(ROCKWALL, TX — August 8, 2019) There’s a plethora of helpful advice available to us all, usually as close as our Junk Mail box. Mostly we’ll find alluring appeals to our flesh: Keto Fat Burning, Dementia Destroyer, Brain Enhancers, and others—some unmentionable.
Those who peddle such products and services might believe in their ability to help us. Maybe some really will help us. But the desire to get rich can override any good motivations.
Scam-filtering technology protects us from frauds who would take our money for their snake-oil. But swindlers can always find victims, usually those who are vulnerable due to age, infirmity, naivety, or dire circumstances. The wolf easily catches the lamb with an injured leg.
Others who take advantage of trusting souls have loftier ambitions—they target our faith. Those who preach a prosperity gospel can sound credible with their sprinkles of Bible verses to fit their message. And they may sincerely believe their health and wealth principles, which certainly enrich them personally.
Jesus forewarned us of false prophets, “who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits.” [Matthew 7:15-16*] The apostle Paul cautioned the churches concerning those who “distort the gospel of Christ.” [Galatians 1:7]
Costi W. Hinn, the author of God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel, once preached about the abundant life and lived it—not the fruitful one Jesus promised but the lifestyle of the rich and famous. As a second-generation prosperity preacher, Hinn was an “heir-apparent” before leaving behind a ministry he describes as fueled by greed.
As a young man, Hinn worked alongside both his father and his uncle, the world-famous televangelist Benny Hinn. He eventually questioned the integrity of their ministries—funded by the offerings of poor people around the world. The “seed-faith” offerings they collected added up to millions that allowed his family to enjoy expensive hotel stays, Rolls-Royce chauffeur rides, shopping sprees in Beverly Hills, gambling in Monte-Carlo, and more.
The younger Hinn’s father had followed Benny Hinn’s ministry model (“like franchising a business”) and founded a signs-and-wonders school. “Anyone could pay tuition to learn how to do miracles, speak in tongues, and perform healings,” he says.
The book of Acts warns us of wrong motivations through the story of Simon, a magician who became a believer yet offered the apostles money to receive power, “so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” Peter rebuked him, saying “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!… your heart is not right before God.” [Acts 8:18-21]
Costi Hinn’s book calls out the perils of greed and the sin of false teaching, though he avoids judging the salvation of those who preach a distorted gospel. He hopes his book will serve as a “rescue operation” for vulnerable people.
Jesus’s teaching is, after all, the antithesis of seeking material prosperity: “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” [John 12:25]
Concerned about those who strayed from the sound words of Christ, Paul wrote to the young church leader Timothy, “If anyone teaches a different doctrine…. He has an unhealthy craving… imagining that godliness is a means of gain…. Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation…. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith.” [1 Timothy 6:3-5, 9-10]
*Scriptures taken from the English Standard Version
By Patti Richter. Patti writes and edits Christian faith articles and has co-authored Signs of His Presence: Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering (March 2019). Read more of her essays at blueribbonnews.com/category/faith.
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