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MONEY-MAKING BIBLE HUCKSTERS
Published On : December 3, 1997
Last Updated : May 22, 2009
Paul's Counsel In 1 Corinthians, Phony Donations, Charity And Supporting God's Workers, Seek First The Kingdom And God Will Provide Your Needs, The Cheerful Giver, Suffer All Things For The Gospel, Apostle Paul's Example, Lords Over God's Heritage, 1st Century Church Financial Plan, Christian Communal Living, Not For Personal Gain Or Filthy Lucre, Greedy False Shepherds, Modern Commercialized Christianity And Superficial Preachers, Modern Christianity's Dandy Bad Example, Hindering The Gospel, The Antichrist Jewish Leaders, Judged According To Our Works, Church Of Laodicea, Danger Of Materialism, Babylon The Great
I would have been interested in reading some of the material which this man, and others like him, offer; however, I'm not about to encourage any of these money-making Bible hucksters to continue in their practices by sending them money. It is my firm belief that those who preach the Gospel should find some other means of supporting themselves, so that they can deliver the truth of God's Word freely to the spiritually destitute of the world. The Apostle Paul had to deal with this very same problem, and wrote the following in his first Epistle to the brethren at Corinth:
"Mine answer to them that do examine me is this, Have we not power to eat and to drink? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel."
1 Corinthians 9:3-14, KJV
Some people have used the previous verses as a means to try to justify commercializing our Christian faith. There is an old saying some of them use which says something like "The Gospel am free, but it cost somethin' to pipe it to ya!" It does cost money to preach the Gospel of Christ; there is no doubt about that; however, I am by no means convinced that the Apostle Paul was advocating that we should commercialize our faith, such as by selling books, videos, music CD's and the like, or by charging money for speaking engagements. It also really irks me when some of these Bible hucksters claim that they will give you their book or CD in exchange for a generous "donation". When these hucksters refuse to give you their product unless you "donate", then it really isn't a donation, is it? They are in fact selling you something, and it is hypocritical to try to pretend that it is a donation.
My understanding is that if we faithfully preach the Gospel, then those people to whom we are ministering, who gladly receive the Word, should feel an obligation to help support us in return. In other words, I am talking about good old charity; and I believe that this is what Paul is referring to as well. If we, as preachers of God's Word, provide their spiritual needs, then in return, they should be willing to provide our physical needs. Perhaps someone can offer you a rent-free place to live, or food to eat, or clothes to wear. That is basically all that any of us really needs to survive happily, and of course a computer, if you happen to have an electronic ministry as I do. If you happen to be a traveling missionary, a car or truck with a trailer or camper would take the place of a stationary home. Folks can also donate monetary gifts as well to help pay for utilities, gasoline, etc.
As I point out in "Seek Ye First The Kingdom Of God", all I know is that if we faithfully preach the Gospel of Salvation as we've been called to do, God will provide our every need. He will take care of us, somehow, in some way, even if that means subsisting on donations and charity. He may not provide everything that we want, but He will most certainly provide everything that we really need, and we won't have to sell His Word in order to obtain it either. Jesus promised us this, and other writers in the Bible promised it as well, as we see by the following verses:
"Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart . . . I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread."
Psalms 37:4, 25, KJV
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
Matthew 6:33-34, KJV
"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened . . . If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"
Matthew 7:7-8, 11, KJV
"And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."
Matthew 21:22, KJV
"Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows."
Luke 12:6-7, KJV
"And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you."
Luke 12:22-31, KJV
"He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?"
Romans 8:32, KJV
"But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:19, KJV
"And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him."
1 John 5:14-15, KJV
Please notice that in the previous verses, it is emphasized that we should direct our prayers, concerns and needs to God the Father, and then He will provide accordingly. Nowhere in those verses do we find anyone suggesting that we should sell God's Word, or other Christian-related materials, for money, in order to provide our own needs. In short, God will provide for us through those people to whom we preach the Gospel.
Furthermore, as I also point out in the article "The Cheerful Giver: Supporting God's Work", if Christian believers support those who preach the Gospel to them, God will bless them in return; because as the Apostle Paul also tells us, God loves a cheerful giver. In other words, God loves those people who freely give from their hearts, because they want to give, and not because they are forced to give, or feel pressured to give; and they don't grumble about it either, as we see here:
"Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver."
2 Corinthians 9:7, KJV
In the previous verses that I shared with you, Paul clarifies that we aren't supposed to force people to pay us in any way, before we are willing to share the Gospel with them; yet this is precisely what some of these modern preachers are doing, such as the person who inspired this series. In their haste to try to justify their actions, some of these unscrupulous people who commercialize our Christian faith will quote the last verse where Paul says "Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel". However, what they neglect to point out is that a few verses earlier, Paul also states "Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ". In other words, Paul is clarifying that while they could use their position as the Lord's Apostles to force people to give money to them, or to provide them with whatever other needs they may have, they refuse to exercise this Apostolic authority, because to do this could hinder the furtherance of the Gospel.
A few verses later, Paul again verifies that it is better to suffer personal need for the Gospel's sake, than to exercise his power as an Apostle of Christ, and demand payment for his preaching services. Rather than become a selfish shepherd of the Word who will only share the Gospel with those who are willing to pay for it, Paul clearly states that he prefers to make the Gospel of Christ known "without charge", as we see here:
"What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel."
1 Corinthians 9:18, KJV
Sadly, as we have already seen, to our shame, today there are many of these money-making Bible hucksters who have chosen to ignore everything below verse fourteen; and I suspect that at least some of them do it because they know that those verses expose their sins of selfishness and greed. I encourage you to take the time to read the whole chapter so as to obtain a better understanding of exactly what Paul is saying in these verses.
One thing that is certain, is the fact that because Paul was not willing to charge money for preaching the Gospel, he was willing to "suffer all things", because he simply didn't want to hinder the propagation of the Gospel of Christ. We know from the Book of Acts, as well as from some of the Epistles, that Paul and his companions often suffered as a result of being ambassadors of the Gospel of Christ. Not only was both verbal and physical persecution common, but sometimes, they also lacked their own physical needs. This is made quite clear for us in passages such as the following:
"We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day."
1 Corinthians 4:10-13, KJV
"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
Philippians 4:11-13, KJV
If Paul was charging money for his preaching services, if he was earning filthy lucre as he shared the Gospel of Salvation with people, why would he even make such statements? He would have all of his needs met all of the time, right? It becomes obvious then that he wasn't asking for anything in return. He was seeking first the Kingdom of God, and simply trusting God to touch people's hearts to share with him, just as he was sharing his spiritual riches with them, as he stated in his Epistle to the Corinthians. It was an exchange of spiritual blessings for physical needs.
What a far cry from the glitzy, well-groomed, fast-talking preachers of our current time! So we see then that people who make such demands on their flocks are in contradiction to the Scriptures. They are not following the financial plan of the First Century Church, and they are abusing their position as ministers of God's Word. In fact, this kind of behavior is probably what Peter was referring to when he stated that we should not be "lords over God's heritage", as we see in the following verses. Please notice again that Peter states that we should not preach the Gospel for personal gain -- or for filthy lucre. Peter is clearly making a connection between preaching for our own personal gain, and being lords over God's heritage:
"Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away."
1 Peter 5:2-4, KJV
It seems then that Peter and Paul were very much in agreement regarding this particular issue of commercializing our faith. They shared the belief that fleecing the sheep was not God's financial plan for the First Century Church. So exactly what was God's financial plan for the Early Christians? Well, as the old adage goes, "Where God guides, He will also provide". In looking at the New Testament, we learn that the Disciples of the Early Church made ends meet through a variety of ways. Primary among these was their sharing of the goods or money donated by new Disciples, as well as others who believed in and supported their work. Consider the following verses:
"And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need."
Acts 2:44-45, KJV
"Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,"
Acts 4:34, KJV
In a later chapter, we discover that when a congregation in one place had more than was actually needed, it would share its surplus with a congregation in another city. For example, consider how Paul and Barnabas were sent to help the Elders in Jerusalem:
"And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul."
Acts 11:28-30, KJV
Thus we see that the early followers of Christ practiced a pure form of Christian communism. They lived communally, and they shared everything according to each person's need. Yet in spite of this straight forward financial plan that's laid out for us in the pages of the New Testament, there are many Christians today who will say "Oh, that was for back then; we cannot possibly live like that today. Life has become far too complicated."
While this may be partially true, I remain convinced that two factors which contribute to this problem, is our own lack of faith and trust in the Lord, as well as the extremely selfish lifestyles that we lead. This makes Christian communal living more difficult to achieve today. There have been Christian and non-Christian organizations which have attempted it; and they have been successful for a number of years. Eventually, however, it seems that selfishness and materialism creep in, and some of them don't last. What likewise hampers Christian communal living is the fact that the secular world frowns upon any group of people who choose to live in this fashion due to their common religious or philosophical beliefs, or simply to save money, or for whatever their reasons. Just try it, and you will quickly be branded as a dangerous cult by "respectable" civic and religious leaders alike. Before you realize it, government agencies like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Child Protective Services, etc., will be after you, looking for reasons to discredit you.
If you are interested in reading more about the Early Church Plan, I encourage you to read my companion article "Where Are The First Century Churches?" The point is, God can and will provide today, just as He did two thousand years ago, if we only have the faith to believe. After all, as we are told in the Scriptures:
"Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."
Malachi 3:10, KJV
"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
Hebrews 13:8, KJV
But returning to the main subject of this series, it should be clear to you, the reader, by now, that we are not to seek financial reward for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are not to do it for filthy lucre's sake. If you've felt the call to be an Ambassador of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then I truly hope that you're willing to preach simply out of your love for lost souls, even if you never receive any reward or recognition here on Earth. After all, we have our reward, and it is in Heaven.
So again, these money-minded preachers are misrepresenting the Gospel. They are giving the Gospel of Jesus Christ a very bad name. They are being lords over God's heritage, and living the so-called "abundant life" at the expense of their flocks. They are fleecing their flocks much like the greedy shepherds which are described in the thirty-fourth chapter of the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, as we see here:
"Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock . . . Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them."
Ezekiel 34:2-3, 7-10, KJV
What a stinging rebuke to modern day false shepherds who do the very same thing! They wear their fancy clothes and their expensive rings. They ride around in their luxurious cars and build their multi-million dollar mega-churches. Some even own vast amounts of real estate and large companies worldwide. We see flashy preachers making multi-million dollar deals with various facets of the mass media, while others preach a vast array of strange and unscriptural doctrines. These wolves in sheep's clothing preach about living the "abundant life", but they are the only ones who are actually living it! Our faith has also been shamed by preachers and preachers' wives who have been unfaithful to each other, while others have been involved with homosexuality and pedophilia. Yet others are discovered to be entangled in questionable financial deals, and on and on the bad dream goes.
Is it really any wonder then that modern-day Christianity has obtained such a bad image, and a bad name? Is it really any wonder that some people see the superficiality and hypocrisy of some Christian churches and leaders today and say "I don't want any part of that! I'd rather be a Buddhist, or a Muslim or a Wiccan, or a New Ager, or an atheist"? Tragically, while I don't agree with their choices, I can't say that I really blame them to a certain extent. What kind of an example have these people been given by the so-called "leaders" of modern Christianity? I must fully concur then with the Apostle Paul when he states that this kind of abusive behavior has indeed hindered the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It has prevented some people from entering the Kingdom of God, and in some cases, it has made it difficult for some people to believe in God at all. In fact, I am reminded of a similar comment that Jesus made to the self-righteous Scribes and Pharisees of His day when He said:
"But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in."
Matthew 23:13, KJV
Of course, in that case, I believe that Jesus was saying that those religious leaders had placed the bar so high, through all of their special laws and requirements, that no one could have gained Eternal Life even if they had wanted to. Not only that, but it is quite evident that the Scribes and Pharisees persecuted and threatened anyone who dared to believe in and follow Jesus. As I point out in other articles, not only did they murder Jesus in cold blood, but they then proceeded to persecute, incarcerate and kill His followers in the Book of Acts. What some of these church leaders and famous preachers are doing today isn't quite the same, but the end result is still the same; and that is that they are hurting the message of the Gospel, through their dandy bad examples of hypocrisy, materialistic living and superficiality, and they are driving people away from our Christian faith, instead of towards it.
One thing is certain. According to the Scriptures, some day, these shameful and irresponsible Christian leaders will be held accountable for their actions. In fact, we all will; for as it is clearly written in God's Word:
"If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?"
Proverbs 24:12, KJV
"For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works."
Matthew 16:27, KJV
"And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:"
1 Peter 1:17, KJV
". . . I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works."
Revelation 2:23b, KJV
"And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them."
Revelation 14:13, KJV
"And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works."
Revelation 20:12-13, KJV
As I pondered the previous verses, and wondered what kind of a reward these money-making Bible hucksters might receive on their day of judgment, the verse that came to me was this:
"And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt."
Daniel 12:2, KJV
I can't begin to imagine what it would be like to be scorned for all of eternity; can you? It would be simply dreadful; yet that is apparently what some people are going to have to endure, as a result of their sins in this current life.
In thinking about the rampant commercialism that's perverted and corrupted our Christian faith, I'm reminded of the Lord's message to the church at Laodicea, as written in the Book of Revelation. In the third chapter, we find the following dire warning:
"I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent."
Revelation 3:15-19, KJV
Such is the danger of being enticed by, and overcome by, the materialistic pleasures of this current world. We become so complacent and spiritually blind that we're no longer capable of seeing our true spiritual condition. The physical comfort that riches bring can draw us away from the Lord without us even realizing it. It is a slow, subtle process. The Apostle John was fully aware of this danger, and thus he warns us:
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
1 John 2:15-17, KJV
The previous verses from the Book of Revelation concerning the self-confidence of the church at Laodicea remind me of boastful Babylon the Great, which some Christians view as being the false, worldwide religious system of our modern day. In Revelation chapter eighteen, we find the following verse concerning the mystery woman Babylon:
"How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow."
Revelation 18:7, KJV
For more in-depth information regarding this topic, please consider reading my article "Revelation's Babylon The Great".
Please go to part three for the conclusion of this series.
⇒ Go To The Next Part . . .