But an evil eye shuts out the light and plunges you into darkness. If the light you think you have is really darkness, how deep that darkness will be! Mat 6:23 NLT
The New York Times recently published a story on Kenneth Copeland's Southwest Believers Convention which highlighted the ongoing popularity of the prosperity gospel even in times of recession and economic uncertainty. The author interviewed a couple from Missouri who illustrate perfectly the darkness Jesus spoke of in Matthew 6:23
Stephen Biellier, a long-distance trucker from Mount Vernon, Mo., said he and his wife, Millie, came to the convention praying that this would be “the overcoming year.” They are $102,000 in debt, and the bank has cut off their credit line, Mrs. Biellier said.
They say the Copelands rescued them from financial failure 23 years ago, when they bought their first truck at 22 percent interest and had to rebuild the engine twice in a year.
Around that time, Mrs. Biellier first saw Mr. Copeland on television and began sending him 50 cents a week.
Others who bought trucks from the same dealer in Joplin that year went under, the Bielliers said, but they did not.
“We would have failed if Copeland hadn’t been praying for us every day,” Mrs. Biellier said.
The Bielliers were at the convention a few years ago when a supporter made a pitch for people to join an “Elite CX Team” to raise money to buy the ministry a Citation X airplane. (Mr. Copeland is an airplane aficionado who got his start in ministry as a pilot for Oral Roberts.) At that moment, Mrs. Biellier said she heard the voice of the Holy Spirit telling her, “You were born to support this man.”
She gave $2,000 for the plane, and recently sent $1,800 for the team’s latest project: buying high-definition television equipment to upgrade the ministry’s international broadcasts.
How great is this darkness?
Here we have a couple who have been supporting the Copeland's fabulously wealthy lifestyle for 23 years yet they are no better off than when they started. Twenty three years ago the Bielliers were able to purchase a truck albeit at a high interest rate. Today the bank has cut off their credit altogether which most likely means they are unable to repay their loans. They are $102K in debt yet somehow found $2,000 to contribute towards Copeland's $20 million private jet. Rather than pay off their own debt they managed to put together $1,800 so that Copeland could pay cash for new HD camera's. After twenty three years of being a servant to their lenders, the Biellers come back for more, praying that this will finally be the "overcoming year" for them. I ask again how great is this darkness.
The return of 'indulgences?
“Because we’re partners with Kenneth Copeland, for every soul that gets saved, we get credit for that in heaven.”
I don't know about you but to me that sounds a lot like the medieval practice of selling indulgences. During the dark ages corrupt priests convinced naive people that they could purchase the grace of God for themselves and others by making a financial contribution to the church. The money collected enriched the priests and paid for the construction of many of the grand cathedrals of Europe including St Peters Basilica in Rome. This vile practice lives on today through men like Copeland who are our modern version of those corrupt medieval priests. There is truly nothing new under the sun.
The spirit of covetousness
Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them, Everyone is given to covetousness; And from the prophet even to the priest, Everyone deals falsely. Jer 6:13 NKJV
What keeps people like the Stephen and Millie Biellier coming back for more? It is the same spirit that brings gambling addicts back to the casino. It is the spirit that says this time I'll win, this year we'll receive that big blessing, this time we'll see that 100 fold return. It is the sin of covetousness, the greedy desire to have more, more, more.
You may think that only the wealthy are covetous but that is not true. Covetousness is a sin of the flesh which is common to all men, rich or poor. The prosperity gospel appeals specifically to the covetousness inherent in our sinful flesh. It entices us with the promise of a life of wealth and ease and covers it with a thin veneer of spirituality. Peter warned us that false teachers would use covetousness to deceive us.
By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words;................2Peter 2:3 NKJV
Gambling addicts get hooked because they win just enough to keep them coming back for more. They return time and time again thinking this will be the day they finally hit it big. People caught up in the prosperity gospel are victims of the same mentality. The god of this world sends out his own servants disguised as ministers of righteousness and blesses them with all the material blessings this world has to offer. These men and women are offered up as examples of those whom the true God has blessed and they are used to entice others into that same covetousness. Then, just like the gambling addict, the god of this age will bless their followers with just enough to keep them coming back for more, just enough to keep their heads above water. It is an endless circle, a never ending carousel with a brass ring that seems so close but is always just out of reach. I know how this works because I was once trapped in that never ending circle myself.
And He said to them, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses." Luke 12:15
Thirty years ago my wife and I were just as enthusiastic about the prosperity gospel as any of the people interviewed in that article. We were sure we had the truth but what we thought was light was really great darkness. We gave and gave to people like Copeland, Bob Tilton, and others thinking that our giving was pleasing to God. Over the years, our household income grew a little, our standard of living increased slightly but not any more than one would ordinarily expect as they gained experience and skill in the working world. The covetousness in our hearts kept us giving to wealthy preachers and at the same time brought us into debt for more of the things of this world. As we gained more of this worlds goods (mainly by virtue of easy credit rather than Gods blessing) we saw these as signs that the big blessing was just around the corner. What we eventually found around that corner however was not a blessing but a curse.
He who oppresses the poor to increase his riches, And he who gives to the rich, will surely come to poverty. Proverbs 22:16 NJKV
This scripture is playing out in the lives of the Biellier's but they are too blind to see it. Their evil eye (covetousness) has shut out the light and plunged them into great darkness. Just as it was in my own life, covetousness blinded me to the truth. What I thought was light (the prosperity gospel) was actually great darkness. We gave to the rich and it brought us to poverty. Even worse, we gave to those wealthy ministers who oppress the poor to increase their own riches. In return we reaped poverty, first and foremost a poverty of the spirit which brings forth an inability to see the truth.
How great is this darkness? So great that only the grace of God can remove it. Only the power of God working in a mans heart can overcome the lies he thinks are truth. I pray that God will pour out His grace on the Bielliers and millions of others like them who have been brought into great darkness by the sin of covetousness. If you have been delivered from this darkness I invite you to pray as well. Pray that the Lord will turn the captivity of His people. Pray that He will yet have mercy on those whose light is truly darkness.
And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. 2Timothy 2:24-26
Steve Lumbley 2009 www.apostasywatch.com
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