Stealing in the Name of the Lord: Our National Export

According to World magazine (2/20/99):

It seems that one hundred decoys were placed on the Izu islands of Japan to attract endangered albatrosses and encourage them to breed. For more than two years, a 5-year-old albatross named Deko tried to woo a wooden decoy by building fancy nests and fighting off rival suitors. 
He spent his days standing faithfully by her side. Japanese researcher Fumio Sato, talking about the albatross’s infatuation with the wooden decoy, said, “He seems to have no desire to date real birds.

Unfortunately, a lot of Christians are like that. They seem to get infatuated by the phony’s of this world all the while ignoring the positive examples of what it means to be a Christian that God has placed around them. 

In fact, if I may be perfectly blunt, I’m regularly convinced that Christians in the United States are some of the most gullible people on the planet. Nearly any charlatan, no matter how transparent or unscrupulous his motives, can get a following it seems. And frankly, I find that fact absolutely amazing.

One of the common verses used by those interested in Christianity as a means for becoming rich is 2 John 3:

Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. 

An excellent example on how not to use this verse comes to us from Oral Roberts, founder of Oral Roberts University in Tulsa OK. You might not know this but 2 John 3 played a pivotal role in his spiritual formation. In the midst of personal suffering, Roberts felt that God had spoken to him personally through this verse. 

David Harrell, Roberts’ biographer, tells of this event.

Oral had rushed out of his house one morning to catch the bus to class when he realized he had not read his Bible, as was his custom. He returned, hastily grabbed his Bible, opened it ‘at random,’ and read 3 John 2. He had read his New Testament, he reported, at least a hundred times, but this verse seemed brand new. 
He called [his wife] Evelyn and read it to her. "This is not in the Bible," she challenged. "It is," Oral replied. "I just read it." "Evelyn," he said, "we have been wrong. I haven’t been preaching that God is good. And Evelyn, if this verse is right, God is a good God." The idea seemed revolutionary, liberating. They had been nurtured in a belief system that insisted "you had to be poor to be a Christian." Perhaps it was not so. Did it mean they could have a new car, a new house, a brand-new ministry? In later years, Evelyn looked back on that morning as the point of embarkation:  "I really believe that that very morning was the beginning of this worldwide ministry that [Oral] has had, because it opened up his thinking."

The results of this “discovery” led Oral Roberts to pursue a world-famous healing ministry. And this verse has become a favorite among the Health/Wealth, Name it and Claim it televangelists. Those committed to the “prosperity gospel” use this verse frequently to back up their outrageous claims.

Now the first question that comes to my mind is why he wasn’t preaching that God is a good God before he discovered this verse. That seems to equate God’s showering us with material possessions as not only a measure, but the measure of his goodness to us. 

But this North American fault has rapidly become one of our chief exports.

Interestingly, this preoccupation with money is a sign of a false teacher. 2 Pet 2:14 says they are experts in greed.

With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood!

Literally, Peter says that they are exercised in the practice. They go to the gym and work out to make sure that they are doing it right. 

Well, we have the poster boy of what Peter is talking about and his name is Balaam. You remember Balaam. We find his story in the OT book of Numbers 22-24. 

In these chapters we read that Balak, King of Moab, becomes desperate to halt what he sees as an invasion of his land by the children of Israel. What makes this interesting is the fact that God told the Israelites to pass through without taking anything from the land. At any rate, Balak decides to hire a prophet of the LORD named Balaam to curse Israel. Even though Balaam refuses to do what Balak wants, he still wavered enough in his loyalty to the LORD that he has been forever viewed afterwards as a man who lead Israel into sin for monetary gain. For he advised Balak to used the women of the land to seduce Israel into adultery so that God would have no choice but to punish them for their sin. And that advise was given purely for monitary gain. 

Instead, when preachers speak of money, their message should be Jesus' message in Matt 6:24--first applied to themselves and then urged on their hearers:

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.