“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). God or money, money or God: that is the choice each of us must make. Unfortunately, many so-called “Christian” leaders have succumbed to the lure of mammon. Peter warned us that this would happen: “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their licentiousness, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words … they have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way they have gone astray” (2 Peter 2:1-3,14-15). These false prophets have hearts trained in greed and it is because of such greed that they will exploit the flock.
How can we tell if someone is a false prophet in this regard? I believe a key indicator is how often they mention money in their sermons. Not just mentioning money, but talking about giving to their specific cause or church, and not just talking about giving to them but also emphasizing monetary rewards for those who do so. The whole idea of giving to get is antithetical to the Gospel. The Gospel tells us to sacrificially give without expecting to be repaid. It is true that we will reap what we sow and that there are rewards for doing good, but the tendency of the false prophet will be to emphasize the material and immediate reward rather than the heavenly reward that Jesus emphasized. This materialistic theology is often called the “Prosperity Gospel”. The problem with this teaching is that the central reward for man is not God, but money. If you work hard for God to get money, are you not just serving money? If you are only in relationship with God to get things from him, then are you not just using God to fulfill your own craving for mammon? Will God reward such obvious idolatry? Not only do prosperity preachers emphasize material reward as the ultimate end goal, but they also seem to focus all their messages on the individual. They will focus their sermons on you, the individual, and not on God. If they do talk about God, it is only in relation to how he is all about you, and is for you, to serve you, you, you, you. The tricky part with most false prophets is that they say half-truths rather than full lies. It is true that God cares about you, but if that is the focus of each message, then something is off. It is true that God desires to reward your generosity, but if that is the message each week, then something is wrong. So be careful, my son, that you are not also led astray by such lovers of mammon who speak only half-truths.
“For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10).