Spiritual Hustling: Begging in the Name of God
Have you ever received junk mails from Christian ministries soliciting you for money to help support their ministries? If not, you have at least heard similar verbal appeals on Christian radio/TV programs, asking you to send money to help keep the program on the air. The pleas sound something like this, “This program is made possible by the generous giving of listeners/viewers like you. We need your financial support to stay on the air. Without your financial support, this program may be discontinued in your listening area.”
As for the junk mail, some of them are so outrageous that one does not have to be spiritually astute to tell it’s a scam. Like the kind of mail you get from Rod Parsley, of World Harvest Church and Breakthrough World Ministry, who claims to have prayer cloths that give people a double portion anointing. He wants you to send in your prayer request, along with your prayer cloth, and of course your “VERY BEST GIFT,” so that he can lay hands on the prayer cloth and send it back to you. And bam! You receive your double portion anointing!
In his letter, Rod Parsley writes, “God is ready to pour out a DOUBLE blessing in your life…an anointing to take you through the barriers and trials of life! But you have to ask for it. You must reach out and receive it in faith!
I ask you to step forward in faith…reach out for your miracle by giving your very best gift to this ministry as a seed of faith for your miracle harvest.”
Then there are some solicitations that are not so blatant. There are those that are so well written that they fool even the most spiritually astute Christians. These are usually from well-respected, well-intentioned ministries – often ministries that you glean from. Ministries such as FamilyLife Today (Dennis Rainey); Prison Fellowship (Chuck Colson); The Bible League, Dennis Mulder, etc.
Here is an excerpt of Rainey’s letter: “Today, for your marriage and family…we need you to invest in this ministry through prayers and giving this summer. Many ministries have a difficult time financially in the summer. I understand that people get busy. But your family’s needs for care, support and love don’t decrease over the summer. We want to continue to minister to you and your family and keep “FamilyLife Today” on the air…but we need to stand together, faithfully, in prayer and giving. So, I boldly ask you to send support, using the enclosed coupons and envelopes marked JUNE and JULY. Your gift couldn’t be more timely than in these two months.”
The letter goes on to say, “Thank you for putting your love and understanding into Action!”
Solicitations like these, whether by electronic medium or regular mail, give Christianity a bad rap. Regardless whether they are from your most respected televangelist or radio program host or not.
There’s so much hustling in the Body of Christ today that it makes you wonder if that’s what Christianity is all about -- one big fund raising event! I believe that one of the reasons Christianity lacks credibility or the respect of the society today is due to this pimping in the name of God! Think about it. Who wants a God that cannot meet the needs of His people, if all they do is beg continually?
But between you and me, we know that that’s not what the Bible teaches. Regardless of what these ministry leaders want us to believe, nowhere does the Bible teach or suggest solicitations either by mail or electronic medium. Rather, it teaches the contrary. For instance, when Jesus in Matthew 10 sent His disciples to preach the gospel, He charged them to, “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts. Matthew 10:8
And in Luke 22:35, Jesus asked the disciples, “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?” So they said, ‘Nothing.”
Neither did Peter, John, Paul, Barnabas or the other apostles ask the people they ministered to for money. Rather, the people gave to them as led by the Holy Spirit. So much so that Paul talked about the generosity of the Philippian Church. He said, “For I bear witness that according to their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and fellowship of the ministering of the saints.” 2 Corinthians 8:3-4
True, the Bible commands giving alms, and taking care of the poor, the needy, the widows, etc. But it does not say that it has to be done through arm-twisting or begging. Rather, it says, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
Some ministries even suggest and encourage people to give using their credit cards! God never commands us to give out of what we don’t have, but rather from what we have. Jesus said, “But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean unto you.” Luke 11:41.
We both know that if a person has to charge it, chances are he doesn’t have it. And even though some people pay off their credit card balances at the end of the month, most people don’t. As a result, what we have today are many messed-up, stressed-out, wiped-out Christians, deeply in debt in the name of God! Bottom line is, if frivolous credit card spending is bad, it’s bad period. Even for the sake of the gospel!
Contrary to what these ministers and Christian radio and TV show hosts want us to believe, money is not the most important element in spreading the gospel! If it were, Jesus would not have told His disciples not to take anything with them. Rather, the most important element in spreading the gospel is discipleship, i.e. everyone reaching one! After all, Christianity as we know it today was started by one Man with 12 disciples! Not by radio, TV or the Internet!
You say, “So, if ministers are not to solicit for money how are they to be supported?” Simple. By trusting and believing in God to move upon the hearts of the listeners/viewers to meet their needs. Because giving is not giving if it’s not from the heart.
The Bible makes it very clear how ministries or ministers are to be provided for – mostly through the tithes and offerings of the congregation. “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house…” Figuratively, the “storehouse” here is the local church. Therefore, in paraphrase, this verse is saying that we should bring our tithes to the local church, that there might be provision for the local church and the work of evangelism.
Therefore, the radio and TV ministries (Outreach ministries) should be provided for from the tithes and offering from the local church.
Now regarding radio and TV ministries that do not belong to a local church, these ministries are to be supported by listeners of that station. “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.” Galatians 6:6. But that’s to be done by the leading of the Holy Spirit, not through unsolicited junk mail! If God calls a person to ministry, it is His responsibility to make sure that that ministry flourishes and its needs met. So, the embarrassing solicitations by those ministries are unnecessary, if they truly see God as their source.
Two ministries that I greatly admire exemplify this claim. The ministries are Radio Bible Class (RBC) publishers of the popular Our Daily Bread devotionals, and From the Heart Church Ministries (FTHCM) (my local church)!
RBC is an example of a ministry not supported by a local church. Since I have been receiving their devotionals and other materials (for several years now), I have never for once received a junk mail from them soliciting me for money. Which is one of the reasons why I support the ministry financially. I realize that it takes a lot of money to run their ministries and publish their numerous publications, which mostly are free. That’s an example of Christian ministry with integrity. And like me, I believe there are numerous other people who support them financially for the simple reason that they do not beg you for money.
FTHCM is an example of a local church with a TV broadcast ministry supported solely by the tithes and offerings of the congregation. Never once do you hear Pastor John A. Cherry ask the viewers to send money to keep the program on the air. His viewpoint has always been that if the church cannot support its TV ministry, then it shouldn’t have one.
Even though Pastor Cherry does not solicit for money, like RBC, viewers voluntarily send money to support the broadcast. Now, that’s what God can and will do when we do things His way!
Therefore, may I say to those ministries, ministers, Christian radio/TV program hosts, etc. (there are many more than I mentioned) who openly beg for money to keep their programs on the air, to desist from such practice. They don’t have to use the world’s method of raising money to run their ministries. It’s unnecessary! Because when God ordains, He sustains! And to borrow a friend’s favorite saying, “God’s will, God’s bill!”
On the other hand, I’d like to commend ministries like RBC and FTHCM who are uncompromising, yet upholding true Christian principles. And I believe there are many others than the two mentioned.
Finally, let me also say that some of the ministries I mentioned that are soliciting people for money are good ministries with good intentions, such as needed in the Body of Christ, especially FamilyLife Today. Truly, I have nothing against them or what they are trying to do. It’s their money-raising method I disagree with, simply because it’s unscriptural.