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“Sow your seed” means “Send us your money”
A “seed faith offering” is another term for Prosperity teaching, or “prosperity gospel.” The “gospel” (literally, good news) here is that if you “sow your seed” (= donate your money), God will make you rich.
This Word-Faith doctrine claims that to receive anything at all from God (e.g. healing, a spouse, financial gain, a new job), you must first donate money. In other words, “sow your seed” into the bank account of whomever makes this promise. You reap what you sow, they say.
Misinterpreting and misusing a Bible verse, some of these preachers (and some so-called financial advisors), promise a “hundred-fold return.”
The Bible verse money-hungry evangelists misuse
This is the Bible verse these scammers twist in order to manipulate you into giving them your money:
Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
Thing is, you should also read such verses in their context. [See: The 8 Rules of Biblical Interpretation]. In this case the context is The Parable of the Sower. Jesus told this story to the crowd (Mark 4:1-9).
Later, when the crowd had left, his disciples asked him about the parables. As part of his explanation [Mark 4:10-20] Jesus said, “The farmer sows the word.” (Mark 4:14).
He sows the word. Not money, but the word. The word is sown, and the people who hear it respond in different ways — none of them involving any money. (Although, to be fair, you may have spotted that phrase, “the deceitfulness of wealth” in verse 19).
Any preacher who changes “the word” into “the money” is a swindler playing fast and loose with the Bible in order to trick you into parting with your money.
Prosperity preachers don’t believe their own claims
If this scam worked as advertised, these folks would be sending you money.
Someone does get rich, but is isn’t you
The concept of the seed faith offering was invented by James Eugene Ewing, who has long run a scam known as St. Matthew’s Churches:
Are you one of the area residents who recently received a curious “Jesus Eyes Prayer Rug” in the mail with the suggestion of divine blessings if only you would send money?
The come-on might seem bizarre, but it is said to be a lucrative direct-mail campaign.
Most people will just throw the letters in the trash with the other junk mail, but one organization says a few – the poor, the sick, those in spiritual crisis or otherwise desperate enough to grasp at any hope – will send money.
A lot of money.
“By their own estimates, it’s up to $40 million to $50 million a year now,” said Ole Anthony, founder of the Trinity Foundation, a religious community in Dallas, Texas, that for years has been tracking the operations of the man responsible for the prayer-rug campaign, James Eugene Ewing.
Ewing, believed to be near 70, lives in Century City, Calif., but the prayer-rug campaign is run under the name of Saint Matthew’s Churches and carries a return address of a post office box in Tulsa, Okla.
As a federal nonprofit group, the organization filed tax returns through 1999, when it showed $26.8 million for the year in direct public support.
Then the organization declared itself a church and, as such, was no longer required to file returns.
On the GuideStar Web site, which provides information to help consumers evaluate charities, the information about Saint Matthew’s seems routine.
“Since it was founded, Saint Matthew’s Churches has been active in publishing, giving out, and mailing the Gospel, all free of charge,” it says, and claims the “mother church” has the capacity to seat 1,600. In the absence of tax-return information, according to the Web site, such information is provided by the organization.
The address of the church is given as 515 S. Main St., Tulsa – the address of Ewing’s attorney, J.C. Joyce. A telephone message left with the firm of Joyce and Pollard, seeking information about Saint Matthew’s Churches, was not returned Monday.
Anthony said Saint Matthew’s has no church, but instead rents other churches for photo shoots. Ewing has worked with some of the biggest televangelists in the country, Anthony said, and wrote the script when Oral Roberts said in 1987 that God would “call him home” if he didn’t raise $8 million.
Ewing, said Anthony, was born in poverty but now lives like a king.
“He’s from Kaufman, Texas, which is 30 or 40 miles southeast of Dallas, and he has a seventh-grade education, but he’s a genius at direct mail,” Anthony said. “He invented the concept of seed faith, which is kind of a heaven lottery where God is going to give (money). It’s now all we see on radio and television, but it’s the worst perversion of Scriptures you can imagine.”
Anthony, 67, said his organization got into the business of tracking Ewing in 1991, when many of the homeless people who came to his group for help complained of being bilked by direct-mail scams.
For more on this subject, see Prosperity Teaching
Paying for prayer: I went into debt, trying to secure a miracle, BBC, March 12, 2023.
The practice stems from what is known as the Prosperity Gospel, which preaches that God rewards faith with wealth and health. Believers are encouraged to show their faith by giving money, which it is claimed will be repaid by God many times over.
The Prosperity Gospel has its roots in America, where it gained momentum in the early 20th Century. By the late 1970s and early 1980s Nigerian pastors were going to the US to learn more about it, and in the early 2000s its popularity spread across Africa, driven in part by American evangelists such as Reinhard Bonnke, who drew huge crowds from Lagos to Nairobi. That growth in popularity continues today.