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Before I get into the main topic of the article, I’d like to make two things clear:
Number 1. I firmly believe in, teach, and regularly practice New Covenant giving.
A simple definition of New Covenant giving is giving like Jesus.
This means ministering to people free of charge and meeting urgent needs (e.g., food, clothing, shelter, evangelism/mission work, visiting the sick and imprisoned, medical care, transportation, educational needs, and helping fellow Christians who are suffering persecution).
I believe that generous giving should come naturally for Christians, because we have received God’s generous free gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.“ (Romans 6:23)
The greatest act of giving was Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross. In it, God demonstrated His love, mercy, grace, and generosity towards us. I believe that this should be the centerpiece from which our giving flows in the New Covenant.
“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up His life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion–how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” (1 John 3:16-18)
I felt the need to state my position on giving, because some professing Christians will judge your motives and assume that if you speak against “sow a seed” manipulation, then you must be “stingy, selfish, greedy” and “you don’t believe in giving.” Well, that isn’t true. I believe in giving and I encourage God’s people to be generous.
My goal is not to persuade anyone NOT to give. My goal is to urge professing Christians to use discernment and recognize when they are being persuaded to give through manipulation and false teaching.
Many professing Christians seem to believe that as long as they give money to a “church” or “ministry,” then that’s all that matters and they have done their service unto God.
They don’t use discernment and inspect the teachings and methods that are used to raise funds. All it takes is a Bible quote and an emotional plea, and like well-programmed robots, they automatically and unquestioningly fork over cash.
Professing Christians are more skeptical and wary of people who ask them for money outside of church. But when it comes to giving to a “church” or “ministry,” they tend to set aside their common sense and logic, and ignore all of the warnings in Scripture about false shepherds making merchandise of men.
There is a reason why Jesus told us to be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves. It is because we are like sheep in the midst of wolves.
The people of God need to be more careful and discerning when anyone asks us for money, whether it’s someone outside of the church or someone with the title “pastor, bishop, apostle, prophet, evangelist, minister, reverend, etc.”
It is important that we give. But it’s also important that we give according to the truth of God’s word, not manipulation and false teaching.
God is big on giving — and He’s also big on TRUTH. Do a Bible search on the word “truth”, and see how many times it appears in Scripture. The results will show you that truth is of utmost importance to God. Is the truth important to you? Do you have a love for the truth?
Jesus said that He is the Truth (John 14:6). He said that those who worship the Father must worship Him in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
In John 8:31-32, Jesus said that if we abide in His word, then we will know the truth and the truth will set us free.
Truth and freedom go hand in hand.
Galatians 5:1 says that it was for freedom that Christ set us free. If someone is manipulating you to give them money based on a lie, then they are putting you back in spiritual shackles and infringing on your freedom in Christ.
God wants us to give freely — not in response to manipulation, intimidation, threats, scare tactics, or greed.
When we give freely and cheerfully according to the truth of God’s word, it glorifies our Father in Heaven, builds up the body of Christ, displays Jesus to the world, and reaps a bountiful harvest. This is the type of giving I support.
But I do not support the type of “giving” that is based on false teaching, manipulation, and misleading people. No born-again Christian in their right mind should support that.
Number 2. This article is not an “attack” on Sylvia W. Cunningham. She is not being “bashed” “slandered” or “persecuted by the devil.” She is being held accountable to the truth of God’s word.
Ms. Cunningham has a public platform. And when a religious leader manipulates people publicly, they will be addressed publicly. A public platform brings public scrutiny.
Many religious leaders seem not to understand this. They think that they can say and do whatever they please with no accountability, and that anyone who addresses their error is “attacking” them.
Oh, they love to talk about others being “accountable” to them, but when the tables are turned and they are the ones being held accountable for sinful conduct and false teaching — all of a sudden they play the victim and claim that they are being “persecuted by the devil.”
They claim to be so anointed, spiritually mature, and humble. But when people admonish them and reprove their errors, they become extremely prideful, angry, and childish. Honestly, I find this sort of behavior shameful for people who claim to be Christian leaders.
Being corrected on Facebook is not persecution in the slightest. Persecution is suffering for righteousness sake — not being reproved for teaching error.
Christians overseas are suffering real persecution, while religious leaders in America claim that the “devil is attacking them” because someone corrected something that they said on Facebook.
As children of God, we must learn the difference between persecution and correction, and learn how to accept both.
Moving onto the main topic of the article. . . .
Sylvia W. Cunningham is the founder of Ecclesia Worship Center located in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
On August 5, 2014, Ms. Cunningham posted a status on her Facebook page stating that one of her supporters came to Ecclesia Worship Center two weeks ago and made a donation, and now, this supporter’s settlement check is on the way. See the screenshot below.
Ms. Cunningham’s post suggests that this person’s settlement check is on the way because she “sowed a seed on the altar.”
At first glance, this would seem to confirm or prove the seed-faith teaching that if you “sow a seed” (give money) to a “church” or “ministry,” then God will be so pleased that He showers you with financial blessings.
People who don’t pay close attention may find Ms. Cunningham’s post convincing and be persuaded to “sow a seed” into her religious organization — hoping that they too, will receive a financial miracle. Well, not so fast. . . .
I am glad that this person’s settlement check is on the way. However, it is misleading for Ms. Cunningham to suggest that this person’s settlement check is on the way because she made a donation to Ecclesia Worship Center. Why is that?
If you look at the comments in the screenshot, on August 7 the supporter posted an image which shows a portion of the letter.
The letter shows that the settlement amount of $6,097.52 was previously agreed upon by the insured and the claimant. Therefore, the settlement was already on the way, and this is not an example of someone “reaping a financial miracle” because they “sowed a seed.”
Even if the claimant never gave one penny to Ecclesia Worship Center, she still would have receive a settlement check of $6,097.52 because it was already agreed upon by the insurer.
Sylvia W. Cunningham is not the only religious leader who has falsely claimed that someone received “miracle money” or some other miracle as a result of “sowing a seed” into a religious organization.
Many other Word-Faith leaders have made similar claims that someone gave money to their organization, and in response, received financial miracles, healing miracles, and other miracles.
These false testimonies create false hope and are used to manipulate people to fork over cash, increase donations, and increase the personal wealth of false teachers and false prophets in the church. This is misleading, dishonest, and manipulative.
“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. . .” (Matthew 7:15-16a)
“But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them. In this way, they will bring sudden destruction on themselves. Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of these teachers, the way of truth will be slandered. In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money. But God condemned them long ago, and their destruction will not be delayed.” (2 Peter 2:1-3)
The Truth About “Sowing A Seed”
A lot of this chatter about “sowing a seed” comes from the Word-Faith doctrine called seed-faith giving.
Some professing Christians would say that “seed-faith giving is a Biblical teaching based on the spiritual law or principle of sowing and reaping.” But the truth is that it’s a mixture of truth and error, which makes it a religious deception.
While it is true that God is pleased by our faith and obedience, it isn’t true that we must fork over cash to a “church” or “ministry” in order to get God to bless us or move on our behalf.
While it is true that generous giving reaps blessings, it isn’t true that these blessings will always be material (money, good health, houses, cars, etc). Nor is it true that these blessings will always be received in the here and now. There are eternal rewards that we will not receive until the world to come.
Paul the apostle said that God has good things in store for us that we cannot even imagine. Seed-faith giving takes the focus off of the eternal, and places the focus on temporal earthly things.
“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2)
Seed-faith giving teaches that “if you have a need, then sow a seed” — the ‘seed’ being your money. The message is, if you want God to bless you or move on your behalf, then you need to pay up.
This teaching does not come from God and the Holy Scriptures, but from the late Oral Roberts, a popular Word-Faith leader.
This “sow a seed” scam has raised an obscene amount of money and quickly spread like cancer throughout the church world.
Even religious leaders who would not describe themselves as Word-Faith teach seed-faith giving because it such an effective way to rake in loads of cash.
One of the problems with seed-faith giving is that it is based on Word-Faith heresy.
Word-Faith heresy teaches that God wants us to be wealthy, healthy, and happy, and if we think positive, speak positive, and most importantly, give LOTS of money to Word of Faith leaders — God will be so pleased that He blesses us and makes us rich. If you believe this false ‘gospel’ and you do not understand what is wrong with it, I encourage you to watch A Call For Discernment by Justin Peters.
Word-Faith leaders claim that if you want to receive this prosperity from God, then you need to give them your money as a “seed.” It is a very slick way of leeching free money from unsuspecting people under a false pretense of “sowing into the kingdom.”
Jesus Never Defined Seed As Money
In every Scripture where Jesus used the word “seed”, He never ever defined it as money. Yet many religious leaders speak of ‘seed’ primarily as money. This is a problem.
In Luke chapter 8, Jesus taught a parable about a farmer who went out to plant his seed. But the seed wasn’t money — the seed was the word of God.
“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word.” (Luke 8:11)
In Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus taught the parable of the wheat and the weeds. In verses 36-43, He explained the meaning of this parable and He defined the good seed as the people of the Kingdom –– not money.
“Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed. The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one.”
In 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, the seed was the Gospel message, the word of God — not money.
“I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.”
1 Peter 1:23 the “imperishable seed” is the word of God — not money.
“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.“
2 Corinthians 9 & Seed
In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul used the word “seed” in reference to material assistance.
“Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.” (2 Corinthians 9:6)
It’s important to note that Paul didn’t tell the saints at Corinth to “sow into his ministry.” The collection wasn’t for him. It was for poor persecuted Christians in Jerusalem. NONE of the offering was spent on operating costs and luxuries. ALL of it went to Believers who were in urgent need.
Seed-Faith Giving Encourages People To Give Out Of Selfish Motives
When we give, the most important thing is not how much we give, but WHY we give. In other words, our motives. God is not looking at the amount, but at our heart.
Our giving should be motivated by love, grace, mercy, faith, and a desire to glorify our heavenly Father. But seed-faith giving encourages people to give out of selfish motives — in order to get something for themselves.
When Jesus said “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” He was not talking about money and implying that if we give money to a religious organization, God will make us rich and wealthy.
If you read the entire chapter, Jesus was talking about how we treat others and being compassionate just as our heavenly Father is compassionate. The way that we treat others will be measured back to us. If we don’t forgive others, then God won’t forgive us. But if we’re merciful, God will show us mercy. “The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (Luke 6:38)
Word-Faith leaders have taken a passage about showing compassion to others, and twisted it into a false teaching about giving THEM money in exchange for earthly riches, good health, a happy marriage, etc.
The Seed-Faith Heresy Contradicts The Gospel Message
The Gospel message teaches that God saved us by grace through faith — we didn’t earn it. It was a free gift of God’s love and grace. Grace means unmerited favor and unearned blessings.
The seed-faith heresy turns the Gospel message of grace on its head by teaching people that they have to “pay up” to buy God’s favor.
Christian giving should reflect the Gospel message of grace. But it isn’t grace when money is given out of selfish motives.
A gift is “something given voluntarily without payment in return.” If you donate money hoping to earn a blessing from God, your donation is not a gift. A gift is given voluntarily, freely, and without any strings attached or an expectation to receive something in exchange.
Let’s say for example that it’s your friend’s birthday and you buy them a gift. Do you expect them to give you money in exchange for their birthday gift? Does the gift have strings attached and you expect them to do a favor for you in exchange? Of course not. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a gift — it would be a business transaction or an attempt to manipulate your friend into giving you want you want. This is not how God operates and this is not how God wants us to operate.
We give freely because we have received freely. We give to show others the love and grace of God. We give because we believe in the Son of God. We do not give because we are trying to receive something in exchange.
Seed-Faith Giving Portrays God as a business or a prostitute who performs favors in exchange for money
The teaching that “if you have a need, sow a seed” misrepresents God as a business or a prostitute.
A business will only provide goods and services if you pay them. A prostitute only performs favors in exchange for money. But God does not take care of us in exchange for money. He is not a business or a prostitute.
If you think that you have to fork over cash in order for God to bless you or give you favor, may I re-introduce you to the True and Living God, Jehovah Jireh — the Great Provider.
He is a gracious, merciful heavenly Father who provides for us and meets our needs because He loves us, not because we give Him anything.
In Matthew 7:26, Jesus said “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?”
In the surrounding context, the Lord was teaching us not to worry about whether our needs will be met, and to trust God to provide for us. Jesus pointed to the birds of the air as an example of how God provides. The birds of the air don’t sow any seeds, yet God provides for them.
Aren’t we more important than birds? Yes we are. But sadly, some of us have been taught that God won’t provide for us unless we “sow a seed.” This distorts who God is. If the Lord doesn’t require birds to “sow a seed” before He meets their need, then He most certainly won’t require His children to “sow a seed” before He meets our need. As we seek His Kingdom and His righteousness, He will take care of our needs because He loves us.
In John 10, Jesus said that He is the Good Shepherd who takes care of His flock and leads us to good pastures. Jesus did not say that we must “sow a seed” before He leads us to good pastures and gives us abundant life. We receive “life more abundantly” by grace through faith, not by our own works.
Even during the Old Covenant, when the children of Israel traveled through the wilderness God took care of their needs. He provided them with water, quail, manna, shelter, and kept their clothes from wearing out.
At this time, the children of Israel had not even tithed yet or given a firstfruit offering (they did not give their first tithe and their first firstfruit offering until after they entered the promised land). Yet God provided for them in the wilderness because of His mercy and kindness.
“Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)
The book of Galatians speaks against the idea that we can earn God’s favor and blessings by doing religious works.
We do not give money to earn God’s favor or get Him to move on our behalf. We give because we love God and we love people. Giving is what we do because God has provided for us and we want to “pay it forward” by providing for others, not because we are trying to get God to provide for us.
God even provides for unrighteous people who don’t serve Him — that is how kind He is. He shines on the just and the unjust. If we think that we have to “sow a seed” to earn God’s kindness, then we do not understand who God is.
Oh how I pray and yearn for God’s people to know and embrace His love for us. It is not based on what we put in the offering plate. It is simply who He is. For God is love!
Seed-Faith Giving Leads People To Give Under Pressure
2 Corinthians 9:7 says “You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”
God wants us to give cheerfully, not because we feel pressured to give.
But when a leader has trained you to think that “God won’t move on your behalf” “meet your need” or “release your blessings” unless you “sow a seed”, that puts you under a certain amount of pressure to give.
You feel like the Lord won’t answer your prayers and bless you unless you fork over some cash to a “church” or “ministry.”
Your desire to see God move in your life becomes tied to your ability to give money away. God doesn’t want us to give under this sort of pressure. We are not walking in our blood-bought freedom if we are under bondage and pressure to give money away so that God will meet our needs.
Next time a religious leader tells you to “sow a seed”, ask them to “sow a money seed” into your bank account and see what they say. If they refuse to sow financially into your life, then why are you sowing financially into theirs? Where is the reciprocity?
If they claim that they “sow spiritual things” into your life and you support them by “sowing money” into their “church” or “ministry” — direct them to the New Testament where Jesus and the apostles sowed spiritual things AND material things (food, clothing, money, etc) into people’s lives.
Leaders are suppose to lead by example, and not just by preaching at you. So if they are constantly telling you to sow material things into their “church” or “ministry,” but they are not sowing material things into your ministry and helping you in your time of need — they are actually using you to serve themselves instead of serving God by serving you.
Some of these leaders should have more than enough money by now. Some of them have six figures or seven figures in the bank. Why do they still “need” you to “sow a seed”? Who is in greater need? You or them? Who has more resources at their disposal? You or them?
If they have more money than you, then why are they asking you for money? Shouldn’t they be sowing into your life? Does it make sense for someone who has less to “sow a seed” into the “ministry” of someone who has more?
If seed-faith giving really works, then why don’t these leaders give away their entire savings? Theoretically, they would reap a greater amount in return, right? But we all know that they will never give away their entire savings, because they know that seed-faith giving isn’t true and there is no guarantee that you will become richer by giving money away.
The purpose of seed-faith giving isn’t to enrich those in the pews. It’s meant to enrich those in the pulpit who tell everyone else to “sow a seed” into their organization.
Instead of giving to false apostles who manipulate their supporters with false testimonies, give to those who are truly in need and support ministries that are honest, Biblically sound, and financially accountable.
“You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us.” (2 Corinthians 2:17)
“We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this.” (2 Corinthians 4:2)
2 thoughts on ““Sow A Seed” Manipulation [False ‘Apostle’ Sylvia W. Cunningham]”
I discern that you are correct in all you stated in this post. I know the love of Christ and I appreciate reading some accurate teaching regarding our loving Savior. Keep up the “good” work. You are blessed!
Thank you so much Bob! God bless you
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