Promoters of the false “prosperity gospel” and Word of Faith movement often like to talk about “seeding,” “seed faith offerings,” and “hundred-fold returns.” A seed faith offering is money given in faith that God will multiply it and return it to the giver. The more money you give—and the more faith you have—the more money you get in return. Prosperity preachers often solicit gifts to their ministries by promising such in-kind returns: “Send me $10 and trust God to give you back $1,000.” They give their appeals for money a spiritual gloss with statements such as “God wants to bless you with a miracle” and “Jesus is bigger than your debt.” And they will misuse verses such as Mark 4:8, “Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” It’s good to remember the “seed” in this verse is the Word of God (Mark 4:14), not money.
The late Oral Roberts was highly influential in spreading the concept of seed faith offerings, and he taught people to expect a miracle when they sow a “seed” from their “need.” He wrote, “To realize your potential, to overcome life’s problems, to see your life become fruitful, multiply and provide abundance (i.e., health, prosperity, spiritual renewal, in the family or oneself), you should decide to follow the divine law of the sower and the harvest. Sow the seed of His promise in the ground of your need” (from “Principles of the Seed”). In the July 1980 edition of Abundant Life, Roberts wrote, “Solve your money needs with money seeds” (page 4).
Richard Roberts, Oral’s son, says on his website, “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!” In May 2016, Roberts’ newsletter appealed for monetary gifts with this statement: “Sow a special $100 seed. . . . If you will plant this seed out of your need and go into a holy agreement with me, then TOGETHER you and I will EXPECT A MIGHTY MIRACLE FROM GOD” (from his website, emphasis in the original).
According to Oral Roberts, the way to take advantage of the law of sowing and reaping is three-fold: 1) look to God as your source, 2) give first so that it may be given to you, and 3) expect a miracle. As a “proof text” for the second step, seed-faith teachers like to use Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” The misuse of this verse starts with its application to material gain—Jesus was speaking of forgiveness in Luke 6:37, not money. Also, there’s a difference between “Give, and” and “Give so that.” Seed-faith teachers advocate a selfish motive for giving—give so that you can get—and they state as much. The Bible teaches that we give for the sake of benefiting others and to glorify the Lord, not in order to enrich ourselves.
Teachers of seed faith offering also like Matthew 17:20, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Of course, this verse says nothing about getting money or making seed faith offerings.
Another passage misused by seed-faith preachers is Mark 10:29–30, “Truly I tell you . . . no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields.” Seed-faith teachers latch on to the promise of a “hundred times as much,” but they only apply it to “homes” and “fields”—that is, material wealth. They ignore the rest of the list. Are we to suppose that Jesus promised His followers a hundred literal mothers or that we should expect a hundred times more blood relatives than we have now? Or was Jesus speaking of an increased spiritual family? Since the mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters are spiritual, then perhaps the homes and fields are spiritual, as well.
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.
The promoters of seed faith offerings also ignore the fact that the apostles were not wealthy men. The apostles certainly gave to others: “I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well” (2 Corinthians 12:15). Based on the doctrine of seed faith offerings, Paul should have been a rich man. Yet, “to this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands” (1 Corinthians 4:10–11). The apostles were materially poor, yet they were spiritually blessed by the Lord.
God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), but we must not assume that His favor will be shown in financial returns. Nor should we appropriate promises given to Old Testament Israel for ourselves. Our motive for giving should not be to get money in return. Our goal should be godliness with contentment (see 1 Timothy 6:6–10). We should pray, “Lord, help me learn to be content with what I have, even if I am hungry or in need” (see Philippians 4:11–13).
The seed faith teaching amounts to little more than a get-rich-quick scheme that preys upon the desperate and hurting among God’s people. Peter warned the church about such chicanery: “Through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you” (2 Peter 2:3, KJV).