Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past 48 hours, you’ve probably seen the video of Tyler Perry laying hands on T.D. Jakes. During a service at Jakes’ Potter’s House Church, Perry stood before the congregation and announced a $1 million donation to a youth center the church is developing. But, before he took his seat, he gave a sermonette about favor, the blood of Jesus, the necessity of haters in our lives, and moving when God speaks. He even spoke in tongues. But the thing that topped everything off was Perry’s prayer for Bishop Jakes which culminated in him laying hands on the popular pastor.
As usual, in cases of laying hands, many are interested in the authenticity of the act. Comments on social media ranged from, “Wow” to “I would jerk like that too if I had just received a check for $1 million and someone had smacked me on the head.” Indeed it is hard to judge, but we’re not so sure that is what we have to or should judge at this morning. What is most interesting about this video is not the laying on of hands but everything that leads up to it.
1. Perry mentions being at the Woman Thou Art Loosed session with Rev. White— assuming this is Paula White—who asked all who could to give a $113 offering in consideration of Psalm 113. Psalm 113 says,
1 Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord;
praise the name of the Lord.
2 Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time on and for evermore.
3 From the rising of the sun to its setting
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
4 The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens.
5 Who is like the Lord our God,
who is seated on high,
6 who looks far down
on the heavens and the earth?
7 He raises the poor from the dust,
and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
8 to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.
9 He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!
Are you confused as to what this has to do with a $113 offering? Are we supposed to infer that this text is telling us to give a monetary offering when really one of the most obvious things that the text suggests is to give praise to God? David, the author of this Psalm, is encouraging people to praise God for whom God is and how God is present in the world. There is nothing in this text that points to monetary or even burnt offerings—which some like to interchange with monetary offerings for the sake of giving. This isn’t even one of the oft erroneously quoted scriptures about giving.
2. It appears that Bishop Jakes randomly brought Perry up to the stage to announce that he donated $1 million. Perry expresses as much surprise at being brought up to make many believe that this was unplanned, or was it? Was this all in the works once Jakes saw the amount of the check? Would he have brought Perry up if there wasn’t a check? Or, in less cynical pondering, did Bishop Jakes bring Perry up in order to show the masses a live example of how “You Can’t Beat God’s Giving?”
How can you not like the philanthropic Perry donating $1 million to a youth center? If anyone needs a donation in our culture, it’s the youth. With recent stories such as the 1-year-old baby who was shot dead in Brooklyn, NY and the young, black teenager who was just tried and convicted for shooting an infant point-blank in Brunswick, Georgia, this youth center could provide a positive alternative for youth. Alternatives that could result in troubled youth leading productive lives, rather than becoming a part of the system. Yet there is reason to be torn about Jakes and Perry’s display…
While most will attack Jakes and Perry for their lavish lifestyles, we should be more concerned about the perception that some in church culture have created. The idea that blessings are tied to our giving has caused some to distort the intended meaning. We don’t give to be blessed, we give because we are blessed. Sadly, many who watch the clip might think that blessing is somehow attached to how much you give. “If I only had a million to give,” is what some might think. But they should know, it’s ok if you don’t. Really, it is. Perry affirm this when he said, “My mother, she didn’t have much to give me. She didn’t have million of dollars, she didn’t have some legacy, but she had Jesus. And she taught me about that God.” Perry’s message conveyed that Jesus is enough.
All Christians aren’t called to be rich–though most Christians in the Western hemisphere are rich when we consider global poverty. Not all Christians are going to make seven figures—and maybe not even six-figures. The “dollar increment” call that went out during the live service at the Potter’s House (i.e. “Those who want to give $1,000″) started with the call to give $1 million. Imagine how inadequate some folks felt when there was only one (or maybe a few) people who could make such a sizable donation.
3. And what about this issue of Perry announcing how much he donated? Consider the woman from Luke’s Gospel. Jesus looked and saw the rich putting their gifts in the offering box. But he wasn’t moved. It was a poor widow who provided a teaching moment for the rich. Jesus states that the rich folks gave out of their abundance, but she gave all that she had. So it’s not really the amount you give that matters, but the heart behind your giving. Oh yeah, and there’s that whole giving in secret thing Jesus talked about.
“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 6:2–4)
4. What about those who would argue from the Psalm, “Touch not my anointed one?”
Some torn Christians weren’t so sure what to make of what happened in the video. One comment characterized this group,
“The Bible tells us not to touch God’s anointed but it also says to try the spirit by the spirit. What gives?”
Well, the infamous “touch not” passage has been used by ministries for decades to allow leaders to deflect accountability and it challenges us not to question the actions of leaders in the church. But is that what the passage really is talking about? Or has the passage been appropriated by those who want to instill fear in members of the church? The idea is that if you talk about a man or woman of God, then God will get you–supposedly God is waiting to strike down people who talk about pastors and preachers. But you have to wonder if people have really read the passage from Psalms that talks about not touching God’s anointed. David (the author) was actually talking about his experience with Saul (a king and not a pastor or leader in the church). And he was talking about the physical harm he had a chance to inflict on Saul when he had him in a vulnerable position. The idea that we aren’t to speak up against men and women of God who are anointed isn’t scriptural. In fact, Paul “touched God’s anointed” in Peter when he openly rebuked him for hypocritical behavior.
It’s almost too easy to critique the authenticity of a religious experience such as the laying on of hands and because of that we pray the experience at Potter’s House was authentic. Yet there were a few things there that should at least give us the opportunity to, like the Bereans, search the Scriptures and see if what was said and done was true. At the very least, we pray that this has caused us all to consider the unassuming act of that widow in Luke’s Gospel. It reminds us all that prosperity isn’t something to aspire to or something to be grasped. Jesus, truly is enough. You might not ever stand on anyone’s stage and give $1 million. And that’s okay. Sometimes, all it takes is the clink of two coins to get Jesus’ attention.