Religion, Riches, and Robbery

Friday, April 4, 2014

“And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” (2 Peter 2:3 KJV).

Do not let religion “take you for a ride,” for you will end up paying for the trip!

In recent years, news stories involving “filthy rich” bishops, priests, and ministers seem to have become more prevalent. Only after they are caught, they “apologize” for their multimillion-dollar mansions, exotic trips and vehicles, and other lavish expenditures using “church money.” The “peon-parishioners” are forced to contribute to “God’s work” by giving, and, in return, they are reassured that their “merit” will reap “eternal benefits.” Religion is the world’s most profitable business indeed!

Dearly beloved, we must, must, MUST exercise great caution when giving to any ministry or local church. Remember, Jesus sternly rebuked the “thieves” who defiled His Father’s house, the Temple (Matthew 21:12,13; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-48; John 2:13-17). Our Lord Jesus said these religious leaders “devoured widows’ houses” (Matthew 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47). They did not think twice about taking everything they possibly could from the common Jews! Before the Apostle Paul was saved, as one of these religious leaders, he (as Saul of Tarsus) confessed that he profited in the Jews’ religion above many [his] equals in [his] own nation” (Galatians 1:14). We read about false religious leaders swindling the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:13-20).

In the context of today’s Scripture, the Apostle Peter reminds his Jewish audience that just as the Holy Spirit operated through holy prophets, Satan operated through false prophets (2 Peter 1:19–2:3). These teachers of “damnable heresies” fell into the trap of materialism (1 Timothy 6:6-10) and coveted their converts’ possessions—they preached “feigned” (worthless/fake, but nice-sounding) words. The Prophet Micah, writing circa 750 B.C., reported, “The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money” (3:11).

God’s grace is not against giving (2 Corinthians chapters 8-10); God’s grace is against tithing (forceful giving). We give “cheerfully” (happily; 2 Corinthians 9:6,7) to sound grace Bible churches and ministries, but, most importantly, we give carefully!

Honest Samuel

Friday, August 9, 2013

“And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man’s hand” (1 Samuel 12:4 KJV).

How many politicians and church leaders could we say this to today?

About 1,000 years before Christ, Samuel (“heard of God”) served as a prophet, a priest, and a judge over the nation Israel for many years (although the Bible does not provide a numerical figure, it does tell us he served from “childhood” to him being “old and grayheaded” [1 Samuel 12:2]). His sons are wicked rulers in Israel, guilty of administering crooked judgment and accepting bribes—they “walked not in [Samuel’s] ways” (1 Samuel 8:1-5). Thus, Israel desires Samuel to choose his successor, which is Israel’s first king, Saul (1 Samuel chapters 8-10).

Later, after Saul is anointed as Israel’s king, Samuel addresses the nation (today’s Scripture). Let us see how this man of God ruled God’s people (1 Samuel 12:1-5):

“And Samuel said unto all Israel, Behold, I have hearkened unto your voice in all that ye said unto me, and have made a king over you. And now, behold, the king walketh before you: and I am old and grayheaded; and, behold, my sons are with you: and I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day. Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed [Saul]: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you. And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man’s hand. And he said unto them, The LORD is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that ye have not found ought in my hand. And they answered, He is witness.”

Even the LORD Himself testified to Samuel’s honest reign! It was such a shame that his sons did not follow his example, for their corrupt administrations led Israel to reject Samuel, and more importantly, God’s wisdom by which he ruled.

The Gift to Be Refused

Sunday, August 26, 2012

“And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous” (Exodus 23:8 KJV).

Today’s Scripture describes one gift that you should never accept!

Deuteronomy 16:18-20 repeats today’s Scripture: “Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment. Thou shalt not wrest [distort] judgment [justice]; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous. That which is altogether just [fair, right] shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.”

We can compare that to Proverbs 15:27: “He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live.”

In the Mosaic Law, and later in Proverbs, God told the nation Israel not to accept “gifts.” What are these “gifts?” (Hint: Today’s politicians and clergy would do well if they refused them.) By examining these verses, we see that the Bible defines the term “gift.” This “gift” “blindeth the wise:” it pollutes the judgment of even the wisest person. Furthermore, it “perverteth the words of the righteous;” that is, it causes even the saint of God to fall into the trap of lying, and maybe far worse to cover up the deception. This is no ordinary “gift.” It is, in fact, a bribe, a gift of money or other incentive given to one in authority in order for this official to act in the giver’s favor!

Notice above how Deuteronomy 16:18-20 cautioned Israel’s leaders, that they rule fairly and honestly, refusing bribes. Sadly, centuries later, two of Israel’s judges (rulers), Samuel’s sons, “turned aside after lucre [money], and took bribes, and perverted judgment” (1 Samuel 8:2). Interestingly, their shameful actions were influential in Israel’s apostate decision to have a king rule over them instead

Let our decision-making be influenced by the King James Bible rightly divided, and not by the gift to be refused.

Plastic and Paper Not Accepted in Heaven

Thursday, June 21, 2012

“And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:18,19 KJV).

Mankind has always tried to purchase the things of God with money… unsuccessfully….

Simon is a sorcerer (wizard) who has “bewitched” Samaria with satanic deception and counterfeit miracles (verses 9-11). But, once he sees the apostles laying hands on believing Jews, and their subsequent receiving of the Holy Spirit (which belongs in Israel’s program, not ours), Simon sees an opportunity for economic gain. He offers the apostles money in exchange for their God-given abilities. The Apostle Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, gives God’s response to such matters: “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money” (verse 20).

Religion, down through the millennia, has been notorious for extortion. Consider all the poor souls who believed they could pay for God’s forgiveness in advance by purchasing indulgences from the Church of Rome! Ponder the cash penances paid after confession to priests. Consider the tithe demanded for salvation in today’s “Bible-believing” churches (which do not “believe” 2 Corinthians 9:7 and Titus 3:5).

Even if you had all the monetary wealth of all the ages, heaven’s gates would still be closed to you! The price for your forgiveness was paid, not with cash, but with the precious blood of God’s only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:28). For salvation, you can offer God every cent you will ever earn, and He will refuse it. God wants perfect righteousness, and none of us have that.

Remember, you will be unable to write a check or swipe your credit card at heaven’s gate. God does not want your money. He only wants His Son, and those who have trusted in Christ’s sufficient payment for their sins. Salvation is a gift that only Jesus Christ could buy (Ephesians 2:8,9). “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.”