I was recently watching late night TV when I ran across Don Stewart “Ministries.” It only took a minute for me to figure this guy out—a complete fake who is after people’s money. Like others that have appeared on late-night USA TV (Robert Tilton, etc), he promises money and miracles to those who send money to him. His show looks more like a “get rich quick” scheme than a religious program. Don ads a little trinket to his message: a green handkerchief. I want to explain why this guy is a false teacher and why people should be warned about him.
I decided to call the telephone number just to see what would happen. When the show was on TV (midnight) the lines were busy. This is quite sad, since it means people are falling for this con. I called the next day and got an answer. The staff member asked for my phone number (which I refused to give—don’t need more telephone solicitors) and my address (which I did give). Within a few days the magic hanky came (it was about a six-inch square cloth, which can be made very cheaply here). The letter said I’m supposed to write how much money I need then put the hanky on my wallet.
I’ll tell you more about the letter’s other instructions later. Let’s first talk about the holy hanky and the Bible verse that Don uses to support the practice. It is true that handkerchiefs and aprons which touched Paul did heal the sick (Acts 19:11-12). But Don’s use of this Scripture is wrong for several reasons:
*This is only mentioned once in the New Testament. We never read that this practice was intended to be passed on to others. Jesus, for example, healed a man by spitting in the ground and putting the mud in his eyes (John 9:6). Why not mail out spit-mud pies to everyone?
*Paul never asked money from or promised money to those who received handkerchiefs. You cannot find one New Testament example of Paul promising money or “financial miracles” in the way Don describes. You will find plenty of warnings about the worship of money, which Don conveniently ignores (along with the gospel itself).
*The New Testament emphasis is on God’s power, not any object or method of healing. Watch Don’s show and you’ll see people holding on to the hankies as if they are the Holy Grail. This is idolatry, not to mention that the before-mentioned people look like complete idiots.
*Don claims that the handkerchief is a “point of contact” with him, as if we need him for miracles. I do not believe that he ever even sees any of these hankies in the Philippines. It is simply a ploy to make more profit.
Miracles for Sale?
The first letter I received offered suggestions as to how much I should contribute. Amounts ranged from 200-500p. If this is not bad enough, I received another letter within a week. Suggested contribution ranged from 270-7,770p (along with a promise of seven miracles). Inflation must be affecting the price of miracles! The organization calls it a “miracle faith seed,” but the point is obvious: send us money and we promise a miracle.
I can think of one New Testament example of someone who wanted God’s power in exchange for money. His name was Simon the Sorcerer:
When Simon saw that the Spirit was given when the apostles laid their hands on people, he offered them money to buy this power. “Let me have this power, too,” he exclaimed, “so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!”
But Peter replied, “May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God. Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts, for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin.”
“Pray to the Lord for me,” Simon exclaimed, “that these terrible things you’ve said won’t happen to me!”
God’s message to those who want to buy miracles: repent! Simon was smart enough to repent. I hope anyone who reads this will show the same wisdom.
Warnings in the Bible
Consider some of the following warnings regarding false religious teachers. We should be careful who we listen to!
Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.
Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be severely punished.
Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead.
-1st Timothy 4:1-2
I’m completely ashamed that one of my own countrymen is exploiting Filipinos in this manner. This guy even has the audacity to call himself an apostle!
Here’s my open challenge for anyone who reads this blog:
*I challenge all to warn their friends about this deceitful man and organization.
*I challenge the Philippine-based staff of Don Stewart “ministries” to repent of prostituting the gospel and extorting others for money. Repent and resign immediately, in light of the fact that one day you will stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
*I challenge people of courage and conviction (journalists, etc) to investigate this organization and expose its evil deeds. I am sure of one thing: someone is making money off of this television program. I would like to know who.
*I challenge all Philippine channels to stop airing this program, which exploits the Filipino people of their hard-earned money. Those who are most vulnerable are those who can least afford to give away their money.