Hucksters, Charlatans, and Religious Con Artists
I’ve really gotten tired of it. I have no idea how God can stand it, but His patience obviously far surpasses mine – duh.
You hear them on the radio and the Internet and you can hear and see them on the television. Televangelists by the score have been setting the tone for Christianity for years and it’s heartbreaking really.
I’m preparing to write another book and I’ve been researching the subject by forcing myself to it through too much Christian programming, mainly on the TBN channel. What I see and hear is pretty disturbing for any number of reasons.
The reality is that the overall subject preached is the “name-it-claim-it” dogma that seems to bring tons of money into the coffers of many who preach Jesus (seems to be in name only), all the while promising that God is a God of miracles (He certainly is) and that He is there to make our grandest wishes come true (He most certainly is not).
If this was not bad enough, we have to add to this the goofyness, bluster, and general lack of orthodoxy on display and we wind up getting a picture of what the average “word of faith” individual believes and appreciates about Christianity.
I’m tired of so-called Christians trying to entertain the world with singing and musical acts that seem to come straight out of Hollywood, with coiffed hair, $500 hair styles and $1,000 suits. It’s as if God’s Word cannot stand on its own, so it has to be doled out in small bites, with lots of glitz and glamor. Jokes should be thrown in as well for good measure.
In fact, let’s not offer a sense of fearful reverence or humble love to God. Let’s call him things like “Big Daddy” and “the man in the sky,” or any other number of things that bring God down to our level. Actually, they have not only lowered God to our level, but they have succeeded in actually trampling on His good Name.
I shudder to think that the individuals who perpetrate these antics are actually Christians. I cannot help but wonder how they can be since their view of God is so tragically low. These are the type of people that apparently think that if they saw Jesus in the flesh, they would waltz up to Him, smack Him on the back and say, “Yo, J-Man! What up?”
Why has the realm of Christianity for the most part become one that mocks God? Why are there so many individuals who are preaching a form of Christianity that neither humbles or saves? They have created a god that exists to serve us and make us happy. They constantly present Jesus as a magical genie, one who cannot dote enough on His children. He yearns to make our lives easier and far more fulfilled than we could ever dream.
The problem is that these people are preaching a gospel that replaces Jesus with dollars. In other words, they present a gospel that says if you are truly one of God’s children, He will bless you with all sorts of material things! Just ask people like Paul Crouch or Kenneth Copeland. They’ve got millions and multiple homes as well as jets that carry them wherever they need to go.
While some might argue that they “need” those jets, the truth of the matter is that the millions spent on purchasing a jet (along with paying the pilot to fly it and fuel to make it run) could be far better spent on other things. Why do some preachers need multimillion dollar homes and why do they need more than one? Why do they need a closet filled with suits and shoes? Why do they need chauffeurs?
If Jesus were physically alive today on planet earth, to hear some tell it, He would be like Kenneth Copeland, Paul Crouch, or any number of other televangelist that lives high on the hog. I don’t see it. I don’t understand that mentality. Jesus could have lived like that when He came to this earth the first time. He could have sided and hung out with the Pharisees and other religious leaders. They were the rich ones of society. They received the accolades, the respect, and much more.
Jesus did not live like that. He had no permanent home and often was not aware of the direction His next meal would arrive. While He could have lived like a Pharisee, He did not and He did not for a reason. The reason had everything to do with the fact that He was against them and everything for which they stood. Had He taken a stand with the religious leaders of His day, He would have taken a stand against His Father and that would have been sinful and would have resulted in a fall from grace.
Paul could have tried to continue to side with the Pharisees since he was one prior to becoming a Christian. As a Pharisee, he was essentially set for life. He had status, a career, he would have been able to take care of his parents in their old age had he desired and he would have gained the respect of his peers. He realized it was simply not worth it and was willing to give it all up for the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus as His Lord and Savior.
This is not the case today with too many “Jesus preachers.” They invoke His Name constantly. They quote Scripture completely out of context in order to present a type of gospel to their listeners that will act as a hook. Once hooked, the average person cannot turn away. They will begin to believe what they are being told; that as they give, God will give to them. As they empty their wallets in faith, God will reward their faith openly, showering them with physical gifts of wealth, health, and great living. Many succumb to this type of temptation because they do not know any better. They are not blameless because they could go to His Word and learn the truth, but prefer instead to take what is presented to them as truth without questioning it or its source.
Christendom today is filled with “Jesus preachers” who itch people’s ears. They are nothing more than religious con artists. They work to literally rob people of what little they have, all the while, they themselves store up this ill-gotten gain for their own pleasure and pursuits.
When I watch these televangelists on TV (and not all of them, mind you, but certainly a good portion of them), I see emptiness. They have no power at all except the power to deceive and they know how to use that to their best advantage.
When people speak against what they teach, they rail against that person right on the air. How many times I have listened to one of them curse those who try to harm them or their ministry by questioning their motives. It’s laughable, yet people spur them on. They have no power to curse anyone.
I listened to one televangelist growl as he cursed those who would come against his ministry. While he may have thought it was threatening and possibly those around him thought so, there is no curse that can come against authentic Christians. For those who are not aware of this, they might give into the temptation to fear.
The truth is that many of these so-called ministries are nothing more than some of the biggest cons going and it is all done in the holy Name of Jesus Christ. It is done purely for selfish gain and yes, they have gained quite a bit, totaling into the millions and millions.
Jude spoke of these individuals long ago, as did both Paul and Peter. These are the types of individuals who worm their way into people’s hearts, promising solution to their financial problems. Oh sure, they may speak of salvation, but the number one issue for them is promising what God has never said He will fulfill.
Let’s face it, salvation by itself is nothing to someone who has wants in the physical realm. What is eternal salvation to someone who worships money? What is knowing that in the next life you will reign with Jesus when all you really want are things in this life and who cares about the next life?
Our world – and much of Christendom – focuses on wealth and it is unfortunately still seen as the one true barometer of having arrived. People who are wealthy are treated with respect. They get what they want. People surround them to make them feel good. All of this is passing though.
Someone who is rich today could easily be poor tomorrow. It happened to the prodigal son, who demanded and got his inheritance, then went out and squandered it in low living. He catered to every whim and he had lots of “friends” too. People acted like they liked him and he was obviously treated with respect, wasn’t he? That was until the money ran out, then he could barely get a job and that was feeding the swine. Even with that, he had no money to buy his own food. Hard times were his.
What would the “profiteers” of today say to him? They would bemoan the fact that his faith ran out! He lost his way. God wanted to bless him monetarily and did so, but the young man’s faith came to an end and with it, God’s financial blessing.
I know people who have virtually nothing. They live in physical pain and they have scarred emotions. Yet, they belong to Him and for them, they would not exchange their current situation for any amount of money.
Where did we get this idea that God is here to serve us and make our dreams come true? The only dream that we should have that can come true is to find salvation. Yes, God wants to bless us, but He wants to do so in the spiritual realm because that is the realm that lasts forever!
Jesus told us that He will never leave or forsake us. He will meet our needs - remember the Lord’s prayer? Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread…
Jesus modeled a prayer that we should pray and that prayer does not ask God for riches or immeasurable wealth. It asks God for today’s food and necessities. This is exactly how Jesus lived every day! He trusted God the Father to provide what He (Jesus) need for that day only.
Ask yourself a question. Do you need to be wealthy? Do you need more money than you can spend? If you think you do, you need to ask yourself why you believe that is the case. Why should you be different from Jesus?
Jesus was indescribably rich…spiritually. He did not want or need physical riches. When He needed to pay the Temple tax (even though He did not really need to do so since He was God the Son), He sent Peter to fish and pull the money out of that fish’s mouth.
Jesus lived a life of simplicity and prayer. Today’s evangelist lives a life of debauchery and excess. How can there be such a huge discrepancy between what Jesus taught and how He lived to what is being taught and how many are living today? How does that happen? It happens when people approach the Bible and God with a “ME” mentality. They begin to ask “What will God do for me?”
The problem of course, is that these individuals have no clue about authentic salvation – what God the Son gave up in order to seek and save the lost – nor do they understand that becoming an authentic Christian means that we turn our lives over to God for His will and purposes to be accomplished through us.
God does not sit there with bated breath waiting for us to “set Him loose” to bring our dreams to fruition! That is nothing short of blasphemy!
God yearns to fellowship with us – His Creation, formed in His image – and He ultimately yearns to create within us the image of His Son. This is not accomplished by us creating a wish list for God to fulfill. It is accomplished by us submitting ourselves to His will, for His glory, and so that in the end, we will become more like Jesus every day.
Jesus did not die so that we might have physical riches. He died so that we might have spiritual riches. He did not conquer the devil, death, and everything else in the physical realm in order to create followers who have what He did not have in the form of monetary wealth. He conquered what He conquered in order that we might come to know Him as He is and that He would be fully glorified in and through us as we seek to give Him our life, our wishes, and our wants.
Once we become Christians, the idea is that, like Jude, Paul, and others, we become bondservants to Jesus. Bondservants do not use “faith” (or any other way) to work their Masters to become wealthy. They do their Master’s bidding. If the Master wants something done, they get it done, no ifs, ands, or buts.
Today’s televangelist would have us believe that they are rich because God has blessed them. No, they are rich because many of them are nothing but con artists, dressed in religious frocks, pulling the wool over the eyes of people who know no better because they do not want to know better. They prefer to believe the lie that tells them God wants them rich, instead of understanding what the Bible says about the purpose of the Christian’s life.
On one hand, my heart goes out to people who empty their wallets, handing over their money to these religious charlatans, choosing to believe that the money they give becomes a “seed-faith” offering that will come back to them ten, twenty, thirty, or even one hundred fold. On the other hand, while the charlatans who are telling the lie will be held accountable, the people who avoid doing their own research, thinking that they will come to know God by proxy through these television “ministries” will also be held accountable.
Having said all of this, I do not believe for one moment that the authentic Church – the INVISIBLE Church that was born on the Day of Pentecost and of that Church, Jesus said the gates of hell will not prevail against it – is in trouble. I simply do not believe it. Jude tells us that authentic Christians are the called of God the Father, that we are beloved, and that we are kept.
There are two churches, if you will. One is authentic and one is counterfeit. Many are there who claim to be of the authentic Church, but are not. Too many people are following them because they want to follow them, because they are enamored with the promises they spout from their diamond-encrusted thrones in some TV studio somewhere. People do not want to hear that being an authentic Christian means going against the grain of the world’s so-called wisdom.
If you think about it, most of the world is trying to gain riches. This is what they live for and it is why they do what they do. Loving money (riches) is the root of every kind of evil. Why on earth would God say that this is perfectly okay for Christians to pursue this type of standard of living when it is the root cause of so much evil in the world, not to mention that Jesus Himself did not pursue riches. Are we His followers? Do we say that we are His? Have we in fact dedicated our lives to Him? If so, then why are we trying to live in a way that is diametrically opposed to the way He lived?
Those “Jesus preachers” who tell people that riches come to those who have faith are lying. They are the ones who gain wealth, on the backs of those who have worked hard for it, or those who are on disability or on social security. How they can sleep at night is only due to the fact that their consciences are fully seared.
One day, these lying evangelists will be gone. I pray that many will come to know the Lord before that time. Yet, Jude makes a very pointed statement concerning people like this. Jude says, “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ,” (Jude 1:4, emphasis added).
The point that Jude is making is clear. Many of these religious con artists will be condemned because that was the purpose of their life. That’s sad, but before you think that God is being unfair, consider the fact that He does not have to save anyone at all, because all have sinned and all have fallen short (cf. Romans 3:23). The fact that He saves anyone is testament to His tremendous love for us.
There are individuals today who live to lie about God. They spread their disease on the airwaves and they convince way too many people that their lies are truth. They will be held accountable and will not escape their judgment.
You have a choice if you are enamored with the words of this type of televangelist. You can check their “truth” against the Word of Truth and see if it matches, or you can continue to ignore God’s Word in favor of hearing the speeches that tickle your ears. It’s up to you. In the end, please don’t make the mistake of thinking that you are safe from judgment because after all, you’re only listening and being obedient to someone who claims to speak for God. We are to test the spirits and determine whether or not we are hearing truth or lies. That’s your job.
Authentic Christians have untold wealth at our disposal. Unfortunately for many people, this wealth is in the spiritual realm and it touches our spirits. It is not in the physical realm and it does not fill out bank accounts.
God will provide for us based on our true needs. We do not need to be rich and God has never promised to make us rich, physically. He has only promised to make us rich spiritually. There is a huge difference and it needs to be understood. God will not be mocked and the days of the televangelist huckster is coming to a close. I can only say, thank God for that!
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