Thursday, July 16, 2015

The lure of the lucre: false religion is big business

Money brings with it the lure of the world and what it has to offer. We are from heaven, sent into the world (John 17:16) but we are not to be conformed to the pattern of it while we are here. (Rom 12:2).

Kudzu enveloping and choking a tree
But we need to live, eat, work, raise families. And for that, we need money. We need to be part of the world's economic system in some degree.

Being part of an evil world system through employment, or pension, or financial investment, means we have to make decisions at all times to refrain from being drawn in and compromising our biblical principles. Lydia of Acts 16:14 seems to be one of the people who was involved in a business which brought much money (seller of purple, quite expensive) yet retained her fervent love of the Lord. We know she was successful at this because she had a large enough home to host gatherings and hosted a home church. It seems from the few gleanings we can read in scripture, that once Lydia found Jesus, she used her means to further the kingdom instead of having a divided heart or worse, succumbing to the world like Demas did. (2 Timothy 4:10). She was in the world, but not of the world.
The boat is supposed to be in the water, but the water isn't supposed to be in the boat. ~Alistair Begg
Ananias and Sapphira became entangled in the world system of the love of money, briefly but eternally. In their real estate transaction, they succumbed to the lure of the lucre and kept back some for themselves, even though they had promised God to give it all to Him. God doesn't require all, but their broken promise meant that they were like Mrs Lot, looking back and not putting Him first. They were hypocrites. (1 Tim 6:10).

The love of money and Christianity do not mix. The love of money and false religion are a perfect match. For the non-Christian, false religion can bring in big bucks, incredible bucks. False religion is a blockbusting money-maker. Let's look at a few instances of this from the bible.

As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

19But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 20And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” Acts 16:16-20).

First, the most literal and obvious part of the verse is that the slave owners were raking in the money by farming out this girl in fortune telling. Just as fortune-telling is lucrative now, it was then. Why does fortune telling make so much money? It plays into the emptiness of the world system and of the individual heart. People have eternity in their hearts, (Ecc 3:11) know God exists, (Romans 1:19), have a conscience (Romans 2:15) and yet suppress all that and go seek temporal to fill the vacuum things anyway. False religion is only too happy to oblige.
"Anyone that has a deep longing for true happiness is unsatisfied with any material thing, things which cannot quiet the heart." John MacArthur
Secondly, the false religionists do not care about you. I repeat, they do not care about you. They don't care about your well-being, your spiritual growth, your emotions, your self-esteem, or your happiness. At all. The slave owner knew their girl was possessed. How horrible to be possessed! Yet do the false religionists care about her as a person? No. They wee only angry their money-making enterprise was destroyed.

Third, false religionists are liars. They said among themselves that they were angry their hope of gain was gone. But do they say that when they go to court? No. They lie and they present a false front of caring for "the city" and its laws.

Let's look at another instance which shows the incredible money-making potential of the false religions.

Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. (Acts 19:18-19)

This occurred in Ephesus.

Acts 19:19, Ephesian Book Burning. Artist unknown
The total of the books burned from just this one segment of the population of the city, not even the whole of the city, toted up to 50,000 pieces of silver! This is a staggering amount of money. Judas was paid 30 pieces of silver. According to Thucydides, a drachma or silver piece was approximately a day's pay for a skilled laborer. So 30 pieces of silver would be comparable to 120 day's wages. The people in Ephesus spent roughly 200,000 day's wages on false religion materials!

Fifty thousand pieces of silver is a monumental amount of money to be investing in false religion materials! People are financially supported by false religion to a degree that not only is seen then, but is seen now. The false religionists deeply care about their money, very deeply. Remember, the love of money is the root of all evil.

One more. Also from Acts 19 verses 24-25,

About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. 24For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. 25These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. (Acts 19:24-25)

Once again, we see that their first concern is that they have obtained wealth. In the Greek it's "Our prosperity depends upon this business." Their first thought is always money.

Second, notice that the verse mentions with the workmen in similar trades. In Greek it's 'of similar kind.' There are the idol makers like Demetrius, shrine makers, amulet makers, magic arts bookbinders and scribes, potion purveyors...the list goes on. If you walked into any Christian bookstore looking for a bible, think of all the OTHER stuff that goes along with it. Bible covers, bookmarks, highlighters, CDs, etc. In  any religion there is always the main stuff to buy and then all the extra stuff to buy. False religion was a huge business in Ephesus.

Third, if you read in the next few verses, Demetrius said that these men from The Way are putting a dent in our pocketbooks, and plus, oh yeah, they are besmirching the name of Artemis. Since their first thought is always gain, the caring about Artemis is secondary and a cover. We know it's a cover because of the example above. The aggrieved slave girl owners first stated they lost a lot of money but when they went to the court, they put on a show of mourning over the upset city inhabitants and the civil law. The Artemis lovers cared first about their money and secondarily about the goddess- only then as a means to an end. The end being their pocketbook.

Fourth, after Demetrius did his damage, the city was riled up. The rabble eventually made their way to the amphitheater, but get this,

Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. (Acts 19:32).

They didn't know why they were mad or against who! They didn't even know why they were there! They were truly a rabid dog, mindless crowd, not caring one bit about Artemis until they were told to. (Acts 19:33-34).

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:10)

One note before I close. There is nothing wrong with being rich. Sometimes God blesses us with means so that we can further His kingdom like He did with Abraham, Job, Solomon, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and Lydia.

However, the love of wealth is:

tempting (1 Tim 6:9)
a snare (1 Tim 6:10)
deceitful (Matthew 13:22)
ruinous to households (Proverbs 15:27)
disqualifying men for leadership (1 Timothy 3:3)
unrighteous (Luke 16:22)
A false god (Matthew 6:24- Mammon!)

If money is the root of all kinds of evil, then money and false religion are made for each other because false religion is a high evil and money will be the root of it.

The lesson is, never underestimate the tentacles of money in false religion's purveyors and how committed to money they are to it, how sneaky they are to maintain it, and the depths they will descend to in order to keep it.

Make your decisions wisely, don't get caught in a money trap. Heed the many admonitions in the Bible. Loving money too much will cause you to make unrighteous decisions, as it did for Ananias and Sapphira. As for those who purvey a false version of Christianity, they do not love you. They do not care for you. They put on a false front, a big ole Texas smile, sisterly jokes about big hair, intimate  confessions of past trauma, but at the root of it, all they want is money.

Smaug the dragon protecting his treasure in The Hobbit movie. LOTR wiki.
But for us,

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;
(Matthew 6:19-20)

And where the most precious treasure of all abides: Jesus

1 comment :

  1. When it comes to money, people seem to take one of two paths. Either the desire for money grows as one gets older, or it diminishes as one ages. In the latter case, I believe the adage of "with age comes wisdom," applies. As I have gotten older, I am much more aware of when possessions are too much and not "needing" so many things. Over the past few years I have reduced my belongings and continue to do so, passing books, clothes and household items on to those who have a greater need. It is an ongoing process, but each step I take I feel cleaner, more streamlined and more appreciative of that which I have been blessed. I guess what got me started was realizing, I mean really realizing, how Christ lived on earth--a simple, giving life that was to be an example to His followers. I have given my life over to Him so as one of His followers, I am trying to heed His example. Now bags and boxes leave my house instead of coming in. I am working on being able to pass through the eye of that needle.
    Sandy

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