False Equivalence – By Dr Chris Kang (Ex New Creation Church Member) (Dated 19 Aug 2021)
Rev George Ong’s Opening Comments:
In a sermon delivered in 2019 by Joseph Prince and aired on YouTube as the weekly Sunday sermon on 15 Aug 2021 (last Sunday, 4 days ago), this is what (short excerpt) Joseph Prince said (click to view)
“But you know something, you are very selfish. If what you earn every month, you say, ‘I’m satisfied with $5,000 a month.’ Depending on your background, I’m just saying, I have to cut a sum right? But different parts of the world, what is enough is different. So let’s say $5,000 US, $7,000 US a month. ‘I’m very happy, Pastor Prince. I’m very happy. $3,000. Me and my family and little Jimmy. We are very happy.’ You know, you are selfish. Why don’t you make double your money and since you don’t believe, give the rest to the poor? Give the rest to the people that need it. Give the rest to your church. Why don’t you make more money and be a blessing? Having just enough is selfish. Never thought of that right? Selfish, selfish, selfish!”
False Equivalence – By Dr Chris Kang
In my past essays, I have deconstructed and debunked various kinds of straw man arguments: conflation (e.g. grace is a person); sleight-of-hand (e.g. not praying for wealth means praying for poverty); wrong attribution (e.g. the law kills); false dichotomy (e.g. law versus grace); and hyperbole (e.g. we are saints, not sinners). Today (15 August 2021), I wish to write about another kind of straw man – false equivalence.
Someone told me today (15 August 2021) that a preacher espoused something along these lines (not verbatim):
“If you pray only for a $5K salary, you are being selfish because if you pray for much more money instead, you’ll be able to give to the poor and tithe to the church!”
This preacher was Joseph Prince. I no longer hear or watch his sermons but someone brought this to my attention which I corroborated. Upon hearing this, I was left speechless. I could not believe a preacher could say something so seriously false and spiritually destructive from the pulpit. Let me explain.
This is a classic straw man argument based on false equivalence. Asking for more money does not make one generous. Neither does asking for a modest amount of money make one selfish. Generosity and selfishness have nothing to do with asking for more or less money. This is a false equivalence. On top of that, this is dangerous and fallacious reasoning.
If one has complete purity of motives and selfless generosity, asking for more money to give away is not an issue. But this is almost impossible for most if not all people, the preacher included I suspect. In fact, my guess is that most, if not all, would operate from greed and covetousness more than from genuine generosity. Sad to say, we are only all too human in our fallenness.
Asking for more and more money runs the real risk of leading one into temptation and destruction. It underestimates the power of sin and downplays the danger of greed in us. It overestimates our ability to be pure and generous from start to finish. In the end, what actually happens is the reinforcing of greed and covetousness that kills our soul and harms life.
What happens when this person’s prayer is not answered? Will they lose their faith and reject Christ? Probably.
Even if they get what they pray for, will they really give away to the poor or to the church? Very unlikely. As for tithing to the church, do we have the wisdom to tithe to the true church of Christ and not to some cultish religious scam?
This preacher (Joseph Prince) is making a straw man argument based on sleight-of-hand false equivalence: praying for more or less has nothing to do with generosity or selfishness whatsoever. Following this bad advice does not glorify God. On the contrary, it dishonours God and destroys souls. It is spiritually destructive, especially if one is unmindful and whitewashing one’s greed with some vague sense of future giving. It sounds like false teaching from a false teacher that deceives the masses and potentially leads them, covetous and voraciously clinging, straight into the hell of narcissistic despair.
That said, if we sincerely have a heart of love for others and for missions, praying to God for more capacity and finances to help others and to glorify God is not in itself a problem. Just make sure we remain mindful and vigilant as to our motives. And guard against unfairly judging others who only pray for a modest amount as selfish. They may be simply contented folks who understand that God’s providence is infinitely greater. Calling them selfish is unloving and unjust, unbecoming of a believer let alone a pastor or preacher.
Those who call themselves men of God should earnestly examine themselves before making such groundless and unjust accusations against innocent persons who are simply guarding against enflaming their own covetousness. For such unthinking preachers, repentance is in due order, I believe. May God compel them to do so, for the good of His church and the glory of His name.
Rev George Ong’s Closing Comments:
Dr Chris Kang has warned about what Joseph Prince said in his video that could produce greed and destroy us when he wrote,
“Asking for more and more money runs the real risk of leading one into temptation and destruction. It underestimates the power of sin and downplays the danger of greed in us. It overestimates our ability to be pure and generous from start to finish. In the end, what actually happens is the reinforcing of greed and covetousness that kills our soul and harms life.”
Note also what Joseph Prince said about his advice to the founder of Hyflux (click to read if you haven’t read the previous article, “Joseph Prince & The Hyflux Fiasco”)
If you compare the warning that Dr Chris Kang sounded about asking for more and more money that could destroy us (in relation to what Joseph Prince said in his video) and what Joseph Prince wrote about his advice to the founder of Hyflux to ask God for big things which she did, could you connect the dots?