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"Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.-- Matthew 18: 5-6 (ESV)
I say it all the time. There are real people who are the victims of the false teachings that this ministry outlines. I hear from them regularly as they come out from the darkness and step into the glorious light of the truth of the Gospel. I hear from them when they finally realize that they are not little gods with the power of creation in their tongues. I hear from them when they finally stop chasing the devil and his false signs and lying wonders. I hear from them when they finally see God for what he has done instead of some temporal treasure they have been promised by man. People often push back against discernment ministry with the tired refrain -- what's the big deal? Where is the harm? Joel Osteen is just encouraging people! Joyce Meyer is just inspiring people! Joseph Prince is just assuring people! No beloved they are not. They are lying to people and specifically lying about what God has and has not said. Now for many, these lies may never hurt them. Hopefully they hear the real Gospel and are saved. Many more however will stay under false teaching and a false conversion and discover that on the last day, Jesus never knew them.
I say this because it is so striking and painful to watch someone struggle with a false teaching and how it truly affects them. Yesterday I had such a moment on Facebook. God has long been dealing with me personally to not engage in fruitless arguments and nothing is more fruitless than conversation on Facebook, especially if they are about religion or politics. Something happened so egregious yesterday however that I felt compelled to intervene and the story reinforces what is really at stake. As someone with a public ministry, I end up with "friends" on Facebook that I do not know. People recommend people and I generally do not turn down requests unless it is obviously a spam account. The result is 650 Facebook friends and about three in real life. One such contact, to whom I had never spoken, was a fellow who referred to himself as "Evangelist." Not in saying he was an evangelist but in title. His particular shtick however was money. He was a prosperity evangelist. His posts were always about money. Still I stayed away. Then yesterday he posted the following:
"Poverty is not for the children of God." -- Evangelist I M Moneygrubbing (name changed for anonymity).
Now, anyone who vaguely understands the Bible knows on its face this is an absurd and unbiblical statement. The apostles were not wealthy. Jesus taught very specifically about money and the evil loving it brings. You can know a teaching is certainly false if it falls apart when leaving the shores of this country. Why? Because the Gospel is universal. It transcends time and culture. The same Gospel that saved the 4th century man is the same that saved the 17th century man and the same that saved me. So, can you take this absurd statement and preach it in Iraq to Christians who are facing beheading for their faith? How about to those living in the underground church in China? How about our brothers and sisters born into impoverished countries that offer literally no hope to ever not be in poverty? Of course not. Poverty may very well be what we face in this lifetime. Suffering may indeed be what we face in this lifetime. Paul listed all of the abuses he suffered and declared that through all things he can persevere in Christ yet according to Evangelist IMM, poverty is not for the children of God. Yet still, I stayed away.
Then someone commented and said that they must assume then that they are not saved. They said that they had followed this man and his teaching and even when he was tithing regularly it made no difference. That he still was struggling to pay the bills. He said that he bought his house on faith even though the math did not add up and now he may lose it, as well as his marriage because of it. He concluded that if poverty is truly not for the children of God as this man with assumed authority stated, then he must not be a child of God. Beloved how profoundly sad! This man either was genuinely unsaved because he had never heard the actual Gospel or he now doubted his salvation based upon how much money he had. Jesus had a stern warning for people who would lead the children of God astray in such a manner and we can see this warning in our key verses today. Often times this passage is misconstrued to be relating to actual children but a full reading of the context reveals the broader point Christ was making. He is speaking about Christians who properly display the spirit of a child. It is better for the one leading them astray to have a millstone around their neck, which was a form of capital punishment by many cultures at the time. As Barnes Notes on the Bible states:
"To injure, or to cause to sin, the feeblest Christian, will be regarded by Christ as a most serious offence, and will be punished accordingly." -- Barnes Notes on the Bible
So my sincere hope was that the fear of the Lord would motivate Evangelist IMM to correct the record, support this wandering sheep and assure him of God's salvation and love regardless of his financial stature. Yeah, that did not happen. Instead he corrected him about how he viewed tithing. That it was only part of the picture to attain the wealth that apparently all children of God were meant to enjoy. That despite how tithing is preached as quid prop quo, that he should not be expecting anything from tithing. This of course is the height of hypocrisy as tithing is nearly always presented as an investment you should expect a return from. Hey, you're going to reap but not if you do not sow first! God wants to throw open those windows of heaven but you have to prime the pump!
So he incorrectly corrected the hurting brother. Then one of his evangelist friends joined in and double teamed him and made him out to be the perpetrator instead of the victim. That was the final straw for me. I posted in the thread directly to the hurting man and tried to explain that he had been taught poorly. That we serve Christ for what He has already done for us, not what we think we can get from Him now. That our riches are eternal in nature and not temporal. That there are plenty of Christian brothers and sisters who do struggle and who are in poverty. I lastly explained that God loves a cheerful giver and that tithing was of course a lie that is not required of the church. I never got to hear from him however because evangelist IMM unfriended and blocked me immediately. I can only assume he deleted my post as well. That is the price of the truth in these days where anything that goes against what we already believe is dismissed out of hand.
That assumes that evangelist IMM actually believes what he is selling. There is always the distinct possibility that he is just another huckster as the Bible warns us about making merchandise off of the sheep of the Lord. It matters little either way because this encounter reinforces two lessons we ought to remember. First is that there is always a human price paid for false teaching. Joel Osteen tweets and posts things all the time that are correct or even profound. I will never retweet or repost however, for fear of who I may draw to him. I cannot be in the business of leading the lambs of God to the slaughter of wolves. The second lesson is that wolves are wolves. They are not mean to be played with, negotiated with, or even prayed for. The Bible says their destruction is settled long ago. They have no fear of the Lord. Think about this situation. Even when presented with a man doubting his very salvation the wolf could not bring himself to deviate from his false script. There was no concern for the sheep; only for the brand. Millstone around my neck? I have no fear of God before me. You will sir. One day, you most definitely will.