We're continuing our Top Ten List about detecting wolves in sheeps' clothing that began in Part 12.
Here's Number 8:
#8: Beware of those who collect "the wages of unrighteousness"
Question: What do you call a christian who profiteers off Christ?
If we study the profile of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Christ for money, we learn many interesting things about false prophets and their modus operandi.
The very first time we encounter Judas speaking in the scriptures, straight from the horse's mouth, is in this fascinating vignette involving, of course, money:
Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him,
Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?
This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.
Then said Jesus, Let her alone.
(1) Control of Funds. Notice that Judas was the treasurer for the group, who managed their finances. He controlled the bag of money and was probably chosen because of his MBA.
(2) Piousness. Notice, next, how pious he sounds, wanting to sell the ointment to donate it to the poor.
(3) Hypocritical. But Judas's concern for the poor was all a ruse. He didn't really care about the poor but about getting that 300 pence to fatten his purse.
(4) Dishonest. It explicitly states here that Judas was "a thief." He was embezzling funds from the group and pocketing them himself. He coveted his role as the Holder of the Purse because it gave him easy access to skim off the top.
(5) Chauvinist. Let's not miss this interesting, personal dynamic between Judas and Mary. Judas criticized Mary and tried pulling rank on her, accusing her of waste. Jesus himself had to come to Mary's defense, telling Judas to leave her alone.
Be cautious around pious men who control the purse strings and believe they know best how to spend the Lord's money.
Chances are they're cheats.
Betraying the Lord with a Kiss
The second glimpse we get into Judas's soul is when he sells Christ to the Jews for 30 pieces of silver.
Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,
And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.
(1) Personal Gain. Notice that Judas's loyalty is negotiable. "What will ye give me?" he asked the priests.
Judas never read "sacrifice" in his job description. What is the opposite of "sacrifice?"
(2) Granting Access to Christ for a Fee. This is perhaps the most sickening part: Judas using his close association with the Lord to give special access to those willing to pay money.
Any religion that teaches that they can give you access to God (heaven) through rituals, ordinances, sacraments, or covenants for a fee (there's the catch), is practicing priestcraft in the spirit of Judas, a son of perdition.
Hard Lessons for a Farm Boy
Look, I get it. Who wouldn't want a comfortable living with all the trappings of a respected, admired prophet?
But that's the danger. There's something spiritually toxic when we practice priestcraft. It cankers our souls.
And it's the one thing Moroni specifically warned Joseph Smith about.
Apparently we've never learned the lesson (which is why, perhaps, we are no closer to Zion).
Remember the Smiths lived on leased land. They had to pay annual rent on their 100 acre farm. Which is why the Smith boys were hired hands, trying to earn some cash so the family could pay their mortgage and not lose their home.
And then, a miracle! Gold plates! (Emphasis on gold). Those heavy plates must have been worth a tidy sum.
Sure, you need to translate the plates, first. But afterwards, why not melt them down into gold boullion and sell them?
It's a win-win!
Well, the angel could read Joseph's mind.
"The angel added a caution to me, telling me that Satan would try to tempt me (in consequence of the indigent circumstances of my father’s family), to get the plates for the purpose of getting rich. This he forbade me, saying that I must have NO OTHER OBJECT IN VIEW in getting the plates but to glorify God, and must not be influenced by any other motive than that of building his kingdom; otherwise I could not get them."
It is a tale as old as time. We think we will be the exception; that we will figure out a way to finally serve two masters; to pleasure mammon without cankering our souls; thinking we're able to build the kingdom of God while at the same time earning a wage from it.
Well, as we know, Joseph didn't get to keep the plates. On to Plan B: let's sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon and earn money that way!
And remember how people make fun of Joseph Smith for never finding any buried treasure with his seer stones as a young man, or later when Mr. Burgess promised him a big payoff in Salem, Massachussets?
Well, it's almost like God is trying to teach us a lesson: we cannot use the gifts of God for personal gain.
In my opinion, the General Authorities would have a lot more credibility if they followed Moroni's counsel and kept their day jobs, serving God through sacrifice rather than from a stipend (or better yet, left their nets and became itinerant preachers like Philip and Alma).
I Call St. Peter to the Stand
Me: What is your name?
Peter: Simon Peter.
Me: Do you recall writing the contents of a book in the New Testament called 2 Peter?
Me: And did you allege that prophets can, in fact, lead us astray?
Peter: Yes. I said that "they have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray" (2 Pet. 2:15).
Me: Can you clarify, for the court, the context in which you made this claim?
Peter: I made it in reference to those "who love the wages of unrighteousness."
Me: Are the "wages of unrighteousness" some spiritual punishment, or something figurative?
Peter: No, I meant the literal "wages" or money that prophets receive for their labor. I was using Balaam as an example.
Me: But why is it "unrighteous" for them to take money, when we're told "the laborer is worthy his hire?" (Luke 10:7).
Peter: You are referencing the Lord's commission to the Twelve, but you are not using that phrase correctly. Jesus said:
Carry neither purse, nor scrip . . . . And into whatsoever house ye enter . . . remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire.
The Lord was telling us that we would be depedent upon the providence of God and the generosity of our hosts. But we weren't supposed to earn a wage, or collect a stipend, for our service.
Me: But I thought you were supposed to leave the fishing business and devote yourself to converting souls to Christ. Remember the whole "lovest thou me more than these" conversation?
Peter: You are pretending to be an idiot, or are you in fact one? How did Jesus support himself financially? He relied upon gold from a fish's mouth; he accepted charity and hospitality; he was content with food and raiment. In those days, we didn't have a lifestyle to support.
Me: So, what would you do, say, if you had $150 Billion Dollars in the bank?
Peter: [Looking incredulous]. Idiot, then.
Out of the Mouths of Two or Three Witnesses
Jude warns us that "there are certain men crept in unawares" (Jude 1:4).
What sort of mischief does Jude accuse these men of?
Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward.
Well, that is intresting. Why would Jude use Cain as an example of a false prophet?
Because Cain and his descendants practiced a religion that perverted sacrifice (remember he wouldn't offer up the firstling of the field?).
In its place, they created a system in which they could profit.
Wherefore, Lamech, being angry slew him, not like unto Cain, his brother Abel, for the sake of getting gain.
Religion of the Circle R
In my poem, Religion of the Circle R, I satirize the way the modern Church has followed in the footsteps of Cain, trying to trademark salvation and license redemption to those willing to pay them a fee.
We have far more in common with Master Mahan than we would like to believe.
Religion of the Circle R
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. —Exodus 20:7 The copyright owner is entitled to recover the actual damages suffered by him or her as a result of the infringement, and any profits of the infringer. —17 U.S. Code §504 Dear Sir or Madam: The Religion of the Circle R® owns the copyright to the publishing of “glad tidings” and what you term the “Good News.” You are hereby ordered to cease and desist your unauthorized sharing and use of the GOSPEL® trademark, for which you do not have a license.
My client holds the exclusive rights belonging to the name of Jesus Christ for all commercial use in: marriage ceremonies, baptismal ceremonies, baby dedications, financial management, business administration, computer software, choral performance, genealogical research, pedigree charts, downloadable media, mobile applications, recruiting and career networking, systematization of information, trade shows and exhibitions, educational services, secured-access websites, counseling in etiquette and protocol, and providing eleemosynary. It is unlawful for you to utter, repeat or otherwise perform these things in the unspeakable name of Deity without express permission and only after you pay a royalty. Sincerely, The Law Firm of Flax & Cord
__________________ Dear Gentlemen: I am in receipt of your letter of the 12th instant. I must decline your request that I refrain from preaching Christ Jesus unless I pay an annual licensing fee.
God's name cannot be bought or sold. I say with Peter: Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought the gift of God may be purchased with money.
I claim the privilege of worshiping God according the dictates of my own conscience and allow others the same privilege.
We must all choose between two masters, between priesthood and priestcraft:
one a Lamb with wool bloodstained, a token of its love unfeigned; the other, a ruddy ram awaiting in the thicket the Pharisee and hypocrite. Yours truly, Gen. Jos. Smith