’s face and demand that He produce. But He doesn’t, and now you’re in a bunch of debt. So now you feel justified in complaining because in your mind, it’s all God’s fault. But wait—why is God the One getting the blame when you’re the one with the foul attitude? He’s the Creator of all things, and you’re the created speck. Where do you get off trying to tell Him what to do? Well, someone told you that it was okay to try and push God around like this. In fact, someone told you that God actually likes it when His own creatures try to pressure Him into blessing them their way. Someone told you that God is such a fool that He actually falls for your phony acts of worship. Someone told you that God’s too dumb to recognize the foul motivations that are inspiring your newfound generosity as you dump your life savings into the offering plate. Someone told you that God will actually mistake your carnal manipulation tactics for a sincere desire to please Him, and that’s why He’ll respond by blessing you. So who are these people who are pumping out all of this rot about God being some dumbbell who has lost interest in His creatures reverentially submitting to Him? It’s the guys who take your money—that’s where this whole scam starts.
Before you will consider handing your hard earned cash over to strangers, someone has to convince you that it will benefit you to do so. Here’s where the guys who take your money come in. They lay down the groundwork of bad theology by pumping out a bunch of sermons which completely reverse God’s truths. Then they carefully pull out a few lines from that sacred book which you revere as a higher authority than God Himself, and use verses to convince you that God actually promises to bless you materially if you give to Him materially. Here’s where trusty old Malachi 3:10 comes into play:
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says Yahweh of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” (Mal. 3:10)
Of course what no one ever tells you is that this verse is part of a longer speech which is actually a demand for right soul attitudes—especially that of reverential submission to God. And no one tells you that Yahweh isn’t speaking to Christians here, but to a specific group of super snarky ancient Jews who were entrenched in spiritual rebellion—the same kind of foul attitude that causes us to perpetually gripe against God for not doing what we want Him to do. The particular Jews who were being addressed in this passage had no use for serving God. In fact, if you read on to verse 14, you’ll find these Jews griping that there’s no point in serving God, because there’s no immediate benefit in it. In verse 15 they say that it’s really the arrogant and evil doers who are blessed, because they spurn God and get away with it. In verse 9 of this passage, Yahweh says that He’s intentionally plaguing these little brats with trials in order to motivate them to repent out of their rebellion, yet so far they are refusing to cooperate. It’s really quite the ugly picture.
Now in this passage, Yahweh is telling these Jews to stop blowing Him off and start submitting to His Authority again.
“From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says Yahweh of hosts. (Mal. 3:7)
What does it mean to “return” to God? Well right now, you’re ticked at God for not blessing you the way He’s blessing others. You’re in a huff because He’s not submitting to your preferences in life. You want to lead God, and this attitude is the essence of spiritual rebellion. But what does God say? He says that you are wrong to try and dominate Him like this. He says that He’s the Master, and you’re the slave, so you should be embracing an attitude of “Not my will but Yours be done.” Is this your attitude right now? No. If it was, you wouldn’t be fuming over the fact that God is treating other people differently than He’s treating you. What God is or isn’t doing with other people has nothing to do with you. In your life what matters is that God is pleased with you. So is God pleased with you? Not when you’re trying to dominate Him.
You see, it’s a simple thing to sing, “I surrender all” to God. But saying the words and really meaning them are two very different things. Sometimes people come to us raging over the fact that God isn’t doing what they want, and in the same breath they try to say that they are fully submitted to Him. Well, no, they’re really not. They might have prayed the words at some point, but whenever we find ourselves fuming over God not doing what we want, we’ve lost sight of what submission means. Instead of embracing our place as the slaves who take the orders, we are throwing a fit and accusing God of being mean and unfair and of making bad decisions. Then we tell Him what He ought to be doing and we don’t even hear how out of line we’re being.
Now bratty meltdowns are an inevitable part of spiritual maturity. Total submission is a very miserable thing to learn, and we humans really hate the whole idea at first. So the fact that you’re currently refusing to accept the way God is running your life is a very natural reaction for a human to have. But as a Christian, you need to understand that submitting to God is an essential part of pleasing Him, so submission is what you need to get back to.
Well, the guys who take your money in the sacrificial giving scam are going to teach you that submission to God is irrelevant. They’re going to tell you to forget about soul attitude—it’s only the size of your donation that counts. The bigger the better—that’s how they’ll tell you God’s grading system works. And of course all of this is just about conning you into placing your money into their pockets. Why? Because they’re as greedy as you are and they also want the good life on earth. But unlike you, they know better than to fall for this baloney about being able to purchase blessings from God. The guys who take your money have figured out a far more reliable system of getting rich: just lie to people. Make other people think they can manipulate God with cash, and then profit off of their gullibility. So the guys who take your money lie to you, and it really is a beautiful system for them. Once they get you to voluntarily surrender your cash, what are you going to do about it? You’ll have no grounds for demanding it back later on. Once you’re broke, you’ll go crawling away in a disillusioned mess as fifty more just like you that are ready to share walk in the door with fat wallets. The guys who take your money are the only ones who really profit from this scam, and they profit hugely. So when you see them get rich, it’s a real thing. They are rich, because you foolishly handed them your money and they shamelessly took it. These people couldn’t care less about your spiritual well-being. They just want to rob you, kick you to the curb, and go on to the next sucker. There is an endless supply of suckers in this world, which is why prosperity teaching is such a lucrative business. Sacrificial giving is one of Christendom’s most successful “get rich quick” schemes, but it only works for the guys who take your money.
THE TESTIMONY GIVERS
Now one down from the guys who take your money are the testimony givers. Even though these folks don’t get as many perks as the guys who take your money, they are a critical part of pulling off the scam. Without emotional testimonies being put continuously in your face, the guys who take your money would have to work a lot harder and they’d end up with much less profit. Nothing is so persuasive as some smooth liar getting up on stage and spinning out some long dramatic tale about how he or she worked one over on God.
Now if a testimony is really juicy, you can squeeze a pretty decent profit out of it, but that requires you to constantly change your audience. This is where we get these buffoons who travel the globe sharing their dramatic tale of how they personally visited Heaven or Hell. If they pack enough drama into it and polish up their acting skills, they can really make a mint off of one nice load of malarkey. But if you want to keep the cash flowing in, then large hordes of testimonials are the key, and that’s trickier to pull off. But it’s so darn lucrative, that the guys who take your money are willing to do whatever it takes to keep coming up with a stream of new faces to trot past you on Sunday mornings. It’s classic psychology: if you think a bunch of random, unrelated strangers are all having the same experience of controlling God with money, then you’re much more likely to conclude that there really is something to this whole sacrificial giving package. But is there? Of course not, because God will not be led by you.
Now wait a second, if sacrificial giving really doesn’t work, then how do we explain all of these testimony givers? We explain them the same way we explain a stage magician’s ability to saw a woman in half: it’s an illusion. It’s a pre-planned set up. It’s a con job, and you’re the sucker in the audience who is just swallowing it down whole.
So how do you stop being a sucker? Well, what makes a sucker a sucker is a lack of critical thinking. So think about your own personal experience with these testimony givers. First, do you know any of these people personally? No. At best, these folks are nothing more than familiar names and faces to you. You aren’t friends with them. You don’t know them any more than you know most of your “friends” on Facebook.
Now what’s so sly about testimony givers is that they intentionally give testimonies which can’t be verified. For example, Susan gets up and tearfully tells the tale of how she spent years tormented with infertility until she finally forced herself into poverty by giving every cent she had to the church. And after tearfully pleading with God for a baby as she laid that money down, what do you know? She turned up pregnant just weeks later. This is what Susan claims, and when you see that cute little bundle cooing in her arms, you believe her. But no—stop and think. Were you a witness to Susan’s years of infertility? No. Did you see her give all of her money to the church? No. For all you know, Susan is lying her face off. In real life, she probably never suffered with infertility a day in her life, nor did she ever give a bunch of money to the church. In real life, Susan’s always been well off, and she recently had a child without any trouble at all. But see, Susan’s a rather shady character who is always looking to make a fast buck. So are the guys who take your money, so when they met Susan, they immediately recognized one of their own kind. That’s when they made Susan a deal: if she’d get up and tell some fabricated tale about her great struggles with fertility and swear that everything changed the day she gave all of her money to the church, then the guys who take your money will reward her with a hefty “charitable donation.” This is a very simple way for the guys who take your money to produce testimony givers: they just find people who are already in nice situations in life, and pay those people to get up and lie about their past. As the sucker, you sit in the audience blindly believing whatever you’re told. When Mark claims to have been cured from cancer, you just believe him. You’re not an oncologist. You didn’t see any evidence of his tumor. Mark is lying his face off, but because you want to think God can be so easily controlled, you just accept Mark’s story as true. You also believe Betty, who claims that God miraculously zapped her with 20/20 vision after she gave $100,000 to the church. As Betty waves around a pair of super thick glasses that she borrowed from a friend and claims that they used to be her own glasses before God healed her, you think to yourself, “Wow, what an amazing story. I wonder how much I’d have to give God to fix my own health problems.” See how it works? The testimony givers just keep slinging the lies about how they got to their fine situations, and you just keep believing them. The guys who take your money make sure the testimony givers are rewarded for their time, and then the guys who take your money pocket the lion’s share of the profits. The only people who suffer in this scheme are the suckers.
Now let’s talk about that last group: the suckers. The suckers are the poor saps who make everyone else rich by simply giving their money away. And yet as crummy as it is to be a sucker, this is actually the best group for you to be in from a spiritual standpoint. Why? Because it’s the easiest position to escape the scam from. You see, God is not taking a nap while all of this lying and usury is going on. He is playing an active role in this whole scene, and one of the main ways He’s responding is by heaping on the discipline. Both the guys who take your money and the testimony givers are already getting royally spanked by God. As a member of the sucker group, you’re actually in the best position. It doesn’t look like it from where you’re sitting, but this is because you don’t understand how Divine discipline works.
Remember how we started off by saying that if you want to stop being dragged down by this scam, you’ll need to change your priorities? Well, here’s where we get to that part. You see, God says that being approved of by Him, and being invited to know Him better are the greatest rewards you could ever hope for. Then He says that in order to get there, you will have to cooperate with His maturity program. God matures you by helping you to develop soul attitudes which please Him. Submission is one of the most important soul attitudes there is, and we’ve already talked about how submission means embracing an attitude of “Not my will, but Yours be done.”
So what happens if you blow God off and refuse to cooperate with His maturity program? This is what the testimony givers and the guys who take your money are doing—they know that they’re lying to you, and they don’t care. They know that they’re just using and abusing you, but they like it because you’re making them rich, and having a fine time on earth is all they care about.
Now the problem with money is that it’s so enticing. All humans want to be comfortable, healthy, happy, safe, and financially well off. What happens when we get more of these things? Are we content? No, we get even more greedy. You see, when you make pleasing your earthsuit your top priority you actually end up terribly unsatisfied in life. Oh sure, you say that you’re satisfied, and you flaunt your wealth on Facebook. But the truth is that you never feel like you have enough. Ever notice how it’s the rich people who are the most obsessed with who’s wearing the latest fashions and how well their investments are doing? The more friends we have, the more controlled we become by what our friends think. It’s famous people who are the most anxious about displeasing people. It’s the wealthiest people who get the least joy out of their material things. This pattern doesn’t exist by accident: God fixes it so that if we turn our backs on Him, we end up chasing after the wind. We’re always searching, but never finding. As time wears on, we accumulate more and more stuff while we become more and more miserable internally.
Over-blessing people is an extremely effective means of spiritually sabotaging them. If you’re already getting too engrossed in the things of this world, the worst thing God can do to you is to give you more of whatever it is that you’re starting to idolize. If He does this, you’re guaranteed to stray farther away from Him. It’s rather like trying to study so that you can improve your situation in life. If you knuckle down and grind through some tough classes, you can come out qualified for a job that will pay twice as much. But if sitting down to study is already a challenge, then what will happen if the minute you finally get into that chair and open up the books, your spouse turns on your favorite TV show? Soon you’re leaving the books so that you can find out what happens in the next episode. You tell yourself that you’ll study later on, but you never do because the fun distractions keep rolling in. And even though you’re having fun in the moment, you’re actually missing out on a fabulous opportunity to better your situation.
This is a very common method that God uses to trash us when we rebel against Him for too long: He lures us away from Him with earthly blessings. He keeps distracting us with growing fame, more money, more friends, and new toys until we’re never thinking about Him at all. For the testimony givers, it’s a fun challenge to get up there and scam you Sunday morning with their tale of how they got God to make their dreams come true. For the guys who take your money, it becomes totally addictive to watch the profits rolling in ever faster. Because both of these groups are blowing God off, He’s retaliating with worthless blessings that are luring them away from pursuing the things that really matter. Both of these groups are heading into spiritual darkness and being shoved away by God, yet here you are being jealous of them and wishing you could be just like them. Well, no, if you’re wise, you’ll want nothing to do with them. The worst place you can be with God is in a position where He is driving you away from Him so smoothly that you don’t even realize what a terrible crisis you’re in. It’s a terrifying thing to get to the point where God Almighty says, “Alright, since you wouldn’t listen when I called you, I’m not calling you anymore.”
As a member of the sucker group, you have the most hope because God is not letting this sacrificial giving thing work for you…yet. If He did start giving you the illusion of it working, do you know what would happen? After your first round of blessing you’d quickly come up with some new thing that you just had to have, and you’d start throwing more money at God for that. Then, when you had that, you’d start obsessing over another toy, then another and another. You’d totally abandon the concept of spiritual maturity—you’d decide that it isn’t worth the effort because you’re so happy and comfortable in your current situation. Soon you’d be investing all of your resources into pursuing things that have no eternal value whatsoever until you die and suddenly find yourself dealing with shocking consequences for your terrible treatment of God.
Do you know what is the best thing God can do for you when you’re a member of the sucker group? Not bless you. Keep withholding the specific earthly things that you’re fixating on. Keep you feeling oppressed, one down, and jealous of the testimony givers until you finally get so frustrated that you start listening to Him when He tells you that this whole thing is a load of hooey. God will not take orders from you. He doesn’t need your money to accomplish His will in this world. And by the way, it’s not your money, it’s His because He’s the One who gave you all that you have. So, no, you’re really not wowing God by giving Him back His own property in an attempt to make Him feel indebted to you. God never feels indebted to you or anyone else. He owes you nothing. There is no rule book that He must abide by which commands Him to bless you in life. He’s God, He doesn’t have to do anything. But you’re the created speck, and you’re never going to thrive until you align with the priorities that God tells you to have. How is hanging out with a bunch of prosperity theology pushers going to help you cultivate God honoring attitudes? It’s not. Until you can see sacrificial giving for the garbage that it is, you shouldn’t be going to churches where they are celebrating it and rubbing your face in it, because you’re just being pulled off course by envying a bunch of spiritual rebels.
It is a priceless gift to have God illuminate your soul with understanding about what really matters in life. Once you realize that life is about Him and you decide to make pleasing Him your top priority, you are heading down the only path that leads to true soul satisfaction. Is it a lonely road? Absolutely. Blowing God off is the far more popular choice among humans. But those who decide to spend their lives chasing after the illusion that they can actually make God obey them by speaking certain words or by tossing money around are choosing the path of total idiocy. Nothing is more foolish and self-destructive than rebelling against the God who is sustaining your very existence and controlling your quality of life. And since that God says that He detests it when His own creatures greedily claw at His power while treating Him like dirt, what possible good can come out of you messing around with sacrificial giving? None whatsoever. This system has nothing to do with honoring God, and everything to do with trying to make God conform to our agenda while we totally discount the things He says He cares about. Sacrificial giving simply has no place in the committed Christian’s life.
Soul Before Earthsuit: Understanding God’s Priorities
Hellfire Legalism & Prosperity Theology: Two Different Applications of the Same Lie
Answers About Money: Guidelines for Serious Christians
Why God Performs Miracles Through Spiritual Rebels (Help for Disillusioned Christians)
Recognizing Wolves: By Their Fruits You Won’t Know Them
Soul Attitudes That Please God: What They Are & How We Develop Them