March 23, 2015

Financing the Lie

by Clint Archer

financeI have come to suspect that there is a disconcerting mercantile imbalance in the spiritual war between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. Our side sometimes seems to be underfunded.

If an economic discrepancy is observed, surely it would be in our favor? Our army of missionaries and evangelists and church planters is fighting for the fame and sovereignty and dominion of the One who owns all the cattle on a thousand hills and to whom all the silver and gold in existence belongs. And yet, the inexplicable reality  apparent to any casual observer is that too many of the skirmishes seem to be more lavishly supported on the enemy’s side.

I’m convinced the reason for this economic discrepancy is due to a subtle sabotage of our supply lines. The problem is not the paucity of recourses to which our people have access. It can’t possibly be that Satan has deeper pockets than God. The issue must be that our supply line is starved by our own tight-fistedness.

To put it bluntly: Satan always finances the lie; but God’s funding of his cause gets mismanaged by his stewards.

Consider this revealing evidence:

  • When the Roman soldiers reported to the Pharisees who crucified Jesus that an angel had appeared at the tomb, they fed the legionnaires a lie that the disciples had grave-snatched the body, and then they financed the lie with cash (Matt 28:11-13).
  • When Balaam was asked by King Balak to preach a false message in order to give his forces the upper hand in battle, he offered to make the prophet profitable to the point of much cash and honor (Num 22:16-17).
  • The demon possessed girl brought her masters much profit, since the demon was obviously helping her clairvoyance to deceive people (Acts 16:16).
  • Of course there’s Judas who was given thirty pieces of silver to incentivize his deceptive treason of the Master (Matt 26:15).

Now consider the cause of the gospel in the early days of the church.

  • Ananias and Sapphira couldn’t bring themselves to give all their real estate profit to the work of the church, but still wanted the prestige (Acts 5:1-5).
  • Peter and John encountered a beggar and didn’t have any spare change for the guy (Acts 3:6). Okay, so that time came with a silver lining because they healed him of paralysis, but still, it’s notable that two apostles of Jesus had no money between them.
  • Paul commended the already strapped for cash Philippian church for its generosity, which filled a gap left by churches with plumper coffers who mysteriously had not given any aid to his indisputably significant missionary journeys (Phil 4:15).

By now surely the trend should have reversed? There are countless wealthy Christians in the world. When God puts money in the pockets of his stewards, the idea is that they channel much of that resource to the kingdom work. Instead, it seems the supply line gets clogged up. The funding gets used up on feathering the nest of the stewards.empty offering

And what is most embarrassing is that the spread of error appears to have no such hindrance. Been to Utah lately? The stronghold of Mormonism is peppered with opulent edifices, plated with gold. Islam doesn’t suffer a shortage of anything, despite the slipping oil price. The deleterious health, wealth, and prosperity movement in Africa channels untold riches into the spread of that malfeasance by financing sundry Lear Jets, stadium hire, and unlimited TV airtime. Time would fail to tell of Hollywood’s fortunes that fund a relentless exporting of the rancor of secularism and worldliness.

Then I see pastors of solid biblical churches eking out a meager existence, their preaching conferences get cancelled due to lack of funding, and their seminary students have to go into debt to afford studies for the ministry.

I’m not sure what the solution is, perhaps you can help with that. I’m just burdened that the battlefield isn’t level; it’s sloped in favor of the propagation of error while the delivery of truth is an uphill battle. Is this as a result of the sin of Christians who use their God-given money for their own pleasure and not for God’s ministry, or is this God’s way of keeping his faithful servants humble and dependent on him so that God is seen as faithful and all the more glorious? Or both?

Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • Warner Aldridge

    Yes, yes, yes a thousand times yes. And then might I add there are “pastor’s” who need financing for jets, while solid biblical churches suffer to keep the lights on.

    • I know. When your pastor is named after a currency, that could be considered a prophetic yellow flag.

  • Puzzled

    I’ve heard the stats over and over. How much people give yearly and how little it is. Now if you are basing this on church attendance it shouldn’t shock us. Most churches all you need to do is attend one Sunday walk an isle fill out a card and you’re in, without any visible sign of regeneration. In my experience, most Christians are fairly generous. Now I may wind up wearing cement shoes, but if we want to know why there isn’t enough money to fund missionaries etc. let’s look at the imb and major convention’s. Don’t know if it’s true, I’ve heard that some salaries/facilities are a little exuberant. Again, it may be completely false and I hope it is, but it may be worth looking into. Not all false teachers are so easy to spot.

    • It’s also a good idea to compare proportions. If a missions board spends significant more on their salaries and facilities than on those of their missionaries, there may be a question of stewardship with the funds that their donors have entrusted to them for missions.

  • Thank you for the good reminder. We truly forget who it all belongs to in the first place.

    • Amen. Deut 8 tells us God is the one who gives us power to make wealth anyway.

  • Charlie Frederico

    Clint, this article is well-put and accurate. I have concluded that this dynamic is simply a lack of love-for Christ and the kingdom. God’s messengers, the true ones, don’t ask for much-food and clothing. However, some in the churches who are given more than that may not realize what it is like to suffer lack of even those privileges. In that softness, it is rare to see past your own lives and see others in the church who are struggling. Again, that is a lack of love and that is the problem. It expresses itself in hoarding our treasures here and not sharing with others in need, especially God’s shepherds.

    • Well said, thanks for your input.

  • Brent Johnson

    With so many propagating a message that Jesus is a means toward personal gain are we surprised? Too many not putting up with sound doctrine.

  • Great truth put forth here, Clint! We do need to be reminded of these things all the time, it’s all to easy to drift in this area!

    We need to be taught/reminded what it means to truly seek first the things of God, things that not only benefit and grow the Body of Christ global, but allow God (as such) to work in us personally and within the local church through obedience that comes from right stewardship. It is SO much larger than simply setting aside an amount of money each week and/or giving a little extra here and there.

    Right stewardship comes first from a heart right with God. The giving of our personal resources is a form of worship and a beautiful means of grace by which we are continually being sanctified, it is to be a source of great joy for God’s glory! But many Christians are lacking a right understanding this area.

    I think many ‘good’ churches suffer financially for more of a variety reasons, mostly coming from the congregation, among them: spiritual immaturity, willful disobedience, and we’re just plain fewer, and poorer. (I know that’s really simplifying things) anyway..

    When it comes to these places of false worship I think a big part of the reason we see so much wealth (!!) is because of natural man’s inner need to “pay” for his sins; an outflowing of the guilty conscience, a self-appeasing act. Apparently quite a lucrative financial plan for the enemy of mens souls.

    • True. In fact some religions mandate a tithe as a necessary condition of salvation (Mormonism, for example).

  • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

    Perhaps it is unrealistic today, but when I read Paul’s admonitions for the early church it appears he was trying to encourage equality. In other words, churches that had more would share with churches that had less, fostering a dependence and love between communities, as well as a trust in God’s provision.

    Today however it seems more often there is a competition between churches than an eagerness to share. Building campaigns are launched long before going to three services in order to help the little church up the street. Extra funds go towards softer seats and better sound equipment than helping the pastor whose doors are about to shut or is holding two jobs just to feed his family.

    I understand the concept of equality would be more complicated today, but I for one would sit on a folding metal chair if I knew church funds were being stewarded in a sacrificial way for others.

    • Well said. Except for the sound system part. That’s necessary for sanctification!

      • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

        Lol! Spoken like every young man.

    • Billy_Quan

      Very good point! I does seem like we have started behaving like competitors rather than a family of God AKA. “the Church”.

  • Billy_Quan

    Well said sir! Its all about stewardship! I get frustrated when I see a church spending a TON on a fountain (or whatever) when there are ministries and missionaries that are underfunded in their church. I think this problem is only going to get worse as the government starts pulling the tax exempt status of churches that preach against homosexuality. That is going to change the financial landscape of churches in a HUGE way. Thanks for the post!

    • That will be an interesting development in the USA. Churches in South Africa don’t get tax exemption for giving. And it shows.

      • Ryan Peter

        South African here. Interesting response… How do you think it shows?