Prophets for profit
by Sandy Simpson, 12/19/15
2 Cor. 2:17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.
There are many false teachers on TV these days who peddle the word of God for profit. They make promises of healing that do not come true by claiming if they are given a financial gift the person will receive healing and riches. When what they promised does not happen the person is blamed that they did not have enough faith. This often destroys the faith of people who fall into the traps of these snake oil salesmen. I have no problem with people charging for their materials if they cost to be produced, even though it is hoped that when a person cannot afford to pay for books and DVDs they will receive them free of charge. But the charges levied on people for conferences and speaking engagements is often excessive. A minister of God can ask for support and deserves it if they are being diligent in their study and proclamation of the Word. But experiences and feelings often come with a price today and that is not right.
Following are a few examples starting with the story of Balaam.
Numbers 22:21-31 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road. the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat the donkey again. Then the angel of the Lord moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.” The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?” “No,” he said. Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.
What Balaam was doing was rushing quickly to give the Moabite officials a message God had not told him to deliver in order to be paid. Jude said that Balaam is an example of what false teachers do.
Jude 1:11 Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.
Balaam wanted wealth and power. But he did not receive his blessing from the Lord but rather they were the “wages of wickedness”.
2 Peter 2:15 They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness.
Later it would be the false prophet Balaam who would lead many in Israel away from God to eat things sacrificed to false gods and get involved in immorality.
Revelation 2:14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.
On this same subject, the story of the healing of Naaman also comes to mind.
2 Kings 5:15-16 Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.” The prophet answered, “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.” And even though Naaman urged him, he refused.
The reason Elisha refused a gift from Naaman was, primarily, because the gift of healing for Naaman was from God, not Elisha. Men tend to get focused on the people through whom God sometimes heals (He also does so without human intervention) but true men of God focus people back on God. Paul and Barnabas, upon seeing God do miracles through them, were confronted by the same situation.
Acts 14:13-25 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.
Profiting from things only God can do does not bring glory to God. Yet this is what we see repeated over and over again by hundreds of so-called Christian faith healers. But what they are actually doing is bringing judgment down on their own heads.
Peter also dealt with a similar situation in the story of Simon the Sorcerer. Simon was a magician people called “The Great Power of God”. He was used to buying magic tricks as magicians do and thought miracles happening through the Disciples were a closely guarded secret that he could purchase and use in his “healing” crusades.
Acts 8:9-24 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”
Yet history records that Simon did not repent but went on to be known as Simon Mages and is credited with being one of the first Gnostics. A few lessons for us here … but suffice it to say that (1) not everyone who claims to be a believer is born again and (2) there are many who want fortune and fame out of Christianity instead of what God wants.
Going back to the story of Elisha and Naaman, witness what happened to Gehazi, Elisha’s servant.
2 Kings 5:21-27 So Gehazi hurried after Naaman. When Naaman saw him running toward him, he got down from the chariot to meet him. “Is everything all right?” he asked. Everything is all right,” Gehazi answered. “My master sent me to say, ‘Two young men from the company of the prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two sets of clothing.’” By all means, take two talents,” said Naaman. He urged Gehazi to accept them, and then tied up the two talents of silver in two bags, with two sets of clothing. He gave them to two of his servants, and they carried them ahead of Gehazi. When Gehazi came to the hill, he took the things from the servants and put them away in the house. He sent the men away and they left. When he went in and stood before his master, Elisha asked him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” “Your servant didn’t go anywhere,” Gehazi answered. But Elisha said to him, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money or to accept clothes—or olive groves and vineyards, or flocks and herds, or male and female slaves? Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.” Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and his skin was leprous—it had become as white as snow.
I have just produced a DVD from an article I wrote back in 2000 called “Healer? Heal Thyself!” where I point out the many afflictions faith healers have suffered while claiming to heal others of the same ailments. I believe this is part of God’s judgment on them similar to how He judged Gehazi. Extricating money out of a fellow human being, whether believer or unbeliever, is counterproductive to the spread of the Gospel and being light and salt.
Leviticus 25:36 Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you.
The same thing goes for trying to profit from the poor.
Ezekiel 18:17 He withholds his hand from mistreating the poor and takes no interest or profit from them. He keeps my laws and follows my decrees. He will not die for his father’s sin; he will surely live.
Yet profiting from the poor is what you will see if you happen to watch most of “Christian” TV these days. Notice all the poor people, especially women, in the audiences of faith healers.
Of course the sale of materials that cost to produce is understandable. But creating a market to sell to God’s people, like the merchants were doing in the Temple grounds, where they were telling people their own animals were not sufficient for sacrifice and then selling them animals at a steep profit, is something the Lord does not approve of. An analogy would be coming up with new ideas in order to tell people they need to get your book because they need to find their “purpose” without sharing the Gospel, developing secret methods in order to sell books, DVDs and conferences, or profiting from “new revelation”.
Matt. 21:12-13 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”
Have faith healers and false teachers made the churches “dens of robbers”? Selling materials that help people where the materials cost money to produce and continue to reproduce, is fine. But creating a market then selling people stuff, especially when it is full of false promises and false doctrine, is not.