I watched a TV show by Derren Brown the other night, which looked at how people develop superstition. In a nutshell, people identify actions with effects that have nothing to do with each other, but associate a causal link between the the two without any real examination.
An example might be walking under a ladder, then later blaming that for a subsequent fortunate accident. Derren Brown repeated a social experiment where a buzzer operated every time a goldfish swam past a black line on a fish tank. The people in an adjacent room thought their actions were causing the buzzer to operate, and associated random behaviours with the buzzer, which were then repeated to try to earn more buzzes. One hundred buzzes in half an hour would earn a prize, so they were motivated.
At Pentecostal churches I’ve attended, I’ve seen various people lauded on the platform for giving large sums of money to building funds or various church causes, with an associated testimony of how God blessed them in response to this. An example would be the one we covered on this blog last year where Phil Pringle invited up a couple who gave to the miracle offering at the Presence Conference and subsequently fell pregnant. The successful pregnancy and birth was attributed to them giving to the miracle offering. This was used as an incentive to inspire (or manipulate) more people to give to that year’s offering.
But where is the causal link between these people’s giving to these purposes and God answering their prayers? Maybe in His grace He would have answered their prayers anyway; maybe He answered their prayers despite what they did.
What about Acts 8:9-23? Simon the magician is rebuked for thinking he can buy God’s gifts with money. In his case, the gift he wanted was the ability to perform miracles; to infuse people with the Holy Spirit. Peter responded to him, saying “20…“May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!”
It’s ironic that this response of Peter’s is the opposite of the financial salvation some people hope for when they give to these offerings.
Giving is good when done freely, but we are not to try to ‘buy’ gifts from God. Yet people who teach this, teach superstition – that if you give to this particular offering, you have the _chance_ of having your prayer answered – and conversely, if you don’t, you could miss out. It pretty much lines those people up with soothsayers and magicians, whom the Bible tells us we should have nothing to do with.
Putting these people up on stage and claiming their answered prayer is because they gave to an offering is a way of reinforcing this message and is pretty much what Derren Brown demonstrated.
Giving On Stage
Putting individuals up on stage at all to describe the magnitude of their giving is pretty woeful in any case. I have seen it though, numerous times during building campaigns. Once again, the aim is to encourage people to give substantial sums of a greatly sacrificial nature. (As much or more than a deposit for a home, in most cases on stage.)
Generally the people would testify of how much they pledged, and the subsequent miracle events that had happened that allowed them to meet this pledge, that was well beyond their means. Somehow, despite the miracles, I was never quite comfortable with this way of announcing it. Perhaps it was my conservative Anglican background, but this scripture seemed relevant:
2“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they (B)may be honored by men (C)Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
3“But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
4so that your giving will be in secret; and (D)your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.