As we live in what we like to feel is a civilised society we have legal statutes and bodies to implement the oversight of those in our community who prey on the weak, vulnerable, naïve, unsuspecting and too-trusting people.
If a medical professional was found to be falsifying his or her qualifications and/or experience, he would be dealt with by the authorities. If a legal practitioner falsified his qualifications and experience, he too would be dealt with by the authorities. In almost every part of our lives we enjoy protection against those who would misrepresent themselves in order to gain profit for themselves.
Can anyone then explain, why, in the most precious and valuable part of our lives, our spiritual health, that in which the very essence of our existence is grounded, we allow any shyster, fake voodoo practitioner or con merchant to operate without restraint or accountability?
At the times in our lives which are the most precious and personal and when we are most vulnerable, we open our hearts and we invite others, whom we ought to be able to trust, to enter.
When we stand as starry-eyed young lovers and commit ourselves to sharing a life with another in marriage, we invite another to preside over the ceremony and to act on behalf of our community to sanction our promises to each other, and in most cases, to God. But is the person we invite to conduct this ceremony an individual who has a secret life of being involved with prostitution? Does the person concerned pronounce lofty words of holiness over us as we marry, and then go home and beat his (or her) own spouse? Do they pronounce precious and Holy words over us and then go home and use profanities when dealing with members of their own family? Do they leave the ceremony they have conducted for us and then return to their own homes only to spit vile and venom at their own spouses and behave in ways that in bring shame to the Christian ethos and their own marriage vows? If we knew that they were behaving in these ways in other parts of their lives would we want them presiding over our marriages?
When we present our children for baptism or christening, or even simple naming ceremonies, and we place our precious child into the into the hands of that person presiding over the ceremony, our precious, innocent child, can we do so with the confidence that this person presiding over the ceremony is not, the most vile of predators, a child rapist or child molester?
When we call on the pastor or minister to join us in our hours of deepest sadness when we have lost someone precious to us beyond measure, do we do so with the confidence that this individual in whom we entrust our breaking hearts is someone who is trained in bereavement counselling and who is worthy of being invited to share our family’s grief much less who even cares that we are grieving. Is this person saying the final words over our loved one a person of such good character that we can confidently assume he or she is the one we would want to help us farewell our loved one?
When our families begin to implode due to the stresses and strains of the world, when the husband loses his job, when a wife is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, when children are hungry or need support, our society has in place a myriad of services and assistance to deal with the practical solutions of our problems. But when our spiritual well-being is threatened, our hearts are breaking and we need someone to help guide us through the maze ahead and to support us spiritually through what lies before us, can we be confident that the minister, pastor, priest or spiritual adviser we seek will be a person in whom we can have absolute confidence to treat us as Jesus himself would treat us?
Has the individual whom we have invited to our most private and precious moments been someone who has undergone the years of rigorous training (and experience) it requires to deal with these moments? Or is the person in whom we have placed our trust a man, or woman, who is simply an opportunist who craves attention and wealth and obtains a piece of paper from some “dodgy” institution, sometimes without even the need to attend a formal class, (just doing a course by correspondence will suffice in many cases) then bestowing upon themselves the title of “Reverend” or “Pastor” and launching themselves on to the naïve and vulnerable masses. Of course there are those who don’t even bother with writing away to purchase such a piece of paper. There are those who happen to be married to someone who has set themselves as a leader in a “church”. Suddenly, they too begin to call themselves “Pastor” having done nothing other than be the spouse of the original con merchant. Or, as we have seen so many times, especially in recent times, the position of “Pastor” is now one which these hustlers just hand on to their children as if it were their birthright!
And the masses, as they have done, throughout history, follow, unwilling or afraid to ensure that the person in whom they have placed the their own spiritual well-being, and that of those they love, is a person whose character would withstand scrutiny and whose lifestyle emulates that of the Wonderful One whom they claim to represent.
God left us the blueprint by which we should live our lives. After sending us the ultimate living example of how we should try to live, God didn’t leave us to flounder once Jesus had returned to Heaven. We have the blueprint. And this blueprint commands us to take care, to test, to examine, to be on guard…………….. over and over again, we are warned against being misled by the “wolves in sheep’s’ clothing”. This is not a polite request on God’s behalf, nor is it a gentle suggestion. It is a command from our God that we guard against these wolves who, in seeking to prosper themselves and build themselves an empire, prey on the weak, the vulnerable, the unsuspecting, misguided and even the just plain greedy! None are perfect and ALL are sinners, however that is not an excuse to dismiss the disobedience of some Christian leaders and fail to “test all things”!
And if one does decide to question, or challenge as the Bible commands that we do, that one is very often ostracised, but more often, removed!
The “tricks” are not difficult to identify. The opportunists and con-merchants very often attach the word “anointed” to themselves, each other, and to their actions and even, in some case, to their merchandise!!!!
In almost any place one would seek the meaning of this word “anoint”, one will also find as part of the definition, the word “smear [with oil]”. And “smearing” is exactly what the users of this terminology do so well. It is nothing short of blasphemy to claim that the latest book, CD, DVD or even message one has to sell is “anointed”. The sooner we, as Christians, demand that this word stop being thrown around with such gay abandon and cavalier disrespect in our Christian communities the better. It will be the first step in bringing the self-appointed leaders in our Churches back down off the altars they have created for themselves and into the real world into which Christ exhorts us to go and “preach the gospel”.
Of course, these charlatans also claim to have a special hot line to God which the rest of we mere mortals can never hope to obtain. This was a weapon used by priests in the ancient churches in order to keep the huddled masses subject to the church leaders. “God spoke to me and said, you will often hear them utter. Well Christians AWAKE!!!!!! When Jesus died on the cross He died for ALL. ALL are equal before Him. And he is NO RESPECTOR of persons and does NOT show favouritism and is the epitome of impartiality. The Bible tells us so! If you believe that your “Pastor” or any Christian leader you choose to follow, has a hot line to God which you can never enjoy, you are in desperate need of prayer and a return to the words of the Bible.
We, of course, can only blame ourselves when these hustlers rise to great heights and begin leading us down the wrong paths. Why are so many Christians always looking for “signs and wonders. The “popularity” of these some mega churches has cashed in on this very weakness. Just as children are in awe of the magician at a magic show, many Christians seek to be impressed by the “magic tricks” of these con artists. How often have we seen the “trick” in our churches whereby a person is brought on to the stage only to find (shock, horror) that he/she apparently has one leg considerably shorter than the other! That this person may have never had this obvious idiosyncrasy pointed out to them in their entire life before by any medical practitioner at any time defies credibility. The Christians sitting in the congregation never question how this patently obvious and easily-seen-by-everybody disability could have been “missed” by a trained professional who has undergone years and years of medical training and is in possession of his own two good perfectly functioning eyes! Instead, as the leg apparently “grows” before everyone’s eyes, there is a collective gasp of admiration at the miracle that has just been witnessed. Of course, if a man claimed to be a medical practitioner and performed this “trick” in front of a crowd of people, he would be dragged before the courts and charged with fraud and yet any con man can gather a crowd under the guise of being a Christian healer and perform this illusion and enjoy immunity because he simply claims he is doing God’s work!. It is a recognised fact that most people are far more afraid of upsetting their fellow man by asking questions that they are about upsetting Almighty God!!!!
And then, of course, there are the ludicrous claims in which the charlatans claim to have witnessed people walking on water and the dead being raised back to life. In this day of communication and social media and media scrutiny on every aspect of peoples’ lives, these instances never even make it to the back page of a newspaper, let alone a screaming headline. And still vulnerable Christians are taken in. Their desire to want it to be so, far out ways the command of our God to “test all things”.
Of course, God works miracles. Of course God can, and does, heal. Of course God is able to, and does, care about every detail of our lives. But God is not a cheap magician who does a show every night of the week and a matinee on Saturday!
So many Christians have taken their eyes off our God and his precious message to mankind and instead decided to chase after the “signs and wonders” because they need to convince themselves of His presence. Words like truth, grace, and faith have become collateral damage in the world of the con-merchants who prey on the weakness of the human spirit.
We see people lining up at Christian conferences, meetings and even church services to get a “touch”, a “prophecy” or a “word” from some visiting con-artist who has not preached a simple gospel message of being saved by grace but has rather spent time selling their “anointed” product from the “altar” and promising wealth and prosperity if you hand over your hard-earned dollars as only they (supposedly) hold the secrets to success.
God is sufficient isn’t He? When we met Him and decided to accept Him as the Lord of our lives didn’t we place every aspect of our lives in His precious and capable hands? What has happened to a salvation experience if He is put aside while we chase after sooth-sayers and swindlers who promise more that He is willing to provide for us? It was once illegal and punishable by a court to tell fortunes but now the con merchants just do it in the name of God and the Christian church and are never held accountable.
Even a cursory examination would reveal that the “party tricks” employed by these con artists are the same as those which have been used for years to gain the trust of people and fleece them of their hard-earned money by every carnival trickster and snake oil salesman who ever existed. Would God want us to be purchasing an “anointed” CD with a message of how to get rich or would he want us to buy a meal for someone who does not have one? Christians don’t have to run to these con merchants to get the answer……… it is already there for us in God’s Word.
When we give our lives to God and become Christians, we are not exhorted to let common sense fall by the wayside!
The prophets, healers and expounders of the prosperity gospels must all be held up to intense scrutiny because God COMMANDS it!!!!
Behaving like a pack of rock star groupies and chasing after answers from people who have placed themselves on some high pedestal is NOT edifying to God nor to the Christian community.
We need to hold these self-professed prophets, healers and wealth producers to high account. We need to check their backgrounds…….… ask questions………… hold them up to accountability in all their claims.
So, is the person whom we invite into our lives for those most private and important moments, a person of integrity, truthful, honest, and of good character. Is he or she the person they have purported to be? If you discovered that your Pastor or leader had lied about their past would you still listen to what they had to say? Would you still purchase their books, CD’s and other “merchandise”? Would you apply the same standard for truth to your church leader as you would to any other professional with whom you dealt with in your life? If not, why not?
And if your leader lies in some things how do you know he/she is not lying in all things. Where in the Bible does it say that there are some things it is okay to lie about?
Just how important to you is it that your Pastor or Minister be a person whose claims as to his past and his experience reflect the truth? Or are you just happy to have your ears tickled be the beneficiary of a couple of clever illusions?