Let me start by saying that all Christians (stewards, believers, church goers, etc) have presuppositions and pre-understandings that are not biblically based. We are all products of our environment (family, tribe, nation, race, country and church denominations). Even when we become born again, our presuppositions and pre-understandings could still influence our understanding of biblical texts. Theologians, general overseers, bishops, pastors, elders, etc., are not exempted. In fact, I will go ahead and say that they are the most liable to repeat and teach what they have heard in church settings and or read from books by other ministers of the gospel.
Jewish Christians of the 1st century had problems accepting Gentiles as being part of the Body of Christ. Having been brought up in the tradition of the Pharisees and Sadducees, they had presuppositions and pre-understandings in which Jews could not associate with Gentiles (Gentiles were said to be unclean). But for the intervention of the Holy Spirit and the boldness of Paul, those presuppositions and pre-understandings, which were in conflict with the mission of God, could have hindered the spread of the gospel and the growth of the Church.
Can we ponder what would have been the outcome had Paul softened his stand since his seniors in the faith were mostly opposed to the inclusion of the Gentiles? Rather than listen to the voice of men, he chose to listen to that of God. The lesson for anyone reading this is this: you have no excuse not to speak up in your church or fellowship when the leadership (general overseers, pastors, etc) teach unbiblical doctrines. The word of God is the only authority for doctrines and whoever veers from it knowingly makes herself God’s enemy.
I want to use a personal example to illustrate the above fact:
A few months ago, a younger person in the Lord pointed out that Matt 2:1 did not specify the number of wise men who gave gifts to the Child Jesus. How shocked was I when I opened my Bible and read the following:
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,” (Matt 2:1).
All the other translations had either wise men or Magi. None of them specified a number–three, twelve or any other number.
But in my latest book, Stewards of the Kingdom, I had written “God’s revelation of the birth of Jesus to the three wise men from the East (Matt 2:1-2)” on page xii and “the three wise men from the East…” on page 12.
I had not bothered to do a close reading of Matt 2:1-2 when I was writing the book. Hasn’t it always been three wise men that gave those three gifts to the Child Jesus? How could I have known that my pre-understanding on the number of the wise men was wrong? Hadn’t I been taught this fact since childhood
(Bible stories, denominational religious studies and plays) that three wise men gave those three gifts to the Child Jesus. I wonder if the reader does not have the same pre-understanding. Yet, how wrong I was.
Yes, the above example might seem trivial when compared to the mutilation of God’s word that is so prevalent in our time. And I will be the first to agree but it does make the larger case that none of us is free from unsubstantiated presuppositions and pre-understandings; oftentimes, they do impact on our understanding of biblical texts. It is in the light of this experience that I implore the reader to pray before continuing with this article. As you pray, ask the Lord to take away those false presuppositions and pre-understandings you might have concerning the prevalent doctrine of the sowing of seed. And as you read, please search the Scriptures and with the Holy Spirit’s (the only interpreter of God’s word) aid to discern what is true and what is not.
1. GOD’S GREAT LOVE
For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16 NLT)
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners (Rom 5:8 NLT),
Sometimes, we forget that John 3:16, which summarizes God’s great love for humanity, involved a great sacrifice: rather than disobedient and sinful human beings to perish, God chose to sacrifice His only Son so that everyone of them who believes will inherit eternal life. Knowing the depravity of the unregenerate human mind, He made His grace (unmerited divine favor) available to all human beings to draw them to His Son. Again knowing that even those who will become His children would struggle with weaknesses, He made sufficient grace available for them to overcome such and to successfully run the race to eternal life.
God’s grace is free. He did not charge His children for it. All God asked was for them to obey His commandments. Every command of God is for the benefit of His children. They are stronger spiritually when they study the Scriptures, pray and worship God. Their obedience or disobedience does not take anything away from God. They are not doing God favors by their obedience. God has given His children everything (His Son and His Holy Spirit) for free.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago (Eph 2:10 NLT).
In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you (Rom 12:6 NLT).
2. MERCHANDIZERS OF GOD’S GRACE
Ironically, those that freely received the gift of salvation and gifts of the Holy Spirit (given for the purpose of witnessing) have turned round to merchandizing them. Many 21st preachers (pastors, teachers, general overseers, etc) have introduced teachings that pull in crowds for the sole purpose of enriching themselves. Though, some are ignorant of the harm they are doing, others are so immersed in wickedness that they don’t care that their messages are leading many into Christ-less eternity. Most of these preachers are like the Pharisees and Sadducees in our Lord’s time on earth.
Why can’t you understand that I’m not talking about bread? So again I say, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.'” Then at last they understood that he wasn’t speaking about the yeast in bread, but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt 16:11-12 NLT).
These merchandisers of God’s grace have failed to teach their followers what it means to be a follower of Christ.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matt 11:28-30 NLT).
Had they taught their followers, they would have known that their lives are no longer theirs to live as they wish but as the Lord directs them through the Holy Spirit.
Their followers would also have known that they must share in the sufferings of Christ.
For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering (Rom 8:16-17 NLT).
They would know too that selfishness must be sacrificed at the cross.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? (Matt 16:24-26 NLT)
Instead, these merchandisers of God’s grace teach that suffering is not for God’s children. For them, selfishness is an article of creed. They take verses of Scripture out of context in order to win new converts for their churches and ministries. It is all about their churches and ministries. Had they but thought of the converts as Christ’s, they would have taught them properly. In a bid to gain larger following (with its attendant increased take in offerings and tithes), they mutilate God’s word.
I ask you, dear reader, is it not clear from the Scriptures above that heirs with Christ are enjoined to share in His sufferings if they hope to share in His glory? So, rather than naming and claiming one thing or the other or following one false teaching or the other to acquire wealth, why not yield to God fully and unconditionally like Abraham? If poverty or death results from your complete obedience, so be it. A Christian in name and deed (CINAD) must have a mind like those of the 3 Hebrew children who told Nebuchadnezzar, the greatest potentate of the day, that even if God did not deliver them from the fire, they would still believe that He is God.
A Christian should be able to say and mean it that if it is poverty or death, God is still God. Failure to have that mindset means such a Christian is a CINO (Christian in name only). She does not really believe in God. She became a Christian for the ‘advertised goodies’ by prosperity preaching pastors (major mutilators of God’s word) and not out of conviction that God is indeed God.
The confession with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and Savior is incomplete if we don’t do a follow through by making U-turn i.e., abandoning our life of sin and unbelief and yielding ourselves unreservedly to Him who died for us. Due to false messaging, some made that confession believing that all their financial problems will be resolved instantly while others believed that they would be healed of whatever diseases they had.
Many prayers are supposedly unanswered because we ask amiss or they are selfish. God does not factor in our life even though we profess profusely we believe in Him. If we truly believe that God is and that His grace is sufficient for His children, why then do we not trust Him with all of our being? I have a poser for every Christian:
- What drove you into accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior? Was it to get riches? Was it to get the fruit of the womb? Was it to get healing for one ailment or the other? Was it to get a wife/ husband?
I wish to submit the following:
The confession with our mouth and belief in our heart that Jesus rose from the dead must be accompanied by a genuine recognition that one is a sinner. The sinner must ask for forgiveness and make a promise of a U-Turn. However, underpinning all the spoken words is the INTENT of the heart. That is the crux of the matter.
Dear reader, do you believe that anyone whose reason for accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is to get riches is really saved?
3. FALSE TEACHING ON “SOWING OF SEED”
“God gives wealth to His children while on earth” is the cornerstone of prosperity teaching (I was in error when I characterized prosperity teaching as prosperity gospel in my previous writings. It is a false teaching/doctrine that has no biblical basis). The United States of American televangelists popularized this insidious false doctrine. With their lavish lifestyles as testimony of God’s goodness, they were able to hoodwink many pastors and churches.
Pastors from the Third World countries soon bought wholesale into this false teaching that God will give riches to His children here on earth, and it has been chaos since then. Many people came to the Lord after hearing this false doctrine and the testimonies of people who became rich after giving their lives to Christ. All they did to get the riches was paying their tithes unfailingly and “sowing seed” into the church and the pastor’s life. How could they question such testimonies when they would like to be rich themselves?
The prosperity preachers had to provide Scriptural verses to support this false teaching. Hence the popularization of “sowing and reaping.” They introduced meanings into Scriptural verses that distort what the author intended and what the original hearers understood.
- “The more you sow, the more you will reap.”
- “You have not received because you have not been giving or you have been giving sparingly.”
- “If you have not progressed in the last one year, it is because you have not been faithful in your giving.”
- “You want God to bless you, then give Him your best.”
- “Even if you don’t have the money now, you can sow a seed today by making a pledge.”
- “Make a seed offering today and see if God will not multiply your giving a hundred fold.”
The above list is not exhaustive; it is just representative.
Dear reader, how many times have you heard the above quotes from your pastor (or some iteration of these quotes) or from a preacher brought in for revival by your church? How often have you read about sowing of seed, the benefits and the documented testimonies of those who sowed and reaped more than 100% of what they sowed in books written by well known “men and women of God”? How many times have you heard the message on the radio/television of the blessings for those who “sow a seed” into a televangelist’s ministry?
How many times have you, especially at “revival times” or special church programs, witnessed the parade of persons giving testimonies of how God has blessed them as a result of the seed they had sown previously when the “man of God” had asked people in the audience to “sow a seed” in their pastor’s life or “sow a seed” for his own ministry or “sow a seed” for the funding of that new building project?
Our prosperity loving pastors and televangelists love to quote the following Scriptures to justify their incessant requests for money to fund one project or idea and or anything else that their hearts desire:
He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work (2Cor 9:7-8).
“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).
But why don’t they quote the following Scriptures that show the real meaning of the use of the sowing and reaping metaphor?
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap (Gal 6:7).
For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life (Gal 6:8).
They have sown wheat but reaped thorns; They have put themselves to pain but do not profit. But be ashamed of your harvest Because of the fierce anger of the LORD (Jer 12:13).
The wicked man does deceptive work, But he who sows righteousness will have a sure reward (Prov 11:18).
He who sows iniquity will reap sorrow, And the rod of his anger will fail (Prov 22:8).
Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you. You have plowed wickedness; You have reaped iniquity. You have eaten the fruit of lies, Because you trusted in your own way, In the multitude of your mighty men (Hosea 10:12-13).
From the above quotes, we see that having a right relationship with God i.e., being obedient to His word is at the centre of the sowing and reaping metaphor. I wish to emphasize that the way to God’s heart is through obedience to His word. God rejoices when He sees His children obeying Him and doing those things that please Him because they love Him and not because they expect God to do something for them for having obeyed Him. Therefore, it is unbiblical (and wrong) for anyone, no matter how highly placed, to tell his or her followers that they will get a hundred or any fold return if they sow a seed for one cause or the other.
The Scripture below tells it all i.e., God is not interested in our gifts (sacrifices of any kind) but in our obedience.
“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams (1Sam 15:22).
I urge readers to bring up this teaching to their leaders. You will be doing a great service for the Kingdom.
4. CONTEXT OF LUKE 6:38 AND 2 COR 9:7-8
Context is very important in biblical hermeneutics (principles and methods of interpretation of biblical texts). To interpret accurately, one must first look for meaning. Meaning is got primarily from three aspects–literary, cultural and historical. Literarily, one looks up the word in its original language before proceeding to see how it relates to the verse and how the verse relates to the chapter and how the chapter relates to the book and finally how the book’s message fits into the overall message of the whole Bible. Understanding is further enhanced when the interpreter takes into account the historical and cultural aspects of the book’s writer and his audience (the first hearers). Only after such diligent search can the interpreter re-contextualize (i.e., apply understanding to her generation) and proffer meaning to her generation.
It is the failure to do this that has caused so many to mislead their congregation and some to start their own churches on the basis of one verse in the Bible. The Bible is a whole document and every verse in it must be read in that light.
In chapter 6, the controversy between Jesus and the faultfinding Pharisees had deepened. The Pharisees challenge Jesus on the lawfulness of work on the Sabbath:
- Christ’s disciples had broken off heads of grain and rubbed off the husks in their hands and ate grain on a Sabbath, 1).
- Jesus had healed a man with a withered hand on a Sabbath, 6-11).
After choosing the 12 apostles (12-17), He had healed many and cast out many evil spirits (18-19). Having demonstrated God’s power over Satan and his demons, and silenced the hypocritical Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus began to enunciate the ethics of the Kingdom of God (20-38). Those ethics are not just for His disciples but for all who will follow thereafter.
Embedded in those principles (ethics) of the Kingdom was verse 38 which false teachers love to quote in their bid to fleece their followers. In Kingdom ethics, followers of Christ are enjoined to love (even their enemies) and not hate, give and not expect reward or thanks, show compassion, not judge or condemn others and to forgive others. As His followers abide by these principles, He assures them others will not condemn or judge them; they will also forgive them, show them compassion and give them gifts.
2 COR 9:7-8
In Chapter 8, Paul intimates that the Macedonian Church was ready to give to the believers in Jerusalem. It does appear that Jerusalem believers were in desperate straits (maybe persecutions, hunger and sickness had prevented them from planting and reaping good harvest). In Chapter 9, Paul was using the willingness of the Macedonians to exhort the richer Corinthians to give for the benefit of the Jerusalem believers.
A key Kingdom principle of giving is anchored in the Lord’s own words:
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me (Matt 25:34-36 NLT).
I know some of us will say that when they give to their church, they expect their pastor or GO to use the funds for the above. But, your conscience knows that little of what you give goes into those good deeds. So, why don’t we join groups that visit the prisons, hospitals and the streets to feed the poor? Did God ask you, dear reader, to contract anyone, pastor or elder, to manage the resources God had given you?
More importantly, what is the INTENT when you give money to your church or do good deeds? Is it so that God will multiply what you have given or is it out of heartfelt need to do good? If it is the former, I suggest you keep your money. If it is the later, then God’s goodness and mercy will follow you al the days of your life.
I plead with you to ignore all the faith messages you have read, heard or even delivered yourself. They are wrong doctrines the devil has used to draw away many from the fold. I know there are millions and millions of testimonies of how God prospered those who gave when pastors and evangelists asked for that seed money. I submit that most of those testimonies are false but in those instances where the Hand of God is evident, God prospered them despite their giving.
You want to inherit eternal life. Sin no more. Then, do God’s will. And the only way you and I can do God’s will is to surrender our will to Him.
Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock (Matt 7:21-24 NLT).
Thank you for reading. May the Lord reward you with the grace to surrender your will to God. May He open your heart so that you can apprehend His love for you and know that only He can shepherd you as you go on this life’s journey. I plead the Blood of Jesus Christ over you and yours. In Jesus Name, I pray.
(All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Bible unless otherwise indicated)