VIDEO TO MAKE YOUR BLOOD BOIL
PROSPERITY GOSPEL TACTICS
As Seen in John Avanzini
As Used by Most Prosperity Preachers
by Russell Earl Kelly, PHD
The so-called Prospereity Gospel is really a horrendously unbiblical false gospel which is destroying the good name of Christianaity and is replacing it with a message of greed and selfishness.
John Avanzini’s Hundredfold Lie is very typical of other prosperity preachers. They all use the same tactics and WoF abuse of God’s Word.
This article can be duplicated almost word for word concerning any of the “great” word-faith preachers such as Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, T D Jakes, Creflo P. Dollar and all of the other false-prophet-John Avanzini types who are getting rich by manipulating the poor among God’s beloved children.
Go to Nigeria, one of the poorest and least educated nations of the world. Assemble 1000 Pentecostal holiness preachers whose main education is from preaching seminars. Tell them that God appeared to you in a vision last night. Promise them that God said He would give a one hundred-fold financial increase to those who would give what he instructed in faith. The result? The crowd of preachers went wild. They gave everything they could get their hands on and even threw their wedding rings and watches to Avanzini.
John Avanzini boasts about this great Holy Spirit experience and tells it over and over again as he goes to churches around the world. He speaks of his Nigerian driver who immediately received a new car but he does not tell if that driver continued to receive the hundredfold financial blessing from future donations. He does not tell if that driver is now superabundantly rich today because he has kept on giving. The odds of a few of the 1000 eventually receiving a financial bonus are great, but why did not most of them receive it?
The motive? Do I have to spell it out? All prosperity preachers appeal to greed, avarice, covetousness and especially ignorance of God’s Word.
What does the Bible say about the “hundredfold” increase? The NT Word of God includes the word five (5) times in two occasions. It occurs in Matthew 13:8, 23 and the parallel in Luke 8:8. It also appears in Matthew 19:29 and its parallel in Mark 10:30.
FIRST USE OF “HUNDREDFOLD”:
Matthew 13:8, 23 and Luke 8:8 is Jesus’ parable of the sower. It is about gospel workers who go forth and sow seeds of gospel truth (not money) in order to harvest souls (not money) for the kingdom of God. The context is NOT about money! In 13:10 the disciples asked Jesus why he taught in parables. Referring to knowledge of the “mysteries of heaven” in 13:11, Jesus says in 13:12 that those who are given knowledge from God will be given even “more abundance” –of knowledge, not money! Again this is referring to knowledge and not money.
SECOND USE OF “HUNDREDFOLD”:
Matthew 19:29 is in the context of the aftermath of the rich young ruler leaving because he was not willing to give up his fortune and follow Jesus from 19:22. Jesus summed up the encounter by saying in 19:23 “It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus’ statement would not make sense if he wanted his disciples to become rich with earthly possessions.
In Matthew 19:27 Peter asked the important question that is in the minds of many Christians today. After reminding Jesus that the disciples had left everything and followed him, he asked “What then will there be for us?” In other words, “What kind of reward will we receive for following you?”
In 19:28 Jesus replied to the direct and pertinent question, “In the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Notice that the rewards are not earthly rewards for this age at all.
Jesus continues in 19:29, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” In the context of 19:28 this must only refer to “in the regeneration” and not to this current age.
THIRD USE OF “HUNDREDFOLD”:
Mark 10:30 (cf Luke 18:30) coincides with Matthew 19:29 but is worded differently. It reads “He will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.” The question is “Is Jesus speaking of material blessings in this age or is he speaking about the blessings of sharing from the extended body of Christ wherever Christians may go?” It is clear from common sense that one hundred “houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and farms” far exceeds the needs and expectations of even kings. It is significant that “money” and “wealth” are not listed.
In conclusion, therefore, the New Testament does not teach that the “hundred-fold” blessing is a reference to personal physical financial blessings on earth for all Christians.
However, that is totally irrelevant to John Avanzini and others like him. Why? Because he does not claim that the “hundred-fold” teaching is from God’s Word! As a self-designated “prophet” who has been “anointed” in a vision by the Holy Spirit while in Nigeria, this “truth” has been given to him “prophetically” as the means for blessing faithful Christians in the “end times.” Therefore it is not necessary to use the Word of God to prove it at all! That is what he teaches in one of his many books.
OLD COVENANT LEVITES AND PRIESTS WERE EXPECTED TO REMAIN AMONG THE POOREST IN SOCIETY
Deut 14:28 At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates:
Deut 14:29 And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.
Jesus lived the life of a poor wandering preacher.
Isa 53:2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
Isa 53:3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Matthew 8:20 “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Luke 2:24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves , or two young pigeons. See Lev 14:15 sacrifice of the poor.
2 Cor 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
2 Cor 8:9 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might be rich.”
Phil 2:6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
Phil 2:7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
Phil 2:8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
(1) According to Matthew 10:1-11, as visiting evangelists the twelve lived as the poorest of the land and depended on others to house, clothe and feed them. Such was their “worthy” support.
“Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support. And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city” (Mt 10:9-11).
(2) According to Matthew 12:1 the disciples and Jesus were allowed to glean food from property of others because they were poor.
(3) According to Matthew 12:2 the Pharisees did not rebuke him for being wealthy and unqualified to glean.
(4) According to Luke 10:3-8 Jesus told the 70 “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.
Peter’s famous quotation in Acts 3:6 was typical of Christ’s disciples who were expected to remain poor. “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you.”
Paul did not seek or expect wealth as a result of “giving God the amount he tells you to give” or as a result of strong “faith.” He would have scoffed at the idea of a “hundredfold” financial blessing.
1 Cor 9:12 If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.
1 Cor 9:15 But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.
1 Cor 9:18 What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.
Phil 3:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Phil 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung , that I may win Christ,
Philippians 4:11 “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”
James 2:5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
Paul wrote to Timothy in 1st Timothy 6:8 “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
Matthew 11:5 “The poor have the gospel preached to them.”
Matthew 26:11 “You will always have the poor with you [even among believers].
Mark 12:42-44 [There is no indication that the poor widow received any kind of financial blessing after giving her all –especially not 100 times more!]
Luke 6:20 “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”
Luke 14:13, 21 [The poor (not the rich) are called to the wedding party.]
James 2:5 Has not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to them that love him?
Matthew 19:23 “A rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 19:24 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
Luke 1:53 He has sent the rich away empty (no salvation).
Luke 6:24 Woe to you that are rich! For you have already received your comfort in full.
Luke 12:21 The man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
1 Tim 6:9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.
1 Tim 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
James 2:5 Did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?
James 5:1 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.
Kelly: The Bible does not record any instances of Christians becoming financially wealthy through applying the “hundredfold increase” principle. Jesus, his disciples, Paul and early Christians in Acts were not financially secure. If there are no demonstrable instances of success found in God’s Word, then why are we to assume that Avanzini is correct for our generation?
AVANZINI: I advise you to be certain you have the leading of the Holy Spirit before you act on anything written here.
KELLY: The Holy Spirit makes doctrine clear in its proper context and the results of the Spirit’s teaching are seen already present in the New Testament church after Pentecost. If it cannot be demonstrated to work within the Word of God, then it probably is not a true doctrine.
AVANZINIi: From that day on, I would teach a very special end-time message. At the end of my session the next day, I was to take an offering. He promised He would miraculously reveal Himself through this offering with unmistakable signs and wonders.
KELLY: This kind of argument does not require God’s Word to prove itself true.
AVANZINI: God said to him: “When My people give without a desired result in mind, they do not give in faith.”
KELLY: In the context of the long statement which precedes this vision Avanzini is saying that we must give and EXPECT God to bless our giving financially.
AVANZINI: They must believe with you, that when you lay your hands on the offering, it will be multiplied back to them one hundredfold
KELLY: Now the blessing only comes when Avanzini himself is physically touching the offering plate and praying over it. HE is the channel of the financial blessing! His later books add many reasons for not receiving the promised hundredfold blessing.
AVANZINI: I told them there would be a miraculous manifestation of the one hundredfold increase to everyone who would join their faith with mine in this meeting.
KELLY: This did not happen to “everyone.” Evidently most of the 1000 Pentecostal preachers assembled must have done something spiritually wrong.
AVANZINI: Ninety percent of the congregation had not yet given, and the offering plates were full and overflowing. Two pillowcases were now jammed to capacity with money. Watches, rings, money, and articles of clothing were ankle deep on the floor around me. I closed my eyes and said, “Be multiplied one hundredfold in the name of Jesus”.
KELLY: Was this the hand of God or the result of carefully orchestrated mass hysteria and greed? Was it repeated at every service afterwards?
AVANZINI: Every letter must come to my desk for me to personally lay my hands on. I have stressed to them that I must speak the one-hundredfold increase over each individual letter.
KELLY: When would he have time for anything else? Do you not see how silly this is?
Book Epilogue: Dr. Avanzini is an extraordinary teacher of the Word of God,
KELLY: John Avanzini is an extraordinary manipulator of poor, ignorant uneducated people and takes advantage of them often.
THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL and John Avanzini, by Russell Earl Kelly
KELLY: The methodology and Word-of-Faith principles of biblical interpretation used by John Avanzini of the Trinity Broadcasting Network are typical of many prosperity preachers today.
2 Cor 2:17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God. NASU
2 Cor 4:2 but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God. NASU
This author has read, rebutted and critiqued many books on tithing, but this one is the worst of them all. Mr. Avanzini is truly a “peddler” of the Word of God.
KELLY: In Avanzini’s 1994 book, God’s Debtfree Guarantee, he links his promises to donations to himself as in pages 89-91. He “adulterates” the Word of God by using it as like a magic Ouiji board game to move it around to spell out only what he wants it to say.
In typical Word-of-Faith abuse of context, he begins his book on page 11 with the story of David and Goliath. Avanzini wants to make five (5) points in his book. Therefore he finds a Bible story which contains the number “five.” Like David we are to use five round stones to kill our Goliath-debt and become debt free. And, in WoF-style, the “only one thing” to “totally defeat” the “goliath (spirit) of debt” is to use Avanzini’s five stones, or five principles (p12).
What is wrong with Avanzini’s principles? There are thousands of secular schools and secular economists which teach 2 or 3 or Avanzini’s principles and their graduates accomplish the same thing without teaching tithing or “memorial prayer giving” TO the WoF preacher in order to make them effective! Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill and many others accomplish the same goals without peddling or adulterating the Word of God.
AVANZINI: “Any one of these stones I am about to place in your hand has enough power in it to remove forever the debt you are now facing.” The subtle approach is that the power originates from the givers of the stones, the WoF preachers. Over and over he stresses that one must use all five stones, especially the third stone of tithing and the fifth stone of memorial giving (to himself). (P13)
KELLY: The prosperity preacher aims to get into the psyche of the giver and convince him or her that their teaching is divinely inspired of God and cannot err. With doubt removed, the giver becomes vulnerable.
AVANZINI: “Now please don’t think upon these concepts as if they were my own ideas. Instead I want you to see them for what they really are. They are God’s ideas. The further you read in this book the more obvious it will become that they could not be the thoughts of a mere man. They are the thoughts of our great God” (p14, 16).
COMMENT: In my opinion this claim is pure blasphemy! Avanzini has elevated his book and his or her teachings to equality with the Word of God. In reality the thoughts are often so childish that God has been “lowered” to the level of a greedy and ignorant preacher.
AVANZINI: “Revelation 12:11 ‘they overcame him by the word of their testimony.’ The Apostle John tells us that overcoming power comes from the testimony of other believers” (p16).
KELLY: Although this may be a true conclusion, the text itself does not necessarily refer to the testimony of “others” rather than the believer’s own testimony. Avanzini uses this to insert short testimonies throughout his book. How many negative testimonies does he receive? What is the percentage of positive testimonies? Are the testimonies the result of following all five of his principles or merely the result of following the common sense ones? What is the percentage of positive testimonies received by Dale Carnegie and Napoleon Hill?
AVANZINI: Elisha rescued a widow-wife of one of his students by providing a miracle of much oil to sell. 2 Kings 4:7 “Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest” (P20-21).
KELLY: He also does not point out that the text says absolutely nothing about her paying tithes or offerings from the oil. The widow’s plight was caused by the death of her faithful husband from 4:1.
AVANZINI: Nehemiah 5:4-12 is used to demonstrate that Nehemiah’s people believed in a debt-canceling God. He says “Nehemiah commands the leaders to cancel the people’s debts. Miraculously, God leads all the lenders to forgive the whole nation of their debts.” “The Bible tells us Nehemiah’s people became debt free when they believed in their debt-canceling God’s ability to deliver them” (P22-23).
KELLY: There is no evidence that the people believed in a debt canceling God in the text itself! As Avanzini pointed out, the governor “commanded” the wealthy to forgive the debts. It was not a “miracle” at all. The people still had to pay the same taxes to the king of Persia and to the governor which caused the debts. Avanzini changed the story to fit his own thoughts.
AVANZINI: Mathew 17:24-27 is quoted to show that Jesus believed in a debt-canceling God when he sent Peter to get the coin from the fish to pay Roman taxes (P24-25).
KELLY: In reality Jesus performed this miracle to prevent “offending” the soldiers. Notice that even Jesus paid taxes BEFORE paying any “tithes and offerings” out of the money he received from the fish. This contradicts Avanzini’s later statements about priorities of firstfruits and tithing.
AVANZINI: “God’s Word tells you in black and white that he wants you to be debt free. Please take the time to read the first fifteen verses of the twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy” (P29).
KELLY: How dare you quote these verses out of context as if they have anything to say to the redeemed body of Christ! Yes, read them –all of them. Begin reading at Deuteronomy 27:12 and read to 28:68. Especially read the last verse in chapter 27 before Avanzini begins his quote “Deut 27:26 Cursed is he that confirms not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.” The word “ALL” refers to ALL of the Mosaic Law –all of its commands, statutes and judgments per Avanzini’s own 28:1! Paul quoted Deut 27:26 to teach that any New Covenant believer who tries to please God by obedience to the Mosaic actually Law places himself/herself under the curse of that law.
AVANZINI: Deut 28:15 “But it shall come to pass, if you will not hearken unto the voice of the LORD your God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command you this day; that all these curses shall come upon you, and overtake you” (P30).
KELLY: Avanzini should listen more carefully to this verse he quotes completely out of context. The blessings of giving and tithing cannot legitimately be separated from the blessings and curses of the entire Mosaic Law. He is placing believers under the curse of the entire law unless they can obey every single aspect of it. This is Old Covenant and out of context.
AVANZINI: “The Word of God says that with each of these strategic pieces of knowledge supernatural power comes to you from God.” (P31)
KELLY: He will contradict himself when he adds the third stone of tithing and he will say that NO blessing can come until one first pays a tithe. In reality several of his principles are common sense and come to those who may even be unbelievers or oil-rich Muslims or to those who have inherited riches.
AVANZINI: The second Holy Spirit- shaped stone, or principle, is obedience and good works. Avanzini says that, unless a person lives a good moral life and performs many good works for others, then that person will not be debt free (35-48).
KELLY: This kind of logic only works in Avanzini’s scheme to eventually draw money out of believers using his final point. It also gives him a reply to those who give everything they have to himself and are not subsequently blessed.
AVANZINI: “The second stone I want to place in your hand will call for some definite activity on your part. To receive the full benefit of the divine energy….” “Simply said you are going to have to do the things people are getting out of debt do” (p35).
COMMENT: In other words, secular economists and secular positive thinking teachers actually latch onto “divine energy” even though they give God no credit for their success— and they do not include tithing or memorial giving.
AVANZINI says that in order to be debt free we must (1) perform good works (p35), (2) be moral upright people (p36-37), (3) stop impulse buying (p37), (4) get rid of credit cards and other charge accounts (p38), (5) think and speak positive re-enforcement (p39-41), (6) verbally keep repeating your goals. [Again Avanzini quotes Revelation 12:11, but this time he applies it correctly to one’s own testimony rather than others (compare page 16).], (7) pay off smallest bills first, then apply that money to the next smallest bill (p46-47).
KELLY: These are common tools used by even secular and atheistic finance counselors. Unfortunately many rich atheists are debt free without living the moral upright life.
AVANZINI: The third smooth stone principle for debt free living is tithing (P49-60).
KELLY: How does Avanzini explain that most non-tithers and secular persons are financially better off then tithers? If tithing is an “ESSENTIAL” principle for debt-free living then why are there so many rich non-tithers? And why are not most “tithers” rich?
AVANZINI: “Please note that this TITHING stone will not be optional in your war on debt. It is absolutely necessary if you want to live in God’s debt-free guarantee” (P49).
KELLY: For the reasons previously discussed this cannot possibly be true. (1) Malachi 3:10 is part of the blessings and curses of the Mosaic Law and cannot be legitimately separated from those blessings and curses. (2) Many rich people do not tithe. (3) Most poor people who do tithe are not wealthy. (4) Tithing was never given to the Church as a New Covenant principle.
AVANZINI: “You must now make a quality decision, for if you hope to walk in God’s debt-free guarantee, you must walk under an open heaven. You must be an uncompromising tither” (P51).
KELLY: (1) Avanzini has just changed the third stone into the first stone. (2) His statement on page 13 is made null and void because now NONE of the others stones work unless one FIRST tithes. (3) His common sense statements on pages 46-47 no longer works unless one tithes first (although they still work for secular economists). (4) The debt burden which was relieved on pages 46-47 is now INCREASED by 10% before any bills are paid off –including essentials such as medicine, housing, food and utilities. (5) Worse yet, the debtor is now placed under the CURSE of the Mosaic Law unless he can obey ALL of it (per Avanzini). Deut 28:1; Gal 3:10.
Avanzini plays a “bait and switch” game with words describing tithing. He ignores the words “bring” from Malachi 3:10 and Nehemiah 10:37 and he ignores “gave” in Genesis 14:20. Instead he emphasizes “take” in Hebrews 7:5, “paid” in Hebrews 7:9 and “pay” in Matthew 23:23. He does not reveal that the tithe was “paid”, not to the priests, but to the Levite servants to the priests who now correspond to the ushers, deacons, choir, builders, maintenance men and judges. And, to protect his own interests, he does not reveal that those who received tithes were not allowed to own or inherit property in Bible times (p52).
AVANZINI: “The tithe is only one of many things about which God speaks strongly. … He gives his opinion about those who refuse to work or support their families. He says they should not be allowed to eat (1 Tim 5:8; 2 Thess 3:10)” (p53).
KELLY: 1 Tim 5:8 “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” How does Avanzini reconcile this text with his demand that the “firstfruits” be given to God as tithes? Does not the family’s essentials come first?
AVANZINI: “Please know that anything you try to do as a non-tither becomes much more difficult to accomplish. … Scripture shows only one way to stop the devourer from ruining every aspect of your life. You must immediately start tithing” (p54).
KELLY: This is simply not true for secular economists, atheists, oil-rich Muslims, and the well-educated motivated part of any society. It is not even true for most poor uneducated Christians who do faithfully “tithe.” Unless a principle is stated after Calvary in New Covenant terms, it is not part of the New Covenant and has “no glory” at all. That applies to tithing also. 2 Cor 3:10 “For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory.” NIV
AVANZINI: “God’s Word plainly states that the tithe is ten per cent of all the increase you receive” (p56).
KELLY: Not true. God’s word only commanded Old Covenant Israelites who lived inside Israel and were either farmers or herdsmen to tithe. It was always only FOOD; it was still food 1000 years later in Malachi 3:10-11 and 400 years after that in Matthew 23:23. Income from crafts and trades was never tithed in Israel. And the church has never been commanded to tithe. New Covenant giving principles are controlled by the Spirit-guided conscience.
AVANZINI quotes Genesis 14:20 where Abraham gave a tithe of spoils of war to the priest-king, Melchizedek (p56).
KELLY: In 14:21 he gave the 90% to the king of Sodom. Do we follow both examples or neither? Those were not true holy tithes from God’s holy land and Abraham gave nothing of his own property.
AVANZINI: “You should always pay your tithe on your gross income, not on your net income (P57).
KELLY: This does not work for farmers, traveling salespersons or those who own their own businesses. These and other professions must pay great expenses before receiving any profit.
AVANZINI quotes Proverbs 3:9 “Honor the LORD with your substance, and with the firstfruits of all your increase” (P57).
KELLY: Like most tithe-teachers, he thinks that tithes and firstfruits were the same thing. According to Deuteronomy 26:1-10 the firstfruits were very small token offerings which would fit in a small handheld basket. According to Nehemiah 10:35-37a, the firstfruits were taken by the people to feed the priests who were rotating one week at a time in the Temple. On the other hand tithes were taken to the Levitical cities where 98% of those it was legislated to feed lived most of the time (Neh 10:37b; Num 18:21-24). Tithes were not firstfruits.
AVANZINI: [Referring to Proverbs 3:9-10] “It should be clear from this scripture that you are to pay your tithe first. If you do not pay it first you will not be honoring God with your firstfruits” (P57).
KELLY: Again, tithes are NOT the same as firstfruits. Firstfruits were a very small token offering. Lev 23:10 ‘”When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a [single] sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest.” The tithe was brought after the full harvest was completed. Even if the crops eventually failed the firstfruits had already been given.
AVANZINI: “You should always allow your tithe to have preeminence over your taxes.” (Refers to Matthew 22:15-22.) (P57)
KELLY: Jesus did not say that! On page 25 Avanzini taught exactly the opposite when Jesus paid taxes from the coin in the fish’s mouth and did not pay tithes and offerings from the value.
AVANZINI: “Notice how our Lord’s answer kept everything in proper order. [quotes Mt 22:21] ‘Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.’ Let me paraphrase his answer to clarify what he was actually saying. ‘Go ahead and give Caesar his tax. However, you must also give God that which is his (the firstfruits, or the tithe). … to give God his proper place you must pay your tithe from your paycheck before you pay anything else …” (P58).
KELLY: Avanzini’s illustration does not prove his point. It merely proves that Jesus gave both paying government taxes and spiritual giving equal authority. Tithing is not even in the discussion.
AVANZINI: “Not only must you pay your tithe but you must bring it to the proper place. In almost every case that place will be your local church” (P58-59).
KELLY: Avanzini twists scripture to make it say what he wants it to say. Actually there is no direct connection between the OT Temple storehouse and the local church. During the OT time the Holy Spirit did not permanently indwell believers and the Temple “building” was the dwelling place of the Shekinah glory of God.
The New Covenant completely removes that imagery. (1) The Holy Spirit now indwells every believer and the dwelling place of God is not in a physical building called a Temple or storehouse (1 Cor 3:16-17; 6:19). (2) History reveals that the early church did not maintain permanent church buildings for more than 300 years after Pentecost until it became a legal religion.
AVANZINI: “However, in rare cases they (local churches) are not (available). … In these cases you should find a ministry that will faithfully minister the Word of God to you on a regular basis. It might be a television network or a specific radio or television program. It might be a ministry that ministers to you by regular correspondence…” (P59).
KELLY: The “regular correspondence.” This opens the door wide for literally millions of shut-ins to send their tithe directly to John Avanzini. Acts 20:35 “In everything I did, I showed you [PREACHERS] that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” Somehow the flow of money has been reversed since Jesus spoke these words and Paul repeated them to preachers.
AVANZINI: “Malachi 3:10 tells us to bring our tithe into the storehouse of God. … Malachi tells us that the storehouse and God’s house are the same place. Timothy gives us New Testament clarity on this subject by identifying the local church as the house of God.” 1 Tim 3:15 “.. how thou ought to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (P59).
KELLY: (1) The word “house” in the KJV of 1 Timothy 3:15 is better translated “household” in the NAS, NIV and RSV. It refers to the assembled body of believers and not to a building. (2) History also reveals that tithing did not become an enforced church law for over 700 years after Calvary.
AVANZINI: “You must now take firm hold of this powerful weapon… If you are not a regular tither you must now begin to tithe. In so doing the energy of God will begin to flow freely …” (P59).
KELLY: Avanzini freely uses the word “must” to describe how debt-free living can be attained. Yet there is not a single post-Calvary text which instructs the church to tithe (and they could not follow any of the tithing principles of Numbers 18 if they tried). The fact that tithing is not included in the essentials for debt-free living is evidenced by the wealthiest people on earth who do not tithe. It is also evidenced by scores of thousands of poor believers who have faithfully “tithed” for decades and remain in poverty with proper education and training. There is nothing magic about tithing because it places one under the curse of the Mosaic Law (Galatians 3:10).
AVANZINI: The fourth stone principle of debt-free living is to follow the Golden Rule (P61-68).
KELLY: Avanzini gives a breathing spell with this simple principle before dropping the bombshell of the last stone which will guarantee himself wealth.
AVANZINI: The fifth stone is the memorial prayer. In addition to following the four previous principles, one must also send a “substantial” monetary gift along with a prayer request to become debt-free (69-79).
KELLY: Follow the sequence and you will discover that this memorial-gift should be given to Mr. Avanzini himself. Multiply the gift by tens of thousands who hear Avanzini and read his books and one cannot help but conclude that a lot of money flows into Avanzini’s pocket with this principle.
AVANZINI: The tithe of the chapter is “Putting Heaven on Notice” (P69).
KELLY: This arrogant-sounding tithe is exactly as it is meant to be by Avanzini. The believer is not in a position to demand that God cancel their debts.
AVANZINI: “The fifth step in drawing the power of God into your war on debt is extremely effective” (P69).
KELLY: (1) The secular and atheistic economists seem to accomplish debt-free results without using this step. They do not ask for their audiences to begin their debt-free journey by first sending large sums of money to themselves.(2) If Avanzini’s principles worked, the news would spread and every Christian on earth would be debt-free –and Avanzini would be the wealthiest person on earth instead of Bill Gates, Warren Buttett, Oprah Winfrey or some oil tycoon.
AVANZINI: The story of the Gentile centurion named Cornelius from Acts 10 is given to demonstrate this principle (P70-71).
KELLY: The story is completely irrelevant. (1) The Bible does not say that Cornelius had a debt problem. (2) Cornelius did not give to the poor to relieve his debt problem. (3) The Bible does not say that Cornelius gave tithes because, as a Gentiles, he was not permitted t do so. (4) The Bible does not say that Cornelius was debt-free after his conversion.
AVANZINI: The story of Jephthah from Judges is given as an illustration of somebody who added a memorial to his prayer (P73-74).
KELLY: This is a questionable illustration. Many commentaries call it s “rash” prayer because there is some speculation that Jephthah did not expect his daughter to be taken away from him when she was first to greet him. Avanzini does not tell how the incident ended.
AVANZINI: The story of Elijah and the starving widow from 1st Kings 17 is given as an example of a memorial prayer which produced debt-free living (P75-76).
KELLY: (1) Elijah’s own “debt-free” lifestyle included living in a cave and being fed by birds in 17:6. (2) The Bible does not say that the widow offered a memorial prayer; it describes her as desperate and expecting to die from starvation. (3) Afterwards there was no “prosperity” living for either the prophet or the widow and Avanzini teaches is the destiny of true believers. (4) Tithing is neither mentioned nor implied in this passage either.
AVANZINI: “It is evident from this passage that the priests of that day knew something about prayer that has been lost to our day” (P78).
KELLY: Wow! The priests of Elijah’s time in Samaria under King Ahab worshipped Baal and were partially responsible for the famine described in the next chapter.
AVANZINI repeats and sums up his five stone-principles (P81-91).
KELLY: His last point is that the others must be initialized by a memorial donation to himself. This sets the stage for guaranteed prosperity –for the preachers.
AVANZINI: “As soon as you can say ‘Yes, I believe and can put all five of these steps to work,’ you will be on your way to a total victory over debt. If you can say ‘yes, I believe, and I am ready to start, just complete the form on the next page and mail it to me at this address….” (p89).
KELLY: Watch. He will very soon add something to “just complete the form and mail it to me.”
AVANZINI: “I eagerly await hearing from you so that I can take your memorial prayer before the father and agree with you about getting out of debt as soon as possible” (P89).
KELLY: Avanzini meant to say “so that I can take your memorial prayer before the father AND TAKE YOUR CHECK TO THE BANK.”
AVANZINI: This is a form to fill out with your commitment to the five principles. Under the principle of the memorial prayer it reads; “I will mix my giving with my prayer to be debt free. I am giving a good and proper gift, one that demonstrates my sincerity. My gift will be $_____. This is a significant amount to me and I know it will memorialize my prayer in God’s sight. Complete this form, enclose it in the envelope at the back of this book, and mail it today” (P91).
KELLY: This is the heart of the greedy prosperity preacher. Read it several times. (1) There is no suggestion that sending the memorial money to the local church is acceptable. (2) Twice Avanzini suggests a large gift by saying “a good and proper gift” and “a significant amount.” (3) The memorial money is to be mailed to John Avanzini. (4) For some unknown reason this book does not include the “hundredfold” blessing formula so prominent in his earlier book from 1989. It stated that the money must be mailed to him and that he alone could pray the special multiplication prayer over it.
KELLY’S CONCLUSION: I cannot possibly imagine Jesus or Peter or John or James or Paul telling Gentile Christians to either tithe or else to become debt-free through sending memorial money to themselves. Avanzini is a false teacher, one who peddles the Word of God for profit and adulterates its gospel message of salvation for monetary profit.
Please let me know if this article has helped you. No money, please.
Russell Earl Kelly, Ph. D.