After watching ABC’s 20/20 program Friday night, I was reminded of the popular Biblical misconception that God loves a cheerful recipient of believers’ donations. I can not find that in my Bible.
What I do find in my Bible is the concept of cheerful giving. And evidently some ministries take advantage of believers who strive to practice the giving concept. This was not a surprise to me, but it probably is to those who believe a particular man, woman or ministry is God-anointed/appointed to live in lavish luxury while the donors live in mediocrity or poverty.
Is it possible that those who are presently living it up on donations for preaching the gospel will be begging with the rich man while Lazarus and his newfound donor friends are comforted in God’s kingdom? (Luke 16:19-31) And is it possible that some of those donors will be begging with the rich-in-this-life because their motives for donating were purely selfish and not generous toward the preaching of the Gospel?
It seems to me that those who donate to these ministries in order to coerce God into handing out wealth, health or happiness are just as wrong – okay, just as sinful – as those who are raking in donations for “God’s work” and use a large measure on personal opulence.
Ministries should be accountable for using donated funds wisely to accomplish the preaching of the Gospel and to help those in need. Many belong to Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. God’s Gospel is not the prosperity gospel. He did not promise to make everyone rich, to give everyone every desire of their imagination, or to enable everyone to live a perfect, pain-filled life.
I do not believe God expects us to give blindly, but to give wisely. I say this because I once belonged to a church that taught Old Testament tithing. The leadership lived in luxury, spending money lavishly, while asking the membership to dig deeper into their pockets and sacrifice over and above the tithes. While coming out of that system, I nearly fell, hook, line and empty wallet, for the prosperity gospel. Of course, not everyone that donates to any ministry expects something in return. Generous, cheerful giving is a way of life with many.
On 20/20 I learned of a group called Ministrywatch and although I am not familiar with the group, the concept of being aware of where and how your donations are apportioned and what beliefs the ministry promotes is sound. I don’t know about you, but if I have a choice between making a wealthy minister wealthier or helping someone who has a real need to hear the Gospel or feed a family, I know which choice I want to make.