What Not to do With Your Money

One of the most lucrative enterprises in existence uses religion and the Bible to amass literally millions and millions of dollars. Men (and sometimes women) presenting themselves as “messengers from God,” or “anointed servants of God,” persuade millions of very good people to send in contributions of hard- earned money. To use an old over-worked phrase, “there ought to be a law against it.” It is simply wrong. It is a complete perversion of the religion of God and Christ. I believe I can show that the general practice of radio and television so-called “ministries” are all based on fraud. I further believe I can show that there is no biblical basis at all for the machinery and methodology they use to raise money. I also believe no one can (or will) successfully refute what I will present in this writing.

One of the most predictable things about radio and television preaching is that appeals for contributions, donations, tithes, and vows will be regularly and persistently presented. Most of those who make such appeals are really asking you, the audience, to pay for the radio or television time they are using to preach to you. That doesn’t really make much sense. Why should I ask you to pay for the time I am using on this radio station to preach to you? Besides the most important fact that the Bible is against such a practice, it borders on being unethical.

The Bible warns us to “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11). We are warned also to “... believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). Those who preach things that cannot be found in the Bible are to be marked and avoided. Paul wrote: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17). Anyone who comes with a doctrine not found in the words of inspiration cannot be financially supported without serious consequences. John wrote: “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 1:9-11).

This clearly means that when one financially supports a man to preach, there is a partnership formed and both are equally responsible for the consequences of the preaching. One of the best known televangelists, Oral Roberts, made headlines a few years ago by saying that God revealed directly to him that God would take Roberts’ life if his followers did not pitch in 8 million dollars. Whether we like Roberts and his messages or not, we ought to see that God was presented as a terrorist, holding Roberts’ as a hostage. Not only is that a discredit to God, it is a disgrace that anyone would take Roberts seriously, many did, to the tune of over 8 million dollars!

Prime TV is the name of an ABC television program that engages in investigative reporting. For the past two years they have paid some attention to televangelists who take in vast sums of money by direct appeals to people for contributions. The program was aired for the second time on July 9, 1992. Of those targeted, W.C. Grant was exposed for faking the healing of a lady’s crippled leg. He made the lady’s leg longer by slightly pulling her shoe away from her heel. Among the things Grant was financially able to do was own an $84,000 Mercedez-Benz, an expensive Ferarri sports car, a ski resort in Breckenridge, Colorado (which he rents out for profit), and a veritable mansion in which he lives. Where did the funds come from? From people gullible enough to think they were giving in the cause of righteousness by sending money to this man.

Larry Lee, another target of the Prime Time TV investigation, took in $1,263,874 for a church building, allegedly to be constructed in Poland. His “ministry” gave only $30,000. What did he do with the balance? For one thing, he was able to own a mansion just outside Dallas, Texas. His mansion is situated on a lush 1.5 acre tract of land.

Robert Tilton is becoming a familiar face on television. He is seen by an estimated 30 million people, every time he comes on TV. Tilton’s “ministry” reported an intake of 80 million dollars -- tax free. But his assets are mind boggling. He owns extravagant homes in Sante Fe, California, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Las Calina, Texas. He reported certificates of deposit worth 1.5 million dollars and 4 million dollars in treasury bills. Where did all that money come from? Prime Time investigators said that the average donor is in the income bracket of from $15,000 per year, generally live in the South, and are women over 40. These are the poor people who contribute money and send in their prayer requests. The television expose showed plain evidence that those prayer requests end up in the garbage dumpster of the Commercial Bank and Trust in Dallas, Texas. Reporters found not only prayer requests, but those little “angels of God prayer cloths,” and the hand tracings sent in by people who thought they were doing the right thing. How sad that is. Is there anyone out there who would agree with me, “there ought to be a law against such”? Whether anyone agrees or not, televangelists and radio preachers who beg people to send in money constitute a financial fraud in this nation.

In addition to what we know the Bible says about financing the operation of charlatans and religious hucksters, there is more. When men ask you to vow and they pay, they tell you that your vow must be sent to their ministry. But how many of us are aware of the fact that every single time a vow is mentioned in the Bible, the vow is to the Almighty -- never to a man. One makes a vow only to God -- to man he may take an oath (Psalm 76:11; Exodus 22:11). It might be of interest to those who have been duped into make a vow to one of these TV preachers to know that it could cause you to be lost. That’s right, lost. Jeremiah spoke to those in Egypt who were supporting the wrong thing. “Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying; Ye and your wives have both spoken with your mouths, and fulfilled with your hand, saying, We will surely perform our vows that we have vowed, to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her: ye will surely accomplish your vows, and surely perform your vows” (Jer. 44:25). To vow to a man is no different than vowing to the Egyptian queen. One ought to repent of such a foolish vow rather than continue paying it.

But the basis for all of this is that you will be benefited greatly when you vow these vows, and when you send in your money. Just this past week, I received from the Oral Roberts Ministry an offer for help in just about any area of life. I was promised that if my children were not living right, if I was behind in some debt I needed to pay, if I was having marital difficulties, if I needed a better job, if I needed a better house, a better car, or any other such personal improvement, all I needed to do was send Mr. Roberts money. That would take care of all my problems. The Bible does not teach that by giving money to anyone, God or man, that we will be the recipient of a benefit in kind.

Those who would serve and please God Almighty must give of their money. About that there is no denial at all. However, the giving God requires is not to be done as an investment in material things. Listen to Jesus -- listen to what He says about the rewards God’s people receive. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal”(Matthew 6:19-20). When people supported the preaching of the gospel, the inspired apostle Paul spoke of it as “fellowship in the furtherance of the gospel” (Phil. 1:5) and added, “Not that I desire a gift, but that fruit may abound to your account” (Phil. 4:17).

It is true that those who preach should be financially supported. Paul said, “Even so has the Lord ordained that they that preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14). But who could imagine Paul living the luxurious life-style lived by these notorious televangelists of our day? He rather spoke of his life as one of hardship, often impoverished, and always as a sacrificial servant. The Lord Himself never enjoyed anything even approaching luxury.

It has been said, “The lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master.” This expresses why there are reasons to be alarmed when one begins seeking financial prosperity and security. Listen to Paul. “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:16-19). It is not wrong to be rich; it is only dangerous. And, in keeping with the expressed sentiment of this passage, why would it not be better to write these televangelists and ask them to send you money? After all, how many of you, listening to this broadcast, have three mansions scattered from California to Florida; how many of you are driving an $84,000 Mercedez or a Ferarri?

In conclusion, may I urge you, based on what we have learned in this lesson, not to send money to preachers on the radio and television. We have an example in the Bible of disciples sending their money elsewhere. Here it is: “And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 11:27-30). Elders were appointed over local congregations to administer the funds and work of that church. So, if you send your money anywhere, send it to a congregation of God’s people who are engaged in the work of the Lord, not to some television personality who could probably buy the whole block where you live with just his pocket change.

Possibly you might not agree with what has been said. That is fine. But if you think things have been written that are out of harmony with the word of God, be my friend and tell me about it. If you have any other questions about this, or related topics, let us help you. Contact us at valleychurch@vscoc.org

Back to Religious Issues