Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Blessed Life review

Expect to see significantly increased blogging output over the next several weeks. I'll explain why in a future post. You'll just have to wait and find out.

A small aside: I'm trying very hard to be more concise. Twitter is helping: having 140 characters to say something meaningful certainly makes me think harder.


I'm going to try to update my book review format. I've been using the same basic approach to book reviews for three years, and while it's worked all right, I want to have a bit more freedom in approach.

The Blessed Life by Robert Morris, pastor of Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, is about God's financial blessings for your life. The basic message of the book is accurate and worth hearing, but it's clouded and there are enough issues that I can't really recommend it. It's relatively short, and even reading it carefully for the purposes of a review, it probably only took me about two and a half hours to read from start to finish. Even with the addendum at the back, the book is just 217 generously formatted pages long: 12 short chapters and a brief afterword.

Morris' thesis is that God wants all of His children to lead a blessed life. In particular, he writes that the blessed life is very definitely financially blessed. I should immediately clarify that this isn't prosperity gospel, per se. The book has issues, some of which I'll describe below, but it isn't just another "Give and you'll be rich!" scheme. There are some very good biblical principles laid out throughout the book, and it's clear that Morris opposes the prosperity gospel.

Morris focuses on giving generously and sacrificially, and he emphasizes that God is our provider. He repeatedly emphasizes how God takes care of His people's needs. The book issues a call to stop believing that if we just budget carefully enough we'll always be secure. Instead we should relinquish our tight grasp on our money and give freely as God leads - up to and including every last thing we own. It's a bold challenge, and an important one. Morris points to Jesus' reminder that if God cares for birds and flowers, how much more can we rely on Him to provide for our needs? So then, we should give without holding back; we should give to whoever asks and expect nothing in return. We should gladly give everything we own when God calls us to. He has provided all we have, and He can provide more as we need it. Morris backs this up both Scripturally and evidentially from his own life. (The evidence is good, but it has a downside. See below.)

Mr. Morris and I part ways in two places, however. First, his use of Scripture throughout the book varies between good and very bad. In one chapter, he does an excellent job of developing Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, using sound expositional teaching. Elsewhere, though, his use of Scripture is more questionable. (Some of them are simply strange, like his completely decontextualized quote from Song of Solomon.)

Second, he takes his thesis that God will reward those who are generous givers - with which I fully agree - and then moves forward to say that giving leads to "Guaranteed Financial Results" (the title of the last chapter). He writes, "... I can tell you without hesitation that if you will apply the principles I've outlined in these chapters, you will get remarkable, positive financial results—guaranteed." He has a more Biblical framework in mind than it might seem: he follows by arguing that giving is important because it does work in our hearts, which is what God is really after. I agree with that, but I do not think that we will always find ourselves financially blessed simply because we give. I believe God will meet our needs, but the overwhelming poverty of many generous believers throughout history and Scripture runs contrary to his argument.

The Psalms frequently cry out that the wicked prosper and the good do not. The prophets repeatedly make much of the fact that wicked rich men are crushing the poor. The widow in her generous giving of two mites did not suddenly become wealthy, and Christ never said she would.

How then do we reconcile Jesus teaching that when we give we will receive with the reality that we do not always receive greater money than we have given? I don't know the exact details, but I know that the rewards we are promised are not merely earthly, but heavenly. Morris notes this, but only once. The book repeatedly emphasizes financial rewards in this world, and the lack of a heavenly perspective is a sore loss.

On a different note, Morris repeatedly denies any pride, but spends the book recounting all the ways and times he and his family have been used mightily by God. If there were a more even balance between these and other stories, this might not seem so bad, but every chapter has several examples of his generosity. By contrast, I am reminded of Jesus' teaching in the same Sermon on the Mount passages that Morris frequently quoted:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4)

Scripture's emphasis is on secrecy, not boasting. Morris says "Believe me, I'm not [boasting]" (p. 125), and I believe he meant it. If so, he needs to recognize that he would seem lest boastful if he focused less on himself, more on others, and above all more on Scripture.

Perhaps the oddest part of the book was his elaborate discussion on the Spirit of Mammon. For most of a chapter, he discusses an individual spirit of Mammon that he claims is "on" money unless the Spirit of God is, referencing Luke 16:13. He claims there is an individual spirit named Mammon that prevents money from multiplying for the kingdom unless money is actively submitted to God. The first problem here is that he builds his case for a "spirit of mammon" not from Scripture but from Milton's Paradise Lost, which is fine poetry, and not always terrible theology, but hardly an authority. Second, the use of the word "mammon" here is misleading. All modern translations generally use "wealth," as that's all the word means. Finally, there is no Biblical basis for his claim that there is an individual Spirit of Mammon. I don't doubt that there are demons that specialize in leading people astray via greed and money. That being said, I see no warrant at all from Scripture for Morris claim that "[in] the Biblical sense of the word, mammon is the spirit that rests on money. Did you know that all money has a spirit on it? It either has the Spirit of God on it or the spirit of mammon" (p. 77). Men's hearts are led astray by demonic lies or led rightly by the Holy Spirit. Money and electronic numbers are just paper and electrons.

Strangely, Morris almost immediately contradicts his previous argument by quoting Jesus teaching that we are to use "unrighteous mammon" to win friends for ourselves to serve the Kingdom, and that we are to be faithful in the unrighteous mammon if we wish to be trusted with real treasure. Jesus would certainly never command us to make use of an evil spirit to accomplish anything. Given how direct Christ is here, just verses after Morris' proof text for his Spirit of Mammon, he ends up backtracking and agreeing with Jesus' message. The result is a confusing mess. While this points to a need for good editing, it also shows his failure to build his case on a good theological and Scriptural foundation.

This and other misuses of Scripture were nearly the worst problems. Scripture speaks clearly about finances; there is no need to add or invent more evidence for what it says. This failing is all the sadder because so much of this book is good. We live in a church culture that often throws tithing out with ceremonial washings, so his emphasis both on tithing and giving beyond our tithes was refreshing.

My greatest disappointment here was that Morris never took a moment to point out that, financial blessings aside, no reward will ever compare with knowing Christ. This was a book on the blessed life, but it completely misses what Christ calls blessed: knowing God. Abundant life, eternal life, is knowing God and the one He sent. Finances are petty distractions in comparison. They are important, as Morris rightly notes, as a gauge of our hearts. But Morris never stopped to note that Jesus Christ is our real reward for faithfulness in this life.

I find it very difficult to sum up my thoughts on this book. Morris' passion for people with gifts of giving is evident. His love of the body of Christ is clear. His love of God is plain to see. His message is important. Christians do need to value and practice generosity and giving more, and God does delight in our joyful giving. He does reward, though most of the rewards are eternal. If Morris were simply another preacher of the prosperity gospel, it would be easy to dismiss his missteps as part of his misguided theology, but his underlying theology regarding finances is not the issue.

The real problems here are over-application and a lack of Christ-centeredness. What has been true in his life is not universally true. Many Christians will give generously and live in relative (or true) poverty some or all their lives. Paul's life alone is evidence of that.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)

The antidote to this problem is simple: a deeper reliance on Scripture itself, without recourse to anecdote and misinterpretation.

More importantly, we must always find our joy in Christ alone, no matter whether we are richly blessed or utterly destitute in this age. Our reward is knowing Him, above any other blessing He gives. That is the point that must be made, and it's the point that Morris completely missed. The real blessed life is to know Christ, no matter our circumstances.


  1. Good post. However, I personally know that using Chris Krycho's reading time as a base measure for your own reading can prove disappointing (he can read exceptionally quickly).

  2. Good post and good review.
    The sad part is that many people will read this without applying discernment and take it as "gospel", so to speak, then be disappointed when what may have proved true to this point in the author's life, does not prove out true for them. As you pointed out, many give sacrificially, but do not receive financial prosperity because of it. Rather, I believe scripture teaches that if getting because you give is your motive for giving, it is a wicked motive.

  3. I know I'm responding to a very old blog but just in case anyone else may fall upon this. Though I don't know the author, I can safely say he has never experienced what Robert Morris is describing in his book. In a time where Americans give only 3% of their income to God, it is very clear that people do not understand the truth of relying on Jesus to provide for their needs. The point of the book is not reliance on God to provide money but reliance on God to provide period. The blogger assumes this to be money because money is the method whereby God meets our needs. To say we should rely on God, scripture, etc is to assume that God doesn't use money. Because I know what it's like to go from "rags to riches" spiritually speaking through giving as described by Robert Morris, to say that it is self serving or unbiblical is just ridiculous because it requires great faith and great reliance on God to give in that manner. The truth is that most Christian really don't believe God will meet their needs so they resort to believing "balancing" doctrines that accommodate their unbelief and continue to talk theoretically. It has always amazed me how there can be people who testify of God doing great things through their lives and when they try to let other people know so they can experience the same thing, they are accused of being boastful.

  4. nospam2k—don't be too quick to assume that I've not seen God's provision in my life, nor that my disagreement with Robert Morris has anything at all to do with my "balancing" habits regarding finances. It doesn't. I have a hard time seeing Morris' continual references to how God has blessed Him—while always talking about how much he has given—as anything but direct disobedience to Jesus' instruction in the Sermon on the Mount:

    "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

    "Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
    Matthew 6:1-4

    That, combined with the misinterpretations I saw throughout the book, led to my fairly middle-of-the-road review—a generous take on Morris's teaching in this book, in my opinion.

    As I noted multiple times in the course of the review, I'm all in favor of giving abundantly to God and trusting Him to provide our needs. My concern was that Morris couched "meeting our needs" in a sense that goes far beyond Biblical language. Being comfortable, having nice cars, and living the American dream is, in many regards, a stumbling block to the Gospel—unless you think that Jesus' words about the rich young (Matthew 19:16-30) ruler aren't equally applicable to we Americans who are richer than anyone in the world!

    God may or may not choose to bless us financially as we give. Morris, like many in the Prosperity Gospel movement, leaves no room for poverty for those who give generously... but Jesus does.

    1. I agree that Jesus said not to talk about it but Jesus was referring to the UN-rightous that use god to profit. What I read Robert is trying to TEACH people that do not understand the principles of "tithes and offerings", is it not applicable for him to quote blessings he knows to be true and accurate? If teachers do not speak of how to live in the word than how are people too learn?

    2. Tim, thanks for your comment, though I'm afraid I'll have to disagree! Jesus said not to talk about it, period—not simply to the unrighteous, but quite explicitly to those seeking to follow God.

      And again, there are two problems with Morris' repeated examples from his own life. The first, of course, is the one we're addressing here, that is that he is constantly telling (bragging) about his own giving. The second is that the stories all focus on what the believer receives as a reward right here and now from that giving—in contrast to Scripture's teaching, where we store up in heaven.

  5. I'm surprised that you responded to such an old post ;) Anyway, I'll quickly make 2 points. #1 Declaring your good works before men is different then teaching on a subject and using yourself as an example. The Apostle Paul does this many times in scripture. A quick example is when Paul boldly states "I labored more abundantly then they all." Yes, he states "not I but Christ in me", but if MT 6 is to be applied then Paul was wrong to even state the case, as clearly he is letting the right hand know what the left hand is doing, which I'm sure you will agree cannot be true. Morris is also doing this. Teaching by example. #2 The rich young ruler gets quoted out of context a lot. Jesus' command to him was a swap of an already gained temporal riches for eternal riches; of which I will call phase 2 of "the blessed life" being able to give back the blessing God has given in order to gain a greater blessing in eternity. BUT, not to be disconnected from further blessing in this life. Remember, when Peter states just following the departure of the rich young ruler "we have given up everything to follow you, what will we get" Jesus didn't say "don't talk like that, just be happy with eternity". He specifically says "no who has given up x,y,z shall receive x,y,z X100!!!! IN THIS LIFE and eternal life. You state God may or may not choose to bless us financially as we give, but God states emphatically that he PROMISES he will bless us financially. I completely agree with you about the problem with "stuff" in America but that doesn't apply in this context because it is the continual giving away of stuff. Think of it this way. What if everytime you got stuff you tried to give it away and the faster you gave it away the faster you got more, do you really think that you would be all that excited about getting more? That is the principle to consider. So long as you keep pouring out the oil, there will be more oil. But when you stop pouring the oil stops. The blessing is in distribution not receiving. But distribution can only continue through receiving. If every church (pastors AND members) would apply the biblical principles found in Rober Morris' book, preachers wouldn't have to keep begging for money for half the service.

  6. Comment notification helps! :)

    On Paul, you're stretching the text well beyond what it covers. Matthew 6 is expressly addressing the issue of giving, something Paul never goes into regarding what he himself gives. Further, Paul notes whenever he is "boasting" that he is doing so foolishly, so as to make a point. I might be more lenient with Morris if he likewise called himself a fool for even bringing it up, but instead he gave himself a written pat on the back and directly defied Scriptural injunctions against talking about one's own giving.

    While I recognize where you're coming from regarding the allegedly-financial nature of Jesus' promises, I ultimately disagree, and quite deeply, based on the testimony of those who Jesus was addressing when he spoke of receiving one hundred-fold. None of them had money to speak of. The apostles never had much money; certainly Peter never owned a hundred fishing boats, though that's exactly what he and his brothers had left, or anything close.

    Many of the early churches were very poor, or had many members who were very poor. James and Paul both address churches where it is clear that financial hardship is normal for some of these people. Paul lived in deep poverty much of the time, to the point that he was incredibly grateful for the gift the Philippians sent him—and noted immediately that he had learned to be content in times of wealth and poverty. If you and Morris are to be believed, that situation of poverty simply shouldn't have happened...

    And what about all the men and women today who give and do not receive? Is God's promise void to them? (I know those people, by the way.) Of course not! But they are, as Jesus says elsewhere, storing up for themselves "treasures in heaven," where moth and rust and thief have no power. We receive help from the body of Christ, where above all we have friends and family that fill the holes from those left behind.

    Yes, we should give, and sacrificially. And yes, God will provide for our needs as we do so. But only our needs, not our desires—and those are vastly different things.

    Regarding the rich young ruler, you're right that Jesus does not condemn the having of money. Nor do I. I do, however, think the passage pretty unambiguously points out that money is a deep hindrance to the gospel's work in our hearts. Moreover, there is nothing in the passage that suggests that the man would receive more wealth if he came and followed Jesus... to the contrary: if that were so, his giving up his wealth would be no obstacle to his following Christ at all. The only reason it is an obstacle is because the expectation was that Jesus' followers would have little, not much.

    To sum up, as I said in my original review, Morris says a lot of good things. They're just mixed with a lot of bad, especially in the way he handles Scripture.

  7. I agree with nospam2k, he has hit the nail on the head! God is good all the time. I have and always will give the "firstfruits" to God. He can bless me in the ways he sees fit, rather it be financial or otherwise.

  8. Chris, I appreciate that you respond to these posts.

    However, you are historically inaccurate concerning the financial state of the early church. Mainly, the disciples were not poor, neither were the early churches, and neither was Paul. Your picture of the 1st Century colors your outlook on money. Read very carefully the book of Acts and Paul's letters specifically and count the number of times money was distributed and money was needed. You will find the more money came from the early church then was received by the early church. Poor people aren't able to do that. The only time in the 1st Century that speaks of churches receiving money is during the time of "severe famine" in Jerusalem. Even that isn't a matter of poor churches but severe famine. Are we to assume that those who were hammered by hurricane Katrina were poor? Not in the least. But they needed relief during that time. And where did the "relief" (money) come from (back to the Jerusalem church)? The surrounding churches! Where did all those poor people get the money? They were not poor.

    The disciples did not impoverish themselves. They traded occupations. it was their calling specifically. Jesus did not call all his follows to leave their occupations. (For example, he never told Zacchaeus to leave his employment. In fact he only gave half his goods to the poor and Jesus thought that was a great thing.) By leaving their employment to preach the gospel, they lost their source of income, but they didn't take a vow of poverty. They relied on God's provision through faith and most of those men became supported by the church.

    To say Paul was poor is really lacking in biblical understanding. Read Paul's letter to Philemon. Paul specifically says "v18 But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account." How is the impoverished Apostle going to repay? He is not impoverished.

    Please don't take my responses as tit for tat as that is not my heart. Bible exposition is my calling in life.

    I think if you read through the New Testament without a predisposition towards poverty, and read the historical background that is provided by many excellent bible historians (Josephus as example) you will find that Jesus did not build his church on a foundation of poverty.

    Just another little piece of history. In the home town (to this day) of James son of Alphaeus is an inscription written of thanks to James for his "significant contributions" made the city. It seems that James was from a wealthy family according to our tour guide and had often made such contributions throughout the years.

  9. nospam2k:

    I appreciate your thoughtful responses, as well (even if I disagree!). Irenicism is in too short a supply in the blogosphere.

    As to your points: I would simply point out that I never argued that poverty was the case for everyone. Rather, I said, "Many of the early churches were very poor, or had many members who were very poor. James and Paul both address churches where it is clear that financial hardship is normal for some of these people." Those sentences are undeniably true. Certainly there were many in the churches—and indeed, many churches—who were not poor. Otherwise, how could James scold the rich in the church for abusing the poor? But by the same token, there were still poor people in the church, and James says nothing of giving on their part to address their physical needs. Likewise, when Paul speaks regarding poverty, his admonition is never to give but to work.

    And again, as I noted, how would Paul have had to learn to be content in times of poverty if the system works the way it is claimed to? Morris and many like him would have people believe that if they simply give more, they will have more. The reality is that poverty is and has been part of the lives of many believers who are giving faithfully, even beyond their abilities. Does God provide for our needs? Absolutely. But in America, "need" means nothing like what our needs really are. And it certainly has not looked like what many an impoverished giver throughout the world and throughout history might have hoped!

    In short, I readily recognize that many in the church will be wealthy; at the same time, I recognize that many will be poor—and I ultimately reject the notion that our giving automatically means material receiving. Will we have "100-fold"? Yes, but that reward generally comes in two forms: spiritually and emotionally in this life, and in every way in the next.

    Thank you for the conversation.

  10. I Stumbled on this blog by doing a gut check about my church. I love reading other people's thoughts on various things. Great review of the book and there were great responses to each comment.

    This is where I add my two cents. One of the most challenging questions I have to ask myself everyday is, "Is it more important on what I say, or how people perceive it"? I battle with this because although I'm trying to say the right thing, does it really matter if they hear something totally different. My wife is a teacher she always corrects me and uses this example when I pose this question... She always tells me how important a punctuation is in a sentence... "Let's eat Grandma" vs "Let's eat, Grandma!"

    I say all that to say this...Immediately when reading the Title/Subtitle of the book, I think "Prosperity Gospel". Without hesitation, I look at this book with the wrong lens... I read the first couple of pages and I had to put it down and clear my thoughts so I could read this with an open mind...

    Over the past few years, I've had the opportunity to see Pastor Robert Morris at a more personal level. Being able to see him outside of the church, outside the congregation and in his very own home... Something a book (no matter how in depth, intriguing it is) can never truly convey is the heart of the author. I love seeing Pastor Robert give, and give, and give....Although, he tells his stories, I believe he has the right to since it is his book...right? But, with full compassion, I know that even within his own testimony he always boasts in the Lord... Always giving thanks...

    Sorry I had to post this anonymous. Need to keep my anonymity. I'll check back to see other comments...

    Thank You... Be Blessed

  11. Anonymous,

    First, thanks for clarifying why you stayed anonymous; I do appreciate that.

    Second, I'm glad to hear that Robert Morris is as generous as he sounds. As I noted in my review, this was a thoroughly ambiguous book. Generosity is good, but the expectations engendered by reading this book aren't. I have no doubt of Morris' sincerity; it was his handling of Scripture that most troubled me, and the implications of his message—and of course, his boasting. Again, I appreciate that both in the book and from what you have written, this seems to be aimed at glorifying God. Even so, I ultimately have to conclude that he wold be better off were he to follow Jesus' teaching: don't talk about when you give. There's simply too much potential for boasting in self in the midst of it.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective; it's always neat to hear from someone actually involved or familiar with the person behind a book.

  12. Although I have not read the book yet, as I have just purchased it, I would like to add to the discussion.
    One point comes to mind when reading the interactions here; that there is a big difference between boasting about something you've done and telling the story of something you've done.
    I believe this whole issues speaks to the heart of the matter at hand. Which is that the actions you do may be interpreted this way or that, (hopefully in the way you intended them, but not always..) but it is what is in your heart that counts most.
    Consider this passage from Matthew 5:15-16: "15. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."

    This passage of the bible does not tell us to hide our good works in fear that they may be mistaken for boasting. We are to understand from the passage that our good works can indeed shine brightly as long as God comes first in our lives and He recieves the glory of our good works... and I may boldly add.. the glory from our first fruits as well.

    This is what the majority of the reviews I have read seem to agree upon. Now, I will go and hopefully enjoy the reading of this book, but as always I will search the Scriptures to find and varify any final answer that I seek.


  13. Hi,
    I just wanted to thank Chris for such a great review of this book. My parents were recently exposed to a teaching by Robert Morris and were singing his praises to me. The very title "The Blessed Life", makes me nervous as I am a "recovering Charismatic" to paraphrase Philip Yancey. I grew up in "Word of Faith" churches, and though I met people with good hearts, and sincerly held beliefs, I have learned this does not equal sound, Biblical doctrine. I completely agree with what I got from the book review, which is that the blessing God "guarantees" is our relationship with Christ and His forgiveness of our sins. Though God can and does bless some in a financial way, this is not the sole indicator of someone's status with God. Though I had never heard of Morris prior to this week, I did attend Bible college with his worship pastor, and I will say that I have nothing but respect and admiration for Thomas Miller based on my interactions with him. However, as I stated earlier, kindness and sincerity does not make one's belief system true. My biggest problem with this sort of teaching is that I feel it sets people up to believe that God has let them down if they do not end up financially prosperous. The ironic thing is that my parents have been consistent tithers and sacrificial givers for at least 30 years, and yet I sense they think that they must have missed something, since Morris promises such extravagant financial blessing by living in such a manner. I would say God has blessed them in many other ways, but they are still poor, and perhaps they always will be, and that is okay according to the Bible I read.

    Thanks again for such a thoughtful, well-balanced review!
    Hope B.

  14. The church that I most frequently attend has a youth group I am (and may become-"was") apart of. I attended said youth group yesterday and their message to us 18-29 year olds was on the utter importance of tithing. They referenced this book and actually gave out 75 free copies to us members. I'very read through a good 50 pages already and am happy to see your review, Chris, is one I agree with. Your review and biblical backings were a great example as to why my church and do many are down right misleading people about tithing. All you have to do as a person to answer any questions concerning tithing is read the book of Hebrews!! It states it all there, very quickly- that we should be glad givers, content with what we have- what more could you want it NEED than Jesus Christ Himself?! So, thank you do much for the review

  15. It has been interesting reading all of these posts. It has been a number of years since i have seen the video series based on the book, so will have to revisit it before commenting on specific doctrines. However, I do remember that at no stage did i feel that Robert Morris was bragging, but rather using his own personal experiences as an example and illustration of what he was teaching. He was not focusing on what he had given, but rather on what God had done.
    All teachers use personal illustrations to highlight what they are teaching. Some do it to brag and some just want to illustrate a point. Robert Morris falls into the latter category.
    Sorry about the anonymous post, but I don't have an account.

  16. I am concerned in the above posts that there is much heavy leaning toward the judgment of Morris. Judgment can be covered by giving up a small amount of praise hoping we don't look too harsh. Judgment is much about assuming negatively about someone's motives. Motives are only something God has the ability to know without any reservations. It would be helpful to know if when Morris had given away money, property etc. if anyone knew it at the time. If he feels prompted by God to write a book about stewardship and feels free to use personal illustrations to support his thesis is not necessarily a carnal act. I do agree that it would be wise to establish that giving is not a formula or guarantee of receiving wealth from God.

    I feel very wealthy but I make a modest salary. but I could go on about my spiritual peace, my feeling of son-ship with God, my fulfilled purpose in life, my absolutely incomparable wife & partner in ministry. Yes, so very wealthy!

    1. Anon, with respect, there is no way someone could have written a book critical of Morris without your reading it as judgmental, I think. You'll note that I stuck very closely to the points where he ran directly up against Scriptural injunctions, and that I expressly avoided commenting on his motives. Not least because one may have the best intentions in the world and still be leading people the wrong way! That was my concern here: that Morris' teaching, however well-intended (and I have no doubt it is) is simply un-Scriptural and teaches people the wrong things about money. The fact that he does his teaching in ways that Scripture tells us not to simply made that even less palatable.

      On your last paragraph, however, I heartily and thoroughly agree. :-)

  17. Thanks for the review. My church is about to do a church wide study of this book, and prosperity teaching drives me crazy, so the book titled scared me. My biggest frustration with any book on giving is that any focus on what you get after giving takes away from it being giving, it's just an investment. You can't out give God, I truly believe that, but I think we are really missing out on all that God has for us if we think that is a mathematical equation. You can't out give God, because he can give us something that can't be bought. Life with Him. Life to the full.

  18. Brothers and Sisters in Christ: To the point. Im almost tired of this whole debate....I tithed and continued to give also offerings for 3 1/2 years after losing my job. I read Robert Morris and others----did as they advised and we almost lost our shirt. I never gave to get anyway but Im almost to the point all this tithing teaching may be inadvertently a last days misinterpretation. Malachi verse seems directed to the Jews for that one time---not an ongoing verb. Of course we are to give at some level always---sometimes the well off should give 20-30% maybe? I know a woman whose husband insisted on tithing during their bad time and she ate cereal all thru a pregnancy and almost choked. Something wrong here. Giving doesn't seem to proffer a package deal with God. And definitely not a rod to direct God's response with prosperity. If this were true my missionary sister who has given financially and with her life the last 25 years would be rolling in GOLD........NOT

    An in-depth, years-long, theolgian's PhD thesis on tithing. Excellent. Kindof blows Morris' book out of the water...perhaps church's should be passing Kelly's book out for free instead (I have attended a church that we all got Morris book free and then heard it preached on for weeks. Now my new church is starting the same thing. sigh). Although there is much good in this book, I believe pastor's are subconsciously using this book to manipulate and guilt-trip giving... very sad.

  20. Getting to this very late, I realize but just now educating myself after having been out of the country for a while. I'll have to read the book but any teaching that suggests financial gain is the norm for those who give sacrificially simply opposes the direct experience of most believers now living. Interesting that this teaching is widespread mostly in N. America. Has this author ever traveled to meet faithful followers of Christ living far below American standards? i suspect the prosperity of Christians in this country has much to do with what economic freedom and opportunity remains rather than strict adherence to tithing to the local church.

  21. Hi, all:

    Consider me to be "Anonymous_GA," as I am a lay leader for a large church in the metro Atlanta area who happens to be actively using Robert Morris' book as the basis for teaching on tithing.

    About a year ago, my wife and I happened to have used the "Blessed Life" book as a part of a series in the home group we were in. I can certainly attest to the fact that this original posting is quite accurate; I was quite able to similarly discern inconsistencies within the book.

    However, regardless of Robert Morris' intentions, I actually have a larger issue with him, and that is regarding is pastorate. I have looked and cannot find anything about what his actual credentials are other than his holding a doctorate in literature from King's University ( This would also explain why he's not completely consistent in his book.

    In my opinion, I believe that anyone who wishes to be a pastor of a congregation needs to have gone to seminary and received at least a masters in divinity degree -- otherwise they are very much going to have issues in what it means to pastor a flock (that's why seminaries exist).

    Honestly, my wife and I are very blessed to be a part of ongoing, accredited biblical studies courses -- taught by seminarians -- at our local church; unfortunately, I only wish that Robert Morris would have had at least that much of an education in his possession.

    While I'm fiercely non-denominational, I believe there is a reason why denominations exist, and part of this is for overall accountability with the Church.

    Thanks for the posting and allowing me to comment.

    1. Anonymous_GA,

      Thanks for your comment. I'm afraid that I have to disagree fairly substantially, though—despite currently being in seminary seeking an M. Div. myself! The reality is that no amount of theological education in and of itself can prevent people from misusing Scripture. Sometimes it helps those who get things wrong merely out of ignorance; but Morris has had every opportunity to get this right and has ultimately chosen not to.

      By the same token, there are many men with fruitful ministries who might have benefited from seminary educations, but who do *not* make these kinds of mistakes along the way because they are careful, diligent students of Scripture.

      By all means, we should encourage theological education. I think seminaries are enormously valuable, and are too-often undervalued by many in the evangelical world (where they are often seen as places where "true faith" gets killed). But we should not make it a requirement for pastoral work—that would be rather problematic, given that Scripture knows no such requirement!

      Thanks for your interaction, in any case.


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