Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam...who loved the wages of unrighteousness. 2 Peter 2:15
The story of Balaam is one of the strangest and yet most instructive in Scripture. He was a prophet genuinely in touch with God and through whom God spoke: "And God came unto Balaam and said ...the LORD met Balaam and put a word in his mouth...," etc. (Numbers 22:9,12,20; 23:4,5,16, etc.). Yet when Moab's King Balak sent princes offering to pay him to curse God's people, Balaam was only too eager to do so. Money was his real god and brought his remarkable career to its end in hell. It was Balaam who prophesied concerning Christ, "there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel" (Numbers 24:17). He was from Mesopotamia (today's Iraq), the same area as the Magi who honored Christ at His birth. Apparently these "wise men from the east" (Matthew 2:1) were alerted by Balaam's prophecy to recognize and follow that star. Yet Balaam was one of the enemies of God whom the Israelites "slew with the sword..." (Numbers 31:8). How can such contradictions be?
Many Bible students wonder why the angel of the Lord "stood in the way for an adversary against him" (22:22). Hadn't God said Balaam could go with Balak's emissaries? Yes, but only "If the men come to call thee" (v 20). Balaam didn't wait to be called but all too eagerly "rose up...and went with the princes of Moab" (v 21). This was not Balaam's first such deviance, for God reminded him, "thy way is perverse before Me" (v 32).
Here was a confusing mixture: a man used by God in prophecy (23:16-24; 24:2-24) and used by satan in soothsaying (Hebrew: kawsam– Joshua 13:22). Kawsamis elsewhere translated "divination," which includes any technique that automatically bestows spiritual power in partnership with evil spirits. Even King Saul knew that divination comes through an evil spirit, for he asked the witch at Endor, "divine unto me by the familiar spirit" (1 Samuel 28:8).
It seems clear that many of today's charismatic "prophets" derive their "power" from Balaam's occultic source. That door is opened through an unbiblical emphasis upon power, power, power: the power of the Spirit, power evangelism, signs and wonders and miracles. To point out that holiness and truth are the foremost purposes of the Holy Spirit who is "the Spirit of truth " (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13) is considered "negative." No wonder these attributes are largely missing from today's boasted "great last-days revival."
Consider Benny Hinn on TBN (with Paul and Jan Crouch laughing uproariously), telling with much merriment of a man's wig flying off when he fell "under the power" after Hinn touched his forehead. The man pulled the wig back on, a bit askew, got up and Hinn touched him again just to see him fall and the wig fly off. He did this five times, admitted Hinn, laughing impishly. Was this God's power on display? Surely not! Then what power was it that caused the man to fall repeatedly, this power that Hinn claims to pick up at the graves of Kathryn Kuhlman and Aimee Semple McPherson? Such questions involving not only Hinn but many others must be faced seriously! Who will do so?
God's power is only for His glory. He would not allow Balaam to curse Israel (Deuteronomy 23:5; Nehemiah 13:2). So to get the reward Balak offered, Balaam showed this evil king how to bring God's judgment upon Israel by enticing God's people into the first ecumenical union in recorded history: joint worship between Israel and the idolatrous Midianites. Ecumenism is forever identified as "the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication" (Revelation 2:14; see also Numbers 25:1-3; 31:16).
God gives freely by His grace, and His servants are not to charge for passing on His blessings: "[F]reely ye have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8). Satan, however, allows his servants, like Balaam, to charge for the occultic powers he bestows. Thus the "damsel possessed with a spirit of divination ...brought her masters much gain by soothsaying...." The loss of this income as a result of Paul casting out the "spirit of divination" enraged her masters and caused Paul's imprisonment at Philippi (Acts 16:16-24).
The money and fame to be earned from selling occult powers offers the temptation to yield oneself to deluding evil spirits. Paul warns, "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith..." (1 Timothy 6:10). Judas's love of money made him vulnerable to Satan's enticement to betray our Lord: "[H]e was a thief, and had the bag [the disciples' meager money pouch]" (John 12:6).
Love of money was Balaam's downfall, too. His protestation, "If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God" (Numbers 22:18), only revealed his true desires. Balaam "loved the wages of unrighteousness" (2 Peter 2:15) so much that he is the prototype of the corruption money and fame breed: "Woe unto them! for they...ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward" (Jude 11). Offering spiritual benefits for money is called "the way of Balaam." It prospers in the church today because multitudes are enticed to believe and obey those who promise health and wealth in exchange for a "seed-faith" offering.
In Miracle of Seed-Faith, Oral Roberts claims God revealed to him that the great principle of sowing and reaping so evident in the physical world also held true in the spiritual realm. One could "plant" a monetary gift in a ministry and "reap" miracles. In response to this false promise, hundreds of millions of dollars from sincere but deceived Christians have poured into the ministries of numerous "faith teachers," making them wealthy. This "way of Balaam" is the shameful root of the entire positive confession movement with its seductively popular "prosperity gospel."
This false teaching panders to the basest human lust for riches: "Jesus was rich" 1 and therefore His followers must be rich. Kenneth Hagin says that to drive an old car instead of a new Cadillac isn't "being humble, that's being ignorant [of God's laws of prosperity]." 2 Frederick Price agrees: "I drive a Rolls Royce...following Jesus' steps." 3 Such false prophets promise a "hundredfold return" for offerings sent to them. Gloria Copeland writes, "You give [us]...$1,000 and receive $100,000...Mark 10:30 is a very good deal." 4 Oral Roberts promises "PROSPERITY MIRACLES " (emphasis in original) for those who "take advantage of the hundredfold return...." How does this differ from Catholicism's sale of indulgences? Each is simply the way of Balaam in different form.
Gloria tells how she learned to take authority over money and command it to come to her "in Jesus' Name." 5 Balaam would be envious! The faith teachers have all gotten rich—not by giving to others, but by persuading their gullible sign-seeking followers to give to them. Peter warned of such false prophets who "through covetousness...with feigned words make merchandise of you" (2 Pt 2:3)! That no hue and cry is raised against them in the church is an equal disgrace.
Peter rebuked Simon the magician for thinking "that the gift of God may be purchased with money" (Acts:8:20). Yet the practice of charging for what only God can give has become the norm in the church. Were he living today, Simon would find that his offer to pay for the Holy Spirit's gifts would not only be accepted but required to attend a John Wimber "Signs and Wonders" seminar to learn how to "operate in the gifts of the Spirit." If there were no other reason to take a closer look at Promise Keepers (another Vineyard offshoot), the exorbitant fees they charge to attend their rallies would be cause enough.
The charging of fees is universal among so-called Christian psychologists. Should a troubled soul seeking salvation be billed by a church for the time it takes the pastor to present the gospel? Then why charge for "Christian counseling"? Yet a multimillion-dollar "Christian psychology" industry has been built by charging clients fat hourly fees. That fact alone is sufficient reason for dropping the "Christian" label from the psychology that has all but taken over evangelical churches, colleges and seminaries.
Christian music has also become a money-making industry. There are Christian musical groups who won't come to a church or conference without being guaranteed a large sum to "perform." The same is true of some leading preachers and teachers who likewise require a large guaranteed fee "to bring a word from God." Such servants of men are obliged to please those who pay for their services. Only those who ask for nothing but who trust God and thankfully accept whatever may be given, whether large or small or nothing at all, are free as the servants of God to faithfully speak "the truth in love" (Eph:4:15).
After God had told him clearly not to go with Balak's princes, Balaam persisted in prayer, hoping to change God's mind (v19). The faith teachers claim to do what Balaam only hoped. Hagin claims that Jesus personally appeared to him and gave him four principles which will always obtain for anyone who follows them whatever he wants from God. 6 Frederick Price more than agrees: " You are in control! ...God cannot do anything in this earth unless we ...give Him permission...through prayer." 7 Behold the way of Balaam promoted in the church!
Divination promises man control over nature and even over God. Paul Yonggi Cho (now David Cho) declares, "You create the presence of Jesus with your mouth...He is bound by your...words." 8 Robert Schuller says, "You don't know what power you have within you!...You can make the world into anything you choose." 9 Mary Baker Eddy founded the Christian Science cult on this same delusion that spiritual power operates according to fixed laws. The entire faith movement rests upon the same belief that faith is a force just like electricity or gravity 10 and it obeys laws. Thus even non-Christians can use it. Hagin writes, "the sinners...were [getting miracles by] cooperating with this...law of faith." 11 Cho adds, "Sokagakkai [a Buddhist sect] has applied the law of the fourth dimension and has performed miracles...." 12
Pat Robertson describes his book Beyond Reason as "an effort to teach some of the basic principles that enable you to understand and experience the flow of God's energy...and to enter the world of miracles...." 13 He teaches that miracles work according to laws which "are as valid for our lives as the laws of thermodynamics or the law of gravity." 14 Robertson says, "[T]he metaphysical principles of the kingdom [of God], taken by themselves, can produce fantastic temporal benefits" even for occultists. 15 This is occultism! Affirming this same error, Pope John Paul II recently bestowed his Special Apostolic Blessing upon devout Catholic Jose Silva, founder of the Silva Method, a powerful occultic divination technique which openly involves spirit guides.
To what extent are church leaders involved with evil spirits? Oral Roberts claimed a seven-hour conversation with a 900-foot Jesus (strangely, not mentioned in his just-released autobiography) who told him to build the City of Faith Medical Center in Tulsa. This "Jesus" made false promises in exchange for money: there would be cures for cancer and other diseases if Oral's "prayer partners" would each contribute $240. Simple, sincere people (who still believe him today) contributed more than the $150 million needed to complete the 20-story complex. There was no miracle, no cure for cancer or anything else Oral's "Jesus" promised. The 777-bed medical center never had more than 148 beds occupied and went bankrupt in spite of additional millions of dollars given by gullible Christians in response to further false promises.
Had some Wall Street promoter, through similar false promises, bilked people out of a fraction of the money Oral got he would be in prison. Oral claims he was only obeying Jesus. Yet we know for certain that the 900-foot apparition was not Jesus, for He doesn't lie. Did Oral hallucinate? A seven-hour conversation with a 900-foot hallucination? Hardly! Only two possibilities remain: either Oral lied, or he was lied to by a deceiving spirit. The courts can't touch Oral. Only the church can bring him to account.
Yet Oral Roberts has lost none of his appeal on the charismatic circuit and is widely received even by evangelical leaders who ought to rebuke him. He is still hailed on TBN as a great prophet of God and celebrated by multitudes who continue to believe and support him. Tragically, Roberts is only one of many such examples that could be given. If Balaam were alive, what a field day he would have in today's church!
Please pray for two things: (1) that Christian leaders who are respected by vast audiences on national and international radio and TV will, like Jeremiah and the true prophets and apostles of old, take the responsibility of reproving and warning against modern Balaams who are leading multitudes astray; and (2) that specific teaching from God's Word will be widely presented to arm true believers against "the way of Balaam" in whatever form it may appear. And may those of us who have only a small voice speak out as loudly and clearly as God allows us in reproof of error and support of His truth. Finally, may our lives evidence the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.
1 Frederick Price, TBN (11/23/90); and so say Oral Roberts and many others.
2 Kenneth E. Hagin, The Believer's Authority (Rhema Bible Church, 1984), 40.
3 On his "Ever Increasing Faith" program (TBN, 12/9/90).
4 Gloria Copeland, God's Will is Prosperity (Harrison House, 1978), 54.
5 God's Will , 48.
6 Kenneth E. Hagin, How To Write Your Own Ticket With God (Kenneth Hagin Ministries, 1979).
7 Frederick K. C. Price, The Word Study Bible (Harrison House, 1990), 1178.
8 Dr. Paul Yonggi Cho, The Fourth Dimension (Logos International, 1979), 83.
9 Robert Schuller, "Possibility Thinking: Goals" (an Amway Corporation tape).
10 Kenneth Copeland, interview with Paul and Jan Crouch (TBN, Feb. 5, 1986).
11 Kenneth Hagin, Having Faith in Your Faith (Rhema, 1980), 3-4.
12 Fourth Dimension , 30, 64.
13 Pat Robertson, Beyond Reason (William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1985), 20.
14 Pat Robertson, The Secret Kingdom (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982), 43.
15 Secret Kingdom , 69.