The first myth in the book, The Giving Myths, is this: "Give and you'll get rich." This may be the most insidious of all myths about giving. It's the one primarily promoted by many radio and television ministers. It goes like this: "If you want to make $100,000 a year, give $10,000; if you wish to make a half-million a year, give $50,000; if you want to make a million, give $100,000" and so on.
But, is this the way our charity works? Is it really automatic and guaranteed to bring a return? If you give, is the universe, or God, obligated to give to you in return? Many people, especially religious people, have been taught to believe so. Even Jesus said, "Give and you'll receive." And, the Prophet Malachi promised that if God's people would bring their gifts to the Temple, the heavens would open and out would pour a blessing so abundant they could hardly contain it" (Malachi 3:8-12).
Many years ago, Sinclair Lewis wrote a novel about a character named Elmer Gantry. It was made popular as a motion picture in the 1960s and Burt Lancaster played the starring role as the infamous Elmer Gantry. Although a fictional character, Gantry was a charismatic, Midwestern, vacuum-cleaner salesman turned preacher in the 1920s. Isn't it interesting that ministers today are often associated in the minds of people with manipulative salespeople? Gantry's eloquence enabled him to prey on scores of people, but especially the timid, disturbed, and distraught. Not much has changed over the years.
Although many criticized Sinclair Lewis' novel as unfairly judgmental of ministers, Lewis vividly portrayed a character virtually everyone has met at one time or another - a manipulative minister who not only loves the media and the popularity that comes with it, but the money as well. By making monstrous but meaningless promises to people that, if they will just be generous and give (which, of course, really means give to them), God will reward them abundantly. This is not only a lie, it is the worst sort of evil.
So, how does one reconcile the apparent contradictions found even in the teachings of Jesus who said, on one hand, "Give and it will be given to you, pressed down, running over..." (Luke 6:38); but, on the other hand, confessed that he himself had nowhere to lay his head and apparently was not always certain from where his next meal might come?" (Matthew 8:20).
While the fuller answer to this question is found in the book The Giving Myths, simply put, what looks like a contradiction and problem in Jesus' own words is really one of the many paradoxes found not only in life but in many of Jesus’ teachings. For example, just as there are physical laws by which the universe operates, so there are spiritual laws. One of these spiritual laws is known in the New Testament as the Law of Giving and Receiving. In other religious traditions, such as Hinduism, it is simply known as the Law of Giving. Deepak Chopra deals with seven of the more common spiritual laws, the Law of Giving notwithstanding, in his easy-to-read book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.
This law states that when you are generous and give of yourself, your talents, your resources, etc., you automatically tap into this universal spiritual law. The universe gratefully receives your generosity and returns it to you.
But, as with anything, what's good can be made into something evil. And, many media ministers have done so. When one of them, or anyone else for that matter, attempts to manipulate what is a beautiful spiritual law for his or how own gain, not only is the law interrupted in its operation, but the consequences can be devastating. There are many people today, for example, who have turned away from religion because some ministerial monster of the media took advantage of them. Inspired perhaps by something the minister said and persuaded that, if they would just send him or her a financial gift, they would receive in return everything that they need, they do so. But, when their gift brings nothing but greater financial difficulty, they turn away in disbelief and distress.
Is the minister to blame for making promises to people just to motivate them to give? Of course. Is the giver at fault for making a gift chiefly for the purpose of getting something in return? Perhaps so, too. The point is, one's motives in giving or receiving can interfere with the natural spiritual law of giving and receiving.
The best kind of generosity is that which springs spontaneously from a grateful, generous heart - a gift you give with no thought for what might come to you in return. This kind of generosity the universe, or God, responds to favorably.If you're interested in exploring this topic more in depth, it is covered in depth, along with six other myths about giving, in the book, The Giving Myths.