Essay – Making a Buck on the Bible
Usually once a week, I have the privilege of watching my 4-year-old granddaughter while my daughter is at work. She is a delight and is no trouble at all. She’s usually busy on my wife’s iPad playing games or we’re both watching Nick Jr. We do get outside to the playground or hit the pool. She also likes taking Marley (our Doberman) for a walk too.
While flipping channels between Sponge Bob and Team Oomi Zoomi, I passed one of the “Christian” Broadcasting stations. As Mary was engrossed in the iPad, I decided to watch some of the morning show that was on. The guest pastor was one of the more well-known TV Pastors. Without naming any names, I wanted to see how much of God’s Word was actually shared during the interview. The pastor was sitting at a round table with the female hostess in front of a studio audience. All smiles and glowing faces as you would expect, speaking on the subject of marriage. They shared usual jokes about spouses and how they laugh more now than ever after being married for so long. The pastor answered several questions from cards asked by the hostess. In a 30-minute show, the pastor referenced scripture twice. Now giving credit where credit is due, this is not bad considering some of the “preachers” on TV. The advice given was sound and sincere and I believe there is not an ill bone in this person’s body. I’m quite confident as TV ministries go, this one is probably one of the better and does quite a bit of good for so many. Giving glory to God for all the years for their own marriage and how they will rejoice when they “get to heaven.” The pastor then made a statement that they had been studying God’s Word for 35 years! Wow! 35 years studying God’s Word?!
You would think that after 35 years of “being in the Word” they would understand it. So why then is this pastor and so many others preaching the “go to heaven” doctrines? There’s quite a few scriptural references as to why they may be missing the mark: Deut. 32:28, Neh. 8:8, Job 34:16, Psalm 82:5, 92:6, Isa. 28:9-10, 44:18, 56:11, Jer. 4:22, and Luke 8:10. So what’s missing? With all the reading and devotion, how can they miss God’s truth? Most of us are fairly new comers in respect to the “35 years” by comparison to the scholarly TV pastor. Now I am certainly not boasting or being prideful in any way but what is different in our seeking to understanding God’s Word? Well the Bible mentions that too: Exodus 31:3, Deut. 4:6, 1 Chr. 22:12, Job 34:16, Psalm 111:10, 119:100, 125, Isa.43:10, Luke 24:45, John 6:44, 2 Tim. 2:7, and 1 John 5:20. The apparent difference
seems to be God’s true calling, keeping all of His Commandments and His Holy Days. Time is God’s anyway and while it may be impressive to an audience I doubt whether God takes notice (Acts 10:34).
After sharing their marriage story, then came the sales pitch. Rather than hang a price tag on it, the pastor’s “Marriage” DVD was available for a “gift” of any amount. I understand that DVD’s cost money and postage isn’t free. Operational expenses again aren’t free. I’m sure nobody sends in a gift of just twenty-five cents for any of these DVD’s. Evidenced by the lifestyles of these Tele-evangelists, they get a lot more than twenty-five cents. In addition, most author numerous books, publications and teaching series on a variety of subjects. Having not read or viewed them all it would not be fair to judge them but it would be just to say the income to their churches can be in the millions.
For curiosity sake, I did some checking on line and found that the top 10 TV “preachers” are quite wealthy. Salaries range from $200,000 to well over $1,000,000 per year (claimed). Their churches however claim annual incomes, some in excess of 90 to well over 100 million dollars. Some of these purveyors of God’s Word have multiple private jets (they cost into the millions), one had an 18,500-sq. ft. home and a 1500-acre campus. I know that God does not intend on all of us to be poor and being wealthy is not a sin, God makes both (Gen. 13:2, 1 Sam. 2:7, 2 Chron.1:12, Prov. 22:2, Matt. 26:11). Writing books for profit is also not a sin. Changing God’s Word to fit your particular theology in writing that book to make a profit might cause you a problem (Ex. 20:16, Rev. 22:18-19).
Again, this particular pastor is one of the more reputable TV evangelists. There are several out there that just amaze me they haven’t been struck by lightning yet or have the Earth open up and swallow their “churches.” These are the few that really should stick to tearing tickets on the tilt-o-whirl or asking questions like,” you want fries with that?” They are fairly blatant in their lack of scriptural knowledge and use of it during their sermons. If any mention of the Bible comes up at all it is only “the scripture says…” or “according to scripture” without ever quoting the Book, chapter and verse. They prance around on a stage in a mega-church with a little wire microphone in their ear, preaching the message of prosperity. They tell how God loves them, Jesus loves them and God wants them all to prosper. True, God and Jesus both love us and they do want us to prosper. The part they forget to mention is He also wants us to obey His Commandments, ALL of them (Deut. 29:9; Josh. 1:8; 1 Kings 10:7; 1 Chr. 22:13; John 14:15; 3 John 2).
Being more reputable on the pastor’s part is still not an excuse (Acts 10:34 again). If anything, a pastor is more accountable for sharing all of God’s truth. I for one pray for God’s guidance and wisdom that when I speak I do not say anything that is not from His Word or would be in any way contrary or misleading (Jer. 17:7, 17:16). The responsibility becomes far greater when we begin to share God’s Word with others. This is why we share in the open forum we now enjoy (Prov. 27:17). These pastors will have a rude awakening some day for selling their Miracle Spring Water to someone who sent them their rent money in exchange for a miracle or taking someone’s pension or social security check for jet fuel for a prosperity trip to heaven. When God uses the term woe He means WOE (Jer. 23:1; Ezek. 13:3; Matt. 18:7; Matt. 23:15; 1 Cor. 9:16).
Aside from making a buck on the Bible, we know these folks are not sharing God’s truth. Promising heaven and eternal life for saying a “sinner’s prayer” is all you need to do. We’ve yet to find that anywhere in God’s Word. Nowhere in God’s Word does it say we go to heaven when we die. Quite the contrary (Gen. 3:19; Psalm 115:17; Ecc. 9:5; Isa, 26:14; John 3:13).
So why are these people making money and these mega churches seemingly always packed (Psalm 73:12)? Not being a sociologist I can offer an opinion or two of my own simply based on dealing with human beings for 30 years. People either go to church for God or themselves. They want to be entertained. I’ve heard people say they left one church because the music program stunk or the kids program was inadequate. You can pretty much pick any reason you can think of as demonstrated by the total number of denominations out there (1 Cor. 1:10-13). Folks will flock to where they can get their itch scratched for lack of better terms. This does not include everyone so please don’t go ballistic. There are those who actually love God and actively seek Him (John 4:24).
Maybe it’s just me in my way of thinking but I’m so grateful Jesus never charged for the information He shared. No person that ever lived could have ever afforded the price so He paid it for us (John 10:15, 13:37, 15:13, 1 Cor. 6:20, 1 Cor. 7:23). The greatest gift ever given was free but it cost Jesus everything (Matt. 10:8, 1 Cor. 2:12-13, Rev. 21:6, 22:17). I always found it amazing that Jesus Christ did so much without a sound system, air conditioning, a private jet or even his own home (Luke 9:58). Lord may you give us Your strength to follow after You (John 8:12).