Feedback to “Government Theft”

Dear Friends, I’ve always wanted to share with you some of the diverse feedback that I receive in response to my monthly e-teachings, and this month, I’m going to do it. Last month’s e-teaching, entitled Government Theft, triggered a lot of feedback, from which I’ve quoted some excerpts below. You will be surprised, I expect, and hopefully blessed by some of the comments I received. Our readers have some very diverse opinions, and I’ve selected some of the most interesting feedback, rather than just what was purely affirmative. For the sake of space, I whittled thirty-two responses down to eight. I’ve also added my reaction to some of the feedback below. I hope you enjoy what everyone has written as much as I have! And thanks to all who sent feedback. — David

Excellent, David… what do [you] think about…”re-booting” the economy with a “Jubilee” concept…I keep hearing that it is actually impossible to get out of debt now as a nation… — Michael

Government Theft

Introductory note: Although I have delved into a political topic this month, please note that it is also a very relevant moral topic, and I first lay a biblical foundation for my thoughts. When a nation ignores the eighth commandment, it suffers the inevitable consequences, as we are now. — David

You shall not steal….You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet…anything that belongs to your neighbor (Ex. 20:15, 16).

Most people, Christians and non-Christians alike, agree that it is wrong to take what belongs to someone else. Every nation and culture has laws against theft. The God-given conscience of every human resonates with a built-in knowledge that stealing is ethically wrong.

Lend, Expecting Nothing

When I began thinking about Jesus’ command to “lend, expecting nothing in return,” I initially thought He meant, “Lend, and don’t charge any interest on your loans,” as I remembered the Mosaic Law forbade the people of Israel to charge interest on loans made to their poor countrymen (see Ex. 22:25). But as I read Jesus’ commandment within its context, I realized that He meant that His followers should lend without expecting to receive back either interest or principal:

If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men (Luke 6:33-35; emphasis added).

Is This It?

As we witness bank failures, unprecedented government bailouts, and wild swings in global stock markets, the current economic crisis has many Christians wondering. Is this the beginning of the end? Is America about to collapse? Is the stage being quickly set for the rise of the antichrist? Christians tend to be even more pessimistic than the general population during times like these, knowing from Scripture what ultimately is in store for the world. We have no doubt that, sooner or later, John’s prophetic visions recorded in the Book of Revelation will come to pass.

For starters, let me confess that I’ve always been sure that the antichrist is going to be revealed one day. And I’ve always been sure that Jesus is going to come back. However, after studying eschatology (the doctrine of the end times) off and on for the past thirty years, there is one thing that I’m much more certain of now than I was thirty years ago. That is this: People who are sure about their eschatology should not be so certain. Just ask the author of Eighty-Eight Reasons Why Jesus Will Return in 1988. The only real difference between him and thousands of other Christians is that he wrote a book, while they debated at Bible studies. Trust me; after all your antichrists repeatedly die off, you tend to become less dogmatic about your next pick.

A Prophet Among Profits

It was pointed out to me that the title of last month’s E-teaching, Jesus, the Greatest Prosperity Preacher, was a phrase also used by a popular prosperity preacher in one of his teaching articles. He used that phrase, however, not as I did, but rather as a serious claim that Jesus was in fact just like him and other modern prosperity preachers—but Jesus was the greatest! This, in my opinion, was a terrible slur against Jesus. Jesus was the absolute antithesis of greedy prosperity preachers.

Since that particular prosperity preacher has duped so many people into helping him live his opulent lifestyle, I thought it might be worthwhile this month to examine his entire article in which he makes his outrageous claim. By so doing, it will not only reveal how he has abused Scripture to prove that Jesus was like modern day prosperity preachers, but it will also be a lesson in what questions should be going through our minds when we listen to any Bible teacher, so that we may avoid being duped by anyone about anything.

Jesus, the Greatest Prosperity Preacher

“Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” — Jesus (Luke 6:38).

The primary reason that Scripture is misinterpreted is because context is ignored. Every verse must be interpreted in light of its surrounding scriptures and within the context of the entire Bible. If our interpretation of any verse does not harmonize with the rest of Scripture, our interpretation needs adjusted.

A Parable about Frank, the Wise Investor

The following parable was sent to me from a friend in France, who received it from a friend of his. It is a short story of a man named Frank who became very rich by investing in Microsoft stock. (If you had purchased one share of Microsoft when it first went for sale in 1986 for less than $25, your investment would be worth 300 times that today.)

Although some of the decisions that Frank made on his way to becoming a billionaire may have seemed foolish at the time, in the end, he would prove all of his critics wrong.

Scaling Down in Disneyland

Last month’s E-Teaching, Is Greed Only an Attitude?, about greed not being just an attitude provoked several readers to request practical help on making material adjustments in their lives—for which I thank God. It isn’t always easy to see the need to make any adjustments when living in the Western World, where so many are drunk with the delusion that, “He who dies with the most toys wins” (a bumper sticker you may have seen). How blessed is that day when you realize you’ve been living on an island of fantasy in an ocean of reality. Compared to the one-half of the world that is living on less than two dollars a day, we’re living in Disneyland. (I’ve added a few photos at the end of this e-teaching to remind us of that.)

So what can you do to begin to obey Christ’s clear command to lay up treasures not on earth but in heaven? Jesus told us exactly where to begin: “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven” (Luke 12:33). Jesus gave this commandment to all of His disciples, not just to one wealthy man, and it could not be more plain. Thus, the true disciple of Christ must take inventory of all he or she possesses and determine what to sell, the proceeds of which can then be laid up in heaven.

Is Greed Only an Attitude?

Author’s Preface: Feedback from last month’s e-teaching, Silver and Gold Have I Quite a Large Sum, was largely positive. One person said I was too easy on the high-income ministers I named! Another sent me the satellite photo of the 26,000 square-foot home of a well-known prosperity preacher. Yet another expressed her shock at the financial truth about several ministries she had been regularly supporting. A pastor wrote to tell me that housing costs were very high where he lived, making it difficult for him to make it on the average U.S. household income. (I therefore mercifully granted him special indulgences in order to shorten his time in purgatory.)

On the corrective side, one person pointed out that some of the high-paid ministers whom I named have made worthwhile contributions to God’s kingdom. I certainly agree, but that was not the point of my article. Those high-paid ministers could have made even greater contributions had they taken more reasonable salaries. And the negative impact of their high salaries certainly has mitigated their positive impact. How many unbelievers, knowing something about the opulent lifestyles of the people I mentioned, have rejected their message?

Silver and Gold Have I Quite a Large Sum

Author’s Preface: In the article below, I’ve omitted the names of the ministries, the names of those who head them, and most of the source links that are in the original article. The reason is to avoid criticism from anyone who might object to my revealing such information (all of which is public information, by the way, and much of which the U.S. government morally believes you are entitled to know). Those who do not object to my revealing such information can scroll down and find the unedited article below the edited version. Please keep in mind that if it is wrong for me to publish the unedited version, it is also wrong to read the unedited version. And because of this fair warning, please don’t send me any criticism for having reported names, salaries, and other public information if you’ve made the decision to read the unedited version!

Some years ago I was admonished by one of the wealthiest men in my city, a retired CEO of a huge multi-national company, with the following words, “It is the responsibility of guys like you to tell guys like me what God expects of us, lest we not be ready to stand before Him one day.” It seemed, he elaborated, that too many preachers patronized “guys like him,” fearful of offending and hopeful of gaining something—and in the process ultimately sealing the eternal doom of “guys like him.” Sobering words to a patronizing preacher like me (at the time).

Emboldened by that old admonition, I’d like to address the subject of stewardship in the next few issues of HeavenWord. This month I want to focus specifically on the questionable example of stewardship being set by some spiritual leaders—because the church follows its leaders. There isn’t any doubt in my mind that Jesus would address this issue if He were personally preaching on the planet today, because when He was preaching on the planet, He quite often made sobering statements about stewardship, and He also exposed the money-loving spiritual leaders of His day (see Matt. 23:14; Luke 16:13-15). Imitating Christ, Paul also lamented that many in his day were “peddling the word of God” (2 Cor. 2:17). He required that spiritual leaders be “free from the love of money” (1 Tim. 3:3). Peter, too, warned against false teachers who, motivated by greed, would exploit believers with false words (see 2 Pet. 2:1-3).