Manipulating Fall Feasts for Finances Is Wrong

This year October marks the holiest season in the Jewish religious calendar and includes the Fall Feasts of Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement (Oct. 4) , and Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles which lasts eight days (Oct. 9-16).

The reason the dates of these feasts fluctuate each year is God’s calendar, which began in the book of Genesis is based on the lunar cycle of the moon’s orbit around the earth; whereas our modern (Gregorian) calendar is based on the solar cycle.

God established the sacred calendar for His people when He took them out of Egypt, which occurred in the Spring month of Abib, when they celebrated Passover, and was the first month of the new year. But after the Jews returned from their Babylonian exile, they adopted a calendar based on their agricultural seasons, and the Jewish New Year — Rosh Hashanah now falls in Autumn; this year on September 25th.

The Significance of the Fall Feasts

The Day of Atonement is the holiest day of the year when the high priest entered behind the veil into the Holy of Holies, and placed the blood of a lamb on the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant to atone for the sins of the nation for that year. It was a day of prayer and fasting. Today, of course, there is no Jewish Temple and no Ark of the Covenant. Devout Jews spend the day in prayer and fasting and attend their local synagogue services.

Then five days after this solemn event begins the Feast of Tabernacles, eight days of rejoicing in the goodness of God. The term Sukkot refers to temporary booths Jews erect outside their homes where they stay during the eight days. This is to commemorate their great Exodus from Egypt and the time they spent living in temporary tents in the wilderness journey.

These are truly wonderful feasts that many Christians have come to love and celebrate in their own way. There is certainly nothing wrong with this as God called them “My feasts.” There is, however, a disturbing trend amongst some televangelists to use these feasts as a means of financial fund-raising.

Rather than stating my opinion, I will defer to that of a well-known Messianic Jewish Rabbi, Ron Cantor, whose informative newsletter Messiah’ addressed this concern in his September 15, 2013 post. I will both paraphrase and use direct quotes of his article beginning with this Cantor quote:

“There are many godly men and women using television and media to advance the kingdom of God. But there are also many who abuse their audience, twisting God's Word, offering false promises of blessing in exchange for sending in a financial offering…. As a Messianic Israeli ministry, I felt that this was one case on  which I had to speak up – the case where the most sacred Hebrew calendar has turned into a Madison Avenue money making scheme.”

Cantor then described a program where a televangelist and his guest preacher read from Joel 2:1 claiming that it refers to the Feast of Tabernacles. The preacher implied that Joel is saying to “Repent for 10 days.” He was referring to the non-biblical rabbinic tradition (oral tradition added by the rabbis that did not exist in time of the Bible), known as “the 10 Days of Awe.” These come between Rosh Hashanah and the Day of Atonement. (It is traditional for Jews to spend these 10 days repenting of their sins of the past year and making right any relationships that were offended.) The preacher said that this passage actually teaches “those who honor Rosh Hashanah will receive a seven-fold blessing in 10 more days.”

Cantor: “But this teaching is nowhere in the Bible! The preacher then tells the believers they can rejoice for eight days after the Day of Atonement.”

Is This Really Scriptural?

 Cantor remarks: “I can only assume he means the eight days of the Feast of Tabernacles which begins five days after the Day of Atonement!.... But it gets worse! Next he quotes Joel 2:23 to prove his point: ‘Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God; For he has given you the former rain faithfully, and He will cause the rain to come down for you, the former rain and the latter rain in the first month.’

“He (televangelist) claims that the meaning of this prophetic passage is that you will receive a double blessing (former and latter rains together) on the Day of Atonement. There is only one problem, the Day of Atonement is on the 10th day of the seventh month, and this prophecy is referring to the first month!

“He assumes that Rosh Hashanah comes in the first month, because it is now referred to in Jewish tradition as the ‘New Year.’ However, the Bible clearly states: ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a Sabbath rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation…. Also the 10th day of the seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement’ (Lev.23:24,26).

“After butchering the Scriptures, he (televangelist) gets to his main point. The key to getting this nonexistent sevenfold, double portion is to give to the television ministry!

“He goes on to say over and over again, ‘This could be your last offering on Earth’, meaning the rapture could take place on the Day of Atonement…. Next, with deep emotion and conviction, he promises that by midnight on the Day of Atonement, when all the gifts are placed on the altar, God will have restored what has been stolen from you.”

Cantor goes on to cite another ministry that used this teaching to raise finances, and both of them appealed to viewers: “Give your very best Day of Atonement offering, along with your prayer request right away. Just like the high priest did once a year, I'll take your offering and needs before the Lord as a sweet savor, believing for release of His eight promises of atonement into your life.”

Cantor points out that there are no eight promises of atonement, and “I can't give both of them my very best offering!”

Cantor’s Great Lament:

Perhaps you are thinking, Why should I care? Does it really harm anyone since they are giving to God’s work anyway? Cantor’s outrage runs deeper than getting the dates and facts of ancient Biblical feasts straight:

“What is saddest about this to me, as a Jewish believer living in Israel, trying to reach my people, is that this will do far more harm than good. Paul said to the Romans that ‘because of Israel's transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious’ (Ref.: Rom.11:11).

“This can do nothing to provoke Israel to jealousy, but if unbelieving Jews see it, they will be further convinced that the Jesus these people preach is not for them. Sad.”

My Personal Take:

First, make sure you are giving by sowing your seed in good soil. As in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, the seed was the same, but it was the difference in the types of soil that determined the harvest. Plant good money in good ministry.

Moreover, give out of a generous and cheerful heart, “not grudgingly or of necessity”, for Paul added in 2Cor.9:7, “because God loves a cheerful giver.” I love to give and I am a generous giver, but I have to tell you, there were times when I battled with condemnation because I did not give a particular ministry a particular amount at a particular time. For instance, I would get numerous phone calls from various ministries asking for large offerings. When I said I was not able to give that amount, the representative would press me to give a lower amount and would continue to lower it until I finally gave in. The thing was, I felt that I could not say “no” or I would be saying “no” to God! But when pledges started piling up on my desk, I knew I was at my limit. Because I know the Scripture says, “It is better not to vow a vow than to vow a vow and not keep it” (Ecc.5:5), I was in a bind. That is certainly not what God meant about being “a cheerful giver.”

As I prayed on the matter, God brought this verse to my heart, and I realized that it is not scriptural for ministries to phone supporters and pressure them to give certain amounts at a certain time. As Paul said: “Every man as he has purposed in his heart, so let him give” and not by compulsion. From then on, I politely informed the callers that I had already made pledges to other ministries and I had to pay them first, because it's better not to make a pledge if you can't keep it! This has been very liberating for me, and my giving to God has actually increased and my blessings have as well, because as the old song of the Church goes: “You can't be God giving — no matter how you try!”

When we accept God’s challenge to test Him by giving obediently, generously, and cheerfully, we truly open the windows of Heaven’s abundance over our heads (Mal.3:10), and this is God’s method in every season. We enter into a cycle of reciprocal sowing and reaping that keeps us in the flow of financial blessings and so much more.