Black Christians and the Myth of Prosperity Preaching
With the in-your-face display of greed and arrogance of the so-called pastors on the reality show Preachers of L.A., I began to wonder: when will black Christians wake up and say enough is enough? Although there are some white pastors of mega-churches who have a net worth of almost triple their congregants as well, I want to focus on the plight of the black saints who sit under the ministry of black pastors (and some white pastors) Sunday after Sunday and continue to live paycheck to paycheck.
After some years of attending mega-churches pastored by both black and white men and their wives, I begin to notice a trend. These pastors would always tell their congregation – mostly non-college-educated and barely surviving members – that the way to prosperity is through tithing. Tithing was the only means to prosperity taught by these pastors. In fact, the reason for all that ailed the saints (hard times, sickness, and lack) was non-tithing (i.e., theft of God’s money). Not having a college education during the majority of those years, I felt guilty if I found myself in a situation where I could not tithe on certain Sundays. I would hear the pastors say, use your rent or utility bill money and pay your tithe; God will make sure your bills are paid. I would blame God when my bills went unpaid instead of blaming the pastors (or myself for listening to the them).
After I completed a couple of degrees and began associating with a group of financially intelligent individuals, I started to learn and apply sound financial principles. I then realized that my financial situation had improved for two reasons: more education (resulted in a better job with higher pay and/or promotion on current job) and knowledge of how to manage and invest my income. I also realized that my pastors never mentioned education or investments (other than investing in the kingdom of God) as a means to acquire wealth.
I then began to wonder why my wealthy pastors never encouraged their members to acquire as much education as possible as a means to a higher-paying job, or to seek out a professional financial planner to advise them on how to set up a budget and invest some of their income. Is it because the wealthy pastors know that if their faithful followers become educated, it will more difficult to manipulate them? In fact, on many occasions the pastors would mock the members who did have college degrees.
Everyone knows that knowledge is power, and an educated mind is difficult to manipulate and control. I have concluded that the prosperity-preaching pastors are using fear, guilt, and ignorance as a means to manipulate their members into giving more and more of their scarce income while the pastors live high on the hog.
I remember, years ago, one of my pastors standing in the pulpit, complaining that he and his young wife and small child were living in an apartment and that he, being God’s preacher, should not have to live in such a small, confined area. That same Sunday after church, some guilt-ridden wealthy elderly woman went up to him and gave him a check for over $250,000 so that he could purchase a house. During those years, if I had had the money, I would have probably done the same thing. But education has allowed me see things about my previous pastors that I was not able to see while sitting under their ministry.
Because I was in the military for a number of years, I moved around a lot. I became prayer partners with some of my previous ministries and would sometimes send in small financial gifts. I recall receiving a letter from a pastor, and the outside of the envelope stated that today may be the day that I receive my financial miracle. I remember thinking, How is it that this pastor thinks that I need a financial miracle? And then it hit me: the entire time that I sat under his ministry (over two years), every sermon and service had to do with someone needing some type of miracle (financial or healing).
How is it that God’s people are in a constant state of needing miracles? Do Christians ever get in a position financially where they do not need a miracle? Is it that pastors need members to be sick and broke, just as a doctor need sick people in order to stay in business?
Financially healthy people do not need a financial miracle. What that letter revealed to me is that the pastor assumed that I (and the majority of his members) would always need a financial blessing; therefore, there was no need to ever change the envelope or the letterhead.
I am not advocating that Christians should not tithe or suggesting that tithing is not biblical. The members of a church are responsible for paying the church's debts (mortgages, utilities, and the salaries of the pastor and staff). On the other hand, it is deceitful and manipulative to beat congregants over the head about their ability to tithe when they are going through some financially rough times. I have met individuals who have lost their jobs and have told me that their pastor told them that they should continue to tithe even if they have to let their home go into foreclosure.
God does not need our money. If the church is really the house of God, it will survive if some of its members are going through a rough patch and are unable to tithe for a certain period. I find it strange that while some members seem to continue to struggle, the pastors’ income appears to be soaring.
If a godly leader truly cares about every area of his or her members’ lives, there is no way he or she would withhold information that would be vital to improving members' situation (i.e., education and good financial planning).
The bible teaches in 2 Corinthians 9:6, “He who sows sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” One does not have to give money to a church in order to receive a thirty-, sixty-, or one hundredfold return; wealthy unbelievers who give to charities continue to incur more wealth. The law of sowing and reaping applies to everyone, regardless of where an individual chooses to give his or her money.
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