The Way of Balaam
Paul and Peter are not the only ones who spoke out against false doctrine, Jesus himself spoke out against it when he called the Pharisees white-washed tombs; and after the church began Jesus condemned the false teachers in the church at Pergamum:
But I have a few things against you: You have there some who hold to the teaching of Balaam, the one who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the people of Israel so that they would eat food sacrificed to idols and practice immorality. (Rev. 2:14) (ESV)
Balaam was a false prophet, not because he gave out false predictions, but because he taught Balak how to lead the Israelites into worshiping the idols of the Moabites. In other words, Balaam was responsible for leading the people into idolatry. Therefore, Balaam was a deceiver. He did this because Balak offered him money. Likewise, there are people today who are leading Christians astray for money; which is the prosperity gospel.
Peter specifically connected prosperity preachers with following after Balaam. Read the following verses carefully:
3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. …10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature … 14 … they are experts in greed — an accursed brood! 15 They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. …18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. (2 Peter 2:3, 10, 14-15, 18) (NIV)
Peter said these false teachers were “experts in greed,” which means they were very good at picking out verses from the Scriptures and using those verses to convince people to give them money, which is the wealth gospel. They were also experts at taking large offerings. Peter said these preachers had “wandered” away from true Christianity and were deceiving people for the purpose of financial gain, the same as Balaam. He said they use “empty, boastful words,” in other words they are liars.
Peter said the false teachers enticed people who had just escaped paganism, which means they were newly converted, so they did not have the spiritual maturity to see the falsehood of the materialistic gospel. Those who had been Christians a long time were not falling into this trap because they knew what the apostles taught. The same is true today. Many people can testify that they once believed the get-rich gospel, but as they matured in their Christian walk, they saw the truth and rejected the prosperity message, the very same as I did.
The Good News Bible says, “In their greed these false teachers will make a profit out of telling you made-up stories” (2 Peter 2:3). What kind of stories did they tell? “This lady gave me an offering, and within two days she received $500. If you want to prosper, give me an offering. If you want a miracle, give me an offering.” They will provide you with numerous examples of people who gave money and got a check in the mail. Well, what about all the people who do not give and yet get checks in the mail or win the lottery? Or what about all the people who gave and not only did not get a check, but went more into debt or lost a job?
What they will not tell you about are the large numbers of Christians who are so greedy that they don’t even give to their local church, yet they are rich. In his book, The Way I See It, Don Basham, one of the founders of the Charismatic movement, said there was a prosperous businessman who was a member of a church he used to pastor “who boasted he had no need to tithe, because ‘I’m a Christian and everything I have already belongs to God‘” (p. 76). This man did not give money and yet he was wealthy, which goes against the teaching of the prosperity preachers.
In the late 1800s a certain man taught Sunday school for over 20 years in a Baptist church; he eventually became the wealthiest man in the world. He also did not pay tithes. He was not generous toward anyone, quite the opposite, he was the reason that journalists came up with the term, “Robber Baron.” The man was John D. Rockefeller. He engaged in ruthless and illegal business practices and built an oil company called Standard Oil that was so large that, when it was broken up by antitrust laws, several major oil companies were created from that one company.
Over one hundred years ago, John D. Rockefeller was worth over one billion dollars, which would be 50 to 100 billion dollars in today’s money. If he did pay tithes it would have meant an income of 100 million dollars (5 to 10 billion today) to his local church. It was not God that “blessed” him with great wealth; it was Satan, the god of greed. God does not lead people to engage in ruthless and illegal business practices in a desire for more, more, more. Even in his old age, he displayed his greed by giving away dimes. He always had dimes in his pocket so he could generously give one to people he met!
What lessons are we to learn from this? One very important thing is that very often Satan will give people lots of money because Satan knows that money is very deceitful and can make even the most devout Christian materialistic and greedy. Let’s take a look at another example.
There is today a man who planned to become a missionary when he was young, but he not only turned against his calling, he turned against Christianity. Do you suppose that God has blessed this man? He is today a multi-billionaire, media-mogul. The man is Ted Turner, who started CNN and is a partner in Time-Warner and other media companies. Can we use him as an example that God blesses a righteous man? No, actually, the opposite is most likely true, that Satan prospers those who turn from the straight way.
Even in Paul’s day, there were many ministers who traveled around preaching only because it was an easy way to make a good living. They were just doing it for money. The King James Version of 2 Cor. 2:17 does not adequately translate the meaning of the original Greek, “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” Here are some good translations:
At least we are not commercializing God’s word like so many others. Instead, in Christ we speak with sincerity, like people who are sent from God and are accountable to God. (ISV)
The Geneva translation says many people “make merchandise of the word of God.” Barnes Notes says the original Greek denotes one who waters down wine and resells it to make as much money as possible, like a peddler. The ESV says, “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word” (2 Cor. 2:17). The NIV says, “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit.” (NIV)
The plague of the prosperity message spread in the Early Church the same as it has today. The apostles had to face this problem, and we can read Apostle Paul’s denunciation of the prosperity message and those teaching it in the following verses; pay special attention to the underlined words:
3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing. … 5 … who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. …
9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wondered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:3-10) (NIV)
How could it be said any clearer? Paul obviously was talking about ministers who were teaching Christians a way to get rich from the Scriptures, which Paul referred to as “false doctrines.” Paul said that anyone who desires to get rich in this way has departed from the faith, and that we should be content with what we have. Does this sound like a man who believes in the prosperity gospel? Not a chance! The NKJ version says: “supposing that gain is godliness.” The literal translation says, “supposing gain to be godliness” (LIT).
The teachers of false doctrine were teaching that it was godly to get rich and that a righteous man will become prosperous, which is exactly what is being taught today by many big-name preachers on TV. Kenneth Hagin even wrote a small book by that very title, Gain is Godliness, but withdrew it after the connection to this passage was pointed out to him, but he never recanted the teaching. Minister Z said:
Child of God, as you study God’s Word carefully, you will find that God’s clearly stated intention is to take very good care of His children, especially those that walk in His footsteps and obey His will.
There it is, the very thing that Paul spoke out against; that God guarantees financial gain to the godly. But Paul said we should be content with food and clothing (1 Tim. 6:7). Is this what the prosperity preachers teach? Certainly not! Paul continues in the same passage we just quoted:
But you, man of God, flee from all this, [the get-rich gospel] and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (1 Timothy 6:11) (NIV)
After Paul told Timothy not to pursue riches, he then told him what he should pursue. Nowhere in the list did Paul say that Timothy should pursue a big harvest of money so he can help finance Paul’s ministry. If Paul really believed and taught the wealth gospel, as the prosperity preachers claim, why didn’t he travel in a golden chariot pulled by six white horses, the modern equivalent of a Cadillac or Rolls Royce, like the prosperity preachers do? Paul continues in this same chapter:
17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of life that is truly life. (6:17-19) (NIV)
Since Paul clearly is speaking out against wanting to be rich and depending on wealth, he does not turn around and contradict himself when he says God “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” He is saying that God provides our basic needs; everything we need to enjoy life have nothing to do with the material lusts of the flesh or worldly luxury. God also provides things that money cannot buy.
The teachers of false doctrine are teaching people to seek after money from God, but Paul said riches are uncertain and are not a firm foundation. Therefore, why should we seek it out as the prosperity preachers are telling us to do? Paul points out that we should not rely upon earthly riches because they can be easily lost or stolen. Therefore, how can we be certain that we will always have plenty of these riches, like the prosperity teachers claim?
The little that the righteous person has is better than the wealth of many wicked people. (Psalm 37:16) (GW)
The above verse says that the righteous are poor but the wealthy are wicked, just the opposite of what the prosperity preachers are teaching. Paul continues:
Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. … (1 Timothy 6:20-21) (NIV)
Here Paul said the false teachers were claiming that they had knowledge and insight that the original apostles and Paul did not have. This is the very same thing that prosperity preachers are doing today, claiming they have great understanding of the Scriptures. Preacher Z also makes these claims:
Please note I am not using the word revelation loosely. I use it in its strongest sense. What you are about to read is a body of truth I received directly from our Lord. Now mind you, it’s not a new truth, it’s neglected truth.
It is indeed possible to understand something that other people do not, but the passages to which Z refers are not even about money, which we learned concerning Mark 4.
In Ephesians, Paul again refers to the prosperity teachers:
For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them. (Ephesians 5:5-7) (NIV)
Again Paul warns that greed is idolatry, which means that the desire for wealth, or not giving it to the poor when you have it to give, is as bad as worshiping pagan idols. Paul said those who teach the prosperity gospel use many “empty words.” Today, we would say they are full of nothing but hot air. Paul even tells us not to become ministry partners with them! I guess there really is nothing new under the sun.
Here is a short story about a big name preacher who lives in Texas. He is so lacking in wisdom and understanding that he actually stated on his national TV program, how he became a big name minister. The preacher said he was teaching at small gatherings in the banquet rooms of hotels and other places when a fellow came to him with a proposition. The fellow said he could put the preacher on TV and create large crowds for his teaching sessions. This fellow was a professional media producer and promoter. All the preacher had to do was give him a percentage of the money he took-in. So the deal was made. The preacher made a deal with the devil, and the producer made slick TV commercials which advertised the preacher’s new TV program which he also produced, and zoom, the preacher quickly became a big name preacher, for over 30 years now, and rakes in piles of money.
Jesus said that those who exalt themselves shall be humbled, and those who humble themselves shall be exalted. Since this preacher got to where he is today by making a deal with a professional promoter, and not by allowing God to promote him, this preacher will come crashing down with a thud. So it should be no surprise that this preacher also teaches lots of other false doctrine.
He even teaches that if he were alive in the first century that he could have died for the sins of the world, as though he were a sinless Son of God born of a virgin; and yet he has a following of probably millions of Charismatic believers! He is clearly operating by demonic influence, rather than the Holy Spirit.
If you doubt just how greedy these men and women are, then you probably do not realize how they spend their money. This same preacher, L, is now one of the top prosperity preachers in the nation. He has a lake-side home in Texas with 18,000 square feet that cost 4.1 million dollars, according to the Trinity Foundation (see photo below). He owns about 2 dozen vehicles, several boats including a racing boat, and several air planes including ministry jets that cost $5,000 per hour to fly; that was back when fuel prices were low.
In 1999 a get-rich preacher said he recently bought a dog for $15,000 and a ring for $32,000. He said,
“I live in a 8,000 square foot house. I am going to build a bigger one now. One that King Solomon would be proud of. . . . I want you [to] know that when the people in my town come past my mansion and they see my Rolls Royce sitting in the driveway, they know there is a God in heaven.” (The Reproach of the Solemn Assembly, sermon by David Wilkerson)
Another dollar-loving preacher went to Uganda in 2007 for a one-day crusade to break the curse of poverty off the country. But he would not go until the people raised the money to pay his $500,000 fee, plus another $100,000 for jet fuel for his private plane. They raised the money, but they are still poor!
According to articles in the Saint Lewis Dispatch, a prosperity preacher and her husband in Missouri earn over $1.5 million a year and live in a 10,000 sq. foot home. They have an 8-car garage with heat and air conditioning, and a yacht worth over $100,000. The ministry headquarters is built like a king’s palace with a pair of Dresden vases worth $19,000, “six French crystal vases bought for $18,500, an $8,000 Dresden porcelain depicting the Nativity, two $5,800 curio cabinets, a $5,700 porcelain of the Crucifixion…” The list goes on for some length and includes: a $30,000 malachite round table, a $23,000 marble-topped antique commode (toilet), and a conference table and 18 chairs worth $49,000. The icing on the cake is a $10,000,000 ministry jet.
In 2005 Forbes Magazine reported that one ministry couple earns over $770,000, a year. This couple lives in a 9,500 sq. foot home by the ocean in Newport Beach, CA. worth about five-million dollars. The home has nine bathrooms, an elevator, a six-car garage, a tennis court, a swimming pool, and a fountain.
One female preacher owns a $5,000 ink pen she uses to sign her multi-million-dollar deals. She spent over one million dollars on her wedding. I suspected that, her being a preacher, she had put her marriage under a curse by spending that much money for her wedding, and sure enough, it did not last very long and she got divorced.
Some of you may say that I am not being fair, because most of those prosperity preachers give 10% of their income to orphanages or the homeless, but look what they do with the rest of the money. The tax collector Jesus ate with was certainly not a millionaire, yet he gave 50% of his net worth to the poor (Luke 19:8-9). These millionaire preachers could give 90% and still have good incomes. But then they would not be able to buy a Rolex watch or hot tub.
If Jesus came today do you think he would live like the ministers listed above? No! He would sell all that opulence to help the poor. How many children have gone hungry because these ministers spent money on luxury? You would never see Elijah living in a palace. He did not run away to his summer home, he slept under a tree.
And the LORD said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds” (Jeremiah 14:14) (ESV)
You will never see a true apostle driving a Jaguar or a Bentley. Most of them will be poor, the poorer they are the more power and authority they will have and the greater likelihood that they have seen the dead raised.
These greedy wolves in sheep’s clothing will be cast into the fire on the Day of Judgment, if not before. It is these preachers that Jesus was speaking about when he said many will come and claim to have cast out demons and prophesied in Jesus’ name, but he will say, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).
Another nationally known prosperity preacher and faith healer, lives in a house on the California coast worth 12.5 million dollars.