No doubt, most viewers of religious programming have seen a mega pastor or televangelist encourage a viewer or church member to donate a specific sum of money. The general idea is that the person should step out in faith and “plant” a faith seed….typically to that particular church or pastor. For reference here are a few pastors performing such offerings.
Where did the faith seed theology come from?
The faith seed teaching is rather new in terms of theological ideas. The initial promoter of the faith seed teaching was one of the fathers the “Word of Faith” movements, Oral Roberts. Oral Roberts was remembered most notably for attempting to build a “city of God”. It was a revisioning of John Calvin’s Geneva; an attempt to bring God’s kingdom to one city on the planet. He claimed that God told him that they would cure cancer and even more in their new med school. Sadly, he ran into incredible amounts of debts and consequently dove into a slew of funding campaigns. His final campaign included him locking himself in tower and starving himself until all the funds were provided for the building. In the end the campaign was abandoned and around 80% of the buildings were left unused. They graduated a handful of students from the medical school before closing that down.
One of the methods that Oral used to acquire funds was by convincing people that God would multiply their money, “10-fold”, if they would sow a seed from their need. It makes for a catchy saying but it takes more than a catchy phrase to make something true. Oral even wrote a book on the topic called “Miracle of Seed Faith.” Oral’s son, Richard, has continued his teaching on the matter. He provided 3 keys to understanding the seed faith.
The Seed-Faith principle that we find in the Bible contains three keys:
- Recognize that God is our Source.
Philippians 4:19 says, “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” God will supply all our needs according to His riches, His love for us, His power to help us, and His wisdom to guide us. He may use many different instruments—a job, gifts, doctors, friends, family—to meet our need. But He alone is the Source, and He alone cannot fail.
- Give first, so that it may be given unto us.
Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it shall be given unto you.” We must first plant a seed of faith so that God can multiply it back to meet our need. Jesus is talking about giving in the deepest sense of the word—the giving of ourselves to God. This includes anything we can give—love, time, patience, forgiveness, finances, prayer, whatever we have. Our giving reflects our trust in God and our thankfulness. It links us to God’s inexhaustible resources for our every need. There is no way we can give to God without receiving something back from Him, multiplied!
- Expect a miracle.
Mark 11:24 says, “Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” The moment we ask God for something—the moment we do our part and plant our seed of faith—we should believe God that the answer is on its way. It is important to expect our miracle so we can recognize it and reach forth to take it when it comes. And it’s also important to remember that God controls the time and method He will use to give back to us. We must keep trusting God and expecting our miracle, no matter how long it takes to reach us.
So, give God something to work with. No matter how little you think you have, sow it in joy and faith, knowing in your heart that you are sowing seed so you may reap miracles. Then start expecting all kinds of miracles! Remember, God always sends the right answer at the right time, in the right way. His timing and methods are always exactly right for our lives! (Richard Roberts – Seed-Faith)
It’s not just the Roberts family that have been pushing this theology. Nearly ALL of the televangelists push this false message.
What’s the problem with the faith seed theology?
At face value, the 3 keys above might make sense. However, as I will demonstrate, the keys do not hold up well to any kind of scrutiny and the faith seed interpretation ignores too many others biblical principles. We will address each key in and orderly fashion below.
1 – Recognize that God is our Source.
Philippians 4:19 says, “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
While this verse alone, even with the reasoning above, is not a cause for concern, it should be noted that this passage talks about “need” not greed. In fact, the greater context of the passage is about how Paul received the monetary gift from Philippians.
…for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. 17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. (Philippians 4:16-17)
It is important to notice that Paul has no personal desire for their money and he did not solicit them for his own gain. Moreover, Paul never told them that they should give in order to grow their seed offering. He did not promise them riches if they give.
2 – Give first, so that it may be given unto us.
Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it shall be given unto you.”
The seed faith movement loosely uses this passage to show that God cannot bless us until we step out in faith and give first. That is simply false. Not only is it false but this passage has nothing to do with giving to God but rather, it’s part of a larger passage speaking about how to treat one another.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. (Luke 6:37-38)
In the larger context of the passage it is easy to see that Jesus is simply giving guidelines on how to live in peace with one another. His quote on giving has absolutely nothing to do with giving to God. Jesus is simply repeating a well known proverb, which is that those who are generous will also find generosity.
The generous man will be prosperous, And he who waters will himself be watered. (Proverbs 11:25)
He who has a generous eye will be blessed; For he shares his food with the poor. (Proverbs 22:9)
One who gives to the poor has no lack; But one who closes his eyes will have many curses. (Proverbs 28:27)
Jesus’ teaching was merely an extension of common proverbs that would have been known to his audience.
3 – Expect a miracle.
Mark 11:24 says, “Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”
Without a doubt, this verse is the bedrock of the “name it claim it” and “faith seed” theology. In the WOF movement, the passage is used to push the idea that as long as one had enough faith they could have anything they wanted….including having great wealth. I find it ironic that the only wealthy people who stand by this theological view are the ones who are demanding the offerings given to them personally. What does this passage actually mean?
The passage actually should be taken at face value but still understand that there is a larger context to the passage. God want’s to provide for us as we ask. However, this passage is really about using God’s power and authority to affect the world, not how we can make gain for ourselves. When it’s read within it’s own context one can see that Jesus’ hyperbolic statement is not a promise of riches.
In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. (Mark 11:22-23)
Now, obviously Jesus is not teaching people that they can move geological formations. God is not a genie that grants our selfish demands. What Jesus is saying to the disciples is that they will accomplish great things if they have great faith. The disciples were astonished that the fig tree obeyed Jesus’ command to whither. The disbelief of the disciples is a common theme in Mark. Jesus was teaching them to be bold, not to be greedy.
More biblical reasoning
In order to believe in the faith seed theology one must abandon a slew of Christian doctrines and teachings. Below is an non-exhaustive list of problems with the faith seed teaching.
If planting seeds resulted in multiplication then the 12 Disciples and Paul were terrible planters
A careful reading of the New Testament will show that the church in Jerusalem was in great hardships during the peak of Paul’s church planting ministry. (1 Cor 16:1–4; 2 Cor 8:1–9:15; Rom 15:14–32) If anyone planted a deep seed of faith, it was the disciples. However, they were neither provided wealth nor even a long life. Most of them died poor and martyred, as did the majority of first century Christians.
Likewise, Paul was not a man of great wealth. He build tents and other products in order to pay for his missionary work. If Paul could not reap a financial harvest from his seeds then who can? Paul even mentions that he and his fellow workers go without in order to spread the gospel.
We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; (1 Corinthians 4:10-12)
In summary, our greatest Christian examples (including Jesus) were neither rich nor owned expensive objects.
Scripture says that God provides the seed
The promoters of the doctrine of seed faith offerings ignore several important details in Scripture. Consider, for example, 2 Corinthians 9:10–12, “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” This passage says God supplies the seed for sowing; that is, He supplies the resources for us to generously give away. And, when we give, God will supply more resources so the giving continues. Note, however, the reaping is not monetary gain but “the harvest of your righteousness.” Also, it is thanksgivings to God that overflow, not our bank accounts. The seed sown in this passage does not result in miracles or in personal wealth. (Gotquestions.org)
God provides us money to build the kingdom, not our own bank accounts
The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. 9 As it is written,
“He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”
(2 Corinthians 9:6-9)
Despite what the televangelists teach, any blessing that we come into is not merely send to us so that we can enrich ourselves. We are blessed so that we can be a blessing to others.
Have you ever wondered why faith seeds always seem to pad the pockets of the televangelist and not to actual poor people or churches that do the work of Christ? It seems to me that any true Christian pastor who wanted to invoke one’s faith for giving would take that money and apply it to a certain ministry, not to buying a new jet or a bigger house.
My suggestion for anyone thinking about making a faith seed offering, of any nature, is to call the Salvation Army and give it to them. Or find another Christian based ministry that is trustworthy and give it to the ministry. If you give the money to the likes of Mike Murdock or Creflo Dollar then that money will surely be used on a high end car or some other luxury item that they don’t need.
The faith seed scam is basically a religious version of the get rich quick schemes whereby a spokesman becomes wealthy by telling people how they can also become wealthy. The televangelist isn’t wealthy because God saw they had great faith. They are wealthy because they convinced a lot of people that they also would become wealthy (like they are) if they give them a bunch of money.