By Dr. Donald Whitchard
“Abuses of power by varied members of the clergy and laity, especially in the area of money, have unfortunately plagued the church throughout the years, and with it, false teachers who brought about heretical cults and practices”
If you have not read part one you can find it here:
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“If anyone teaches otherwise and does not commit to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless means of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain that we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.”
- 1 Timothy 6:3-11 (NKJV)
Isn’t it unusual that all these “preachers” and “anointed” teachers we see in the religious discourse known as “Christian” television seem to conveniently avoid commenting on passages such as these? I, for one, have never heard folks like Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Jesse Duplantis, Leroy Thompson, Fred Price, Creflo Dollar, Paula White, Marilyn Hickey, Steve Munsey, Mike Murdock, Sid Roth, Jim Bakker, Pat Robertson, Benny Hinn, and Joyce Meyer ever once mention that passages such as what is presented in this study even exist in the Holy Scriptures. They are more in line with what they refer to as “personal revelations” from God telling the gullible, biblically illiterate, desperate, and often naïve viewer and listener that if they would “sow a seed” into their “ministry”, that they would be guaranteed blessings from the LORD and the “curse” of poverty would be lifted, with everything turning out to their advantage. The only “blessings” that are ever received is the increasing bank accounts of these hucksters who do nothing but give the cause of Christ a bad name and a horrendous witness to the outside world.
I must be honest. I am on the verge of hating these lying snakes and am awaiting their inevitable judgment from the Lord Jesus Christ when He establishes His rule and reign upon this world. However, I do fear for them if they don’t open their eyes and honestly repent of their errors and wickedness before time runs out. Riches in the name of religion is not exclusive to this age, nor has the concept of “personal revelations from God” being used as a means of pilfering from the poor been something that only came about recently. Men have used the virtue of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ as a “cash cow” practically since its establishment.
Look at the episode in Acts 8:9-24 concerning the bogus “conversion” of the magician Simon. It seemed that he was a true believer on the surface, but his real motive for religious power was revealed when he offered money to the apostles so that he would have the power of the Holy Spirit and work miracles. Peter immediately rebuked him for his greed and lust for power and influence, directly stating that Simon had no real relationship with God and that he needed to repent of his evil desire. The incident concludes with Simon asking Peter to pray for him, but there is no further mention of Simon in the book. We don’t have any idea if he ever repented or decided to resume his chicanery. The assumption is that he was a false convert, similar to the seed that Jesus described in Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8.
Exodus 20: 17 and Deuteronomy 5:21, the chapters that present the Ten Commandments, show us that God forbids covetousness in any form; that is, greed for anything. Riches are one of the things that we are to work for if possible, but to never look at with envy or hatred towards someone who does possess wealth. This is why the concept of socialism is a sin and an affront to the freedom that God gives to us to pursue and obtain those things that are of benefit to us and are to be seen as gifts of God for virtue and the value of hard work (Deuteronomy 8:18; 1 Samuel 2:7; 1 Chronicles 29:12). We are to never gain riches at the expense of oppressing the poor or denying anyone the opportunity to better themselves. It will only be in the new heavens and the new earth when all of God’s elect are rewarded their treasures that can never be corroded or stolen by anyone (Isaiah 55:1; Matthew 6:19-21).
As the church developed from a persecuted group of dedicated believers in the cause and name of Jesus Christ to an accepted religion under the reign of the Roman emperor Constantine in the early 4th century, its focus changed from the need to preach the gospel to the acceptance and rewards given to it by the state, who saw the church as a means of keeping order and uniting the citizens of the declining empire into one homogeneous group allegedly giving their lives to the cause of Christianity without a personal relationship with Christ Himself. Church officials began to acquire not just influence with the imperial courts, but also gained wealth and power as they governed their respective parishes and dictated what was acceptable and holy conduct and behavior by clergy and citizenry alike.
The conglomerate of church and state was at its peak in the medieval period of western civilization (300-1500 A.D.). This era of history is rife with bad theology, immoral and reprobate popes, persecution of those individuals who would attempt to produce Bibles in the modern languages, perversions of varied types, and kings whose character and rule was often questionable at best and reprehensible at the worst. The quest for riches by various popes and prelates led to unbiblical and unethical means that resulted in full coffers and false assurances of salvation. One of these methods was known as indulgences, and they were a means to finance the building of what would be St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, specifically the area known as the Vatican today.
A clergyman by the name of Johann Tetzel was given the job of raising the needed funds by selling guarantees of salvation or the freeing of a soul in “purgatory” (of which there is absolutely NO biblical basis). Tetzel was the role model for “prosperity” preachers, and it can be demonstrated by the pitch he gave to unsuspecting, biblically illiterate peasants to give to the “poor” church and the work of God. He would say as the money was given, “as soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory flings”. It’s almost similar to the modern hucksters telling the gullible to “sow a seed and be blessed” that is seen all too often on religious TV shows.
This deceptive and ungodly shakedown caught the attention of a German monk in the town of Wittenberg named Martin Luther (1483-1546). He had become a member of the Augustinian order of Catholic priests by promising to go into the service of the church after being terrified by a storm in the countryside. Luther struggled for years about the state of his soul and underwent numerous times of confessions, self-scourging, abstentions from food and rest, and long tedious prayers that seemed to go nowhere. His superior, fed up with Luther’s actions, told him to study the Scriptures and get advanced degrees in the field of theology as a means of keeping him occupied and away from the constant confessions of petty actions that drove the other priests away from him.
In 1517, Luther had achieved the educational goals by earning a doctorate in Biblical studies. He had also undergone a radical transformation in understanding the work of Christ on the cross and the need to have faith in His finished plan of redemption for people. Luther discovered through the books of Romans and Galatians that we must come to Christ by faith and not by works or obedience to figures like popes (of which, again, there is NO biblical ground). We did not have to pray to saints or to Mary for intercession to God, nor did we need absolution and forgiveness for sins by fallible clergymen who did not possess this authority. The act of distributing indulgences and their uselessness as far as salvation goes was an issue that Luther challenged in a series of ninety-five arguments that he wrote and fastened to the doors of the Wittenberg church to be read by all the people. What Martin Luther did was bring about the Protestant Reformation and the dissolution of the stranglehold the Catholic Church and the corrupt papacy had on the nations of Europe. There were to come years of conflict, war, inquisitions, treachery, betrayals, torture, and the translations of Holy Scripture into the language of the people, often at the cost of life. A lot of these troubles were instigated by the Catholics, but there were injustices on the Protestant sides as well, so no one group got off the hook.
Abuses of power by varied members of the clergy and laity, especially in the area of money, have unfortunately plagued the church throughout the years, and with it, false teachers who brought about heretical cults and practices such as found in the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarianism, Christian Science, and much of what is found in excessive charismatic practices in this day and age.
It seems that much of the financial chicanery and bad teachings seen in the media comes from those in the charismatic fold, where biblical standards and discipline are in short supply, but the problems of the lack of sound doctrinal teaching and the abuse of resources is within the confines of every denomination today, and is, unfortunately, a sign of the end times as foretold by the Lord Jesus and in the Scriptures themselves (Matthew 5:19; 15:9, 14; 23:16; 24:23; Luke 6:39; 11:52; 12:23; Acts 15:24; 2 Corinthians 11:4, 13; Galatians 1:9; 5:8; Philippians 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:7; 4:2; 6:3; 2 Timothy 4:3; Titus 1:11; 2 Peter 2:1; 2 John 10; Revelation 2:2).
I think of people like the late Dr. Billy Graham (1918-2018) as a role model for an alternative view of worth and value in terms of effectiveness and genuine godliness in the face of religious greed. I realize that there are individuals who have damned Dr. Graham for some of the mistakes and errors of judgment he made during his lifetime, but he is not here to defend himself and I go by what fruit has been produced in terms of what the church is to be in this world, and that is to be a representation of Jesus Christ and His saving grace for all who would come to the cross.
Dr. Graham and his family lived in a log house in the woods of North Carolina and never lived anywhere else. He was put on a salary at his insistence by the organization he founded and never wavered from that commitment to live within his means. Any royalties he got from the books he wrote were given to charity and he never took any of it for himself. He allegedly flew coach on airlines if he was able, and was accessible if needed within reason. He insisted that people call him “Billy”, and not by his titles. As far as I could tell, his messages were all Bible-based and preached with the intention of seeing people saved. His ministry never saw any financial scandal and he was never seen alone with anyone of the opposite sex other than his wife. His reputation has never been tarnished by personal iniquity, and his last years saw him give his final message called “The Cross”, used to bring untold numbers to Christ and is still a presentation found on social media, and has been watched by thousands, many of whom trusted in Christ for salvation as a result.
He being dead still speaks, and had said that when he got to heaven, he would ask why Jesus chose him out of all the people He could have used to preach His word. We will not see his likeness again this side of glory. Like he is now, we will soon be with our Lord Jesus and the faithful people of God who faced adversities, temptations, persecutions, and death for the sake of what is truly priceless, and that is the inerrant, all-powerful, all-sufficient Word of the Living God and its power to take what is ugly by the world’s standards and change anyone into someone beautiful in Christ. Would that everyone who claims the name of Christ fix their sight on the treasures of salvation and eternal life in heaven with the Lord Jesus? Remember, there are no trailers behind hearses and Matthew 16:26 is still in effect until He returns. Amen?
Don was born and raised in the true Cajun Country of Louisiana. He holds a Bachelors Degree in History from Louisiana College, a Masters Degree in Christian Education from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry degree in Pastoral Theology from Andersonville Baptist Seminary in Georgia. Don has served as a pastor, interim pastor, high school teacher, and hospital chaplain over the past thirty years. He currently serves as a volunteer chaplain (2008-present) with St. Francis Hospital and also served as the pastor/teacher from 2013-2016 at the Gospel Rescue Mission, both of which are here in Muskogee. He was called to Meadowbrook in February 0f 2017 and began his ministry in March of that year. He has also served as President of the Muskogee Baptist Association’s Pastors Conference, which is a weekly meeting that presents speakers and ministry ideas and concepts to church leaders in the greater Muskogee area.
Don’s top priority is to see that the good news of Jesus Christ is shared with our lost and hurting world and that the people of God are taught sound doctrine and preparation for our Lord’s soon return.