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BY Patricia Backora © All rights reserved
Dedicated to Truth Seekers Everywhere As Told by Tex the Tithe
Tonight's Guest: Tex the Tithe A Multitude of Money Admonitions and Tithin' Ticklers by Patricia Backora Howdy, pardners, my name's Tex the Tithe. I grew up on a 600-acre cattle spread in Cowpoke County, Texas. Fact is, it's such a big spread the whole county was named "Cowpoke" after the ranch. And the ranch runs its own rodeo, too. Lots of folks think us four-footed critters are dumb as mud. But don't forget Balaam's donkey. Now Balaam was one stubborn dude who wouldn't
listen to the Lord when God told him he'd better not cast a spell on Israel. Even his brayin' jackass had more sense than Balaam did, and when Balaam's donkey saw a shiny angel that was so big he tied up traffic on the Promised Land Freeway, that donkey tried to do a quick U-turn and head on home. But Balaam was blind as a bat. He couldn't see no angel and thought that donkey was just bein' ornery. So Balaam kung-fu-chopped the donkey to try and make him mind. At least that's what the donkey told my great-grandsire a thousand generations removed, and his name was Boaz the Bullock, who founded the Bullock division of the Tithe Clan. But Boaz was one tithe that jumped over the fence and got away. Anyhow, Boaz the Bullock got captured by Gideon the Gadite who used him to sire a whole herd of fat, juicy tithes for the Feast of Tabernacles. But some of my kinfolk didn't get the chop. They stampeded up north to Spain for greener pastures. And some of their kids…uh, I mean, calves, ended up on Spanish cattle boats so they could go to America to sing Yankee Doodle Dandy and hang out with the buffalo out on the range. Folks, a crazy notion's been goin' round for some time that a tithe is green paper with numbers on it. But filthy lucre ain't a member of the Tithe clan, though a peach or potato might be. My best buddy Cowboy Cody, he'd spend hours readin' his Bible to me, 'cause he's a lay preacher at his church. Nobody at the ranch pays him much mind now, so he uses me as a guinea pig to practice his sermons on. But Cody's problem is he'll put more stock in what church tradition says than what his King James Bible says. It plainly says that a tithe is farm or ranch produce, plain and simple. If Boaz the Bullock was alive today he'd say money tithes just don't cut the mustard! Now, here's the first cud to chew on: Religious Racketeers If Peter, James and John could peek down from heaven and watch some of the carnival clowns passin' themselves off as Gospel preachers, they would wonder how those varmits could'a got past the watchmen of the church to twist the “faith once delivered unto the saints” spoken of in Jude verse 3. Guess the watchmen of the church must'a been dozin’ off on the job, huh? Used to be a preacher was so poor and hungry he could smell chicken fryin' clear across the county. Now he can sniff a hundred-dollar bill from a distance of ten rows and ten aisles.
I heard tell of one “evangelist” that goes around braggin' about how much fun he had, swimmin' around in his own money, in the back of his own stretch limo. He tells his mesmerized audience to say a bunch of “confessions” after him, like a class of first-graders learnin' their ABC's. Not only that, this guy holds his stomach, then tells his people to pretend that they're about to birth a calf…or was that a kid? Only, it's money that's supposed to pop out of 'em. Outside of his zany meetings you'll usually find a herd of protesters carryin' picket signs. Signs that say Jesus said not to lay up treasures on earth, but to make sure they got wealth in heaven. Them radical, idealistic protesters try to talk sense into brainwashed pew-warmers who go in there to throw their money at this flashy preacher, and they tell 'em all he wants is their money so he can buy another jet plane. But ain't no use tryin' to talk sense to a Christian starstruck with preacher puppy love. That's just like tryin' to tell a thirteen-year-old Romeo that his blond teacher won't accept his marriage proposal. Cody has gotten lots of weird-lookin' “Junk Mail for Jesus” lately. A ”Miracle Prayer Rug" arrived in the mail a few weeks back. There was a picture of Jesus plastered on it which opened and closed its eyes, and it looked up at Cody oh, so, sweet when he laid it on the floor and told it his money troubles. Cody was supposed to rush it back with his best offering, and only a mean ol' cuss could say "no" to that precious picture! Cowboy Clayton walked in on Cody ‘cause there ain’t no such thing as privacy in a ranch bunkhouse. Clayton got tickled when he saw Cody pourin' out his heart to a sheet of paper on the floor. Bein' as Clayton was already there, Cody told him what it was. Now Clayton sure ain't no angel, but he said that any preacher who believed in the Jesus of the Bible wouldn't reduce Him to a tabloid centerfold churned out in some Chinese sweatshop. Cody might be a weird dude sometimes, but even he had to agree with Clayton on that one. Cody admitted that it gave him the creeps to watch that picture open and close its eyes like a haunted kaleidoscope. So he tossed Brother Bizarre's prayer pallet away and crossed him off his prayer partner list. Another mail-out Cody got came with several colors of papers and envelopes. Cody was supposed to fill each of 'em out and send 'em on different “days of prayer”…wrapped around his best offering, of course! Gotta give those rascals credit, though! Real sneaky of 'em, gettin' more than one cash hit out of each mail-out! Saves a heckuva lotta postage, huh?
Those leeches even hit dead folks up for money. Cody told me his Grampaw Bill still got dunned by a profiteer prophet every few weeks. Anyhow, the sales pitch he got in the mail went something like: “This is your special month of miracles. Don’t let the Lord pass you by. We've had a long shootout with satan in the prayer corral on your behalf, and God wants you to know that if you don't strike while the iron is hot and send in some cold hard cash, satan's gonna barbeque your carcass over a slow bed of coals in the comin' year. Man, your luck'll be so rotten that all the bad years you've seen up to now will seem like a Sunday school picnic. Bulltwinkles! Grampaw Bill's been pushin' up tulips for two whole years! The profiteer prophets who told him satan was out gunnin' for him are worse than hit-and-miss phone psychics! Any burger flipper who got it wrong half as often as those fortune tellers would'a been sent packin'! How patient the good Lord is! How on earth could satan hassle a guy who died and went to heaven unless the watchmen of the Pearly Gates goof off on the job like the watchmen of the church are doin'! Seems to me like the devil comes in mighty handy for varmints who want to collect protection money to keep Old Scratch off people’s backs. But seems to me that's a nice way of sayin' this: "Man, we got the devil on a leash and he's mean as a pit bull robbed of his steak bone. Either you pay up or we'll turn Ol' Scratch a- loo-o-ose on you! Pledge a grand on your credit card and God'll give a hundred grand back. Why spend money to fly to Vegas when Reverend Roulette runs a better casino on Prey TV? Slick trick fishers for funds sell heaven on earth to poor folks up to their neck in bills. Then they'll scare people with hellfire and damnation in the hereafter to ransack their pockets! Big bucks and the boogerman. They'll either use a carrot danglin' off a long fishin' pole to keep the dumb donkey goin' to give 'em an easy ride, or they'll use that same fishin' pole to whack him on the noggin with. Man, those pick pocket preachers sure do serve the Loot! They see church people as cash cows to be milked to the last drop. Those carnies in $5000-suits turn God like a Las Vegas slot machine...put in a ten-spot and out pops a thousand! The Cross of Christ goes out the door and millions stampede their way into the Casino of Christ, knockin' each other over to get their chance to throw big bucks at some spit-and-polish preacher who'll sell 'em six keys to unlock God's blessings…or was that seven, I lost count! Then when their leaky ship capsizes before it comes in and they're deeper in the hole financially than ever before, they'll write the preacher back askin' where in heck their 500-fold blessing is. Chances are,
they'll get a form letter back, with their own name electronically pasted in the right slots. It'll tell the poor slob to keep showin' how big his faith is by sowin' more seed into the ministry, 'cause the bigger the trial of faith, the sweeter the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Satan has sold 'em all a sugar cone full of lies. The Sovereign Lord of the Universe is expected to mo-o-ove over and make room for a hocus-pocus god invented by pulpit parasites. The god of the Gospel of Get is called the Force of Faith. And that make-believe god of gold and goodies sits on the Throne of the Candy Kingdom of Pie-in-the-Sky-before-I-die. Man, that Santa Claus Force of Faith is gonna make all your dreams come true…. for the right price! Bulltwinkles! Flocks and herds of good religious folk have rushed their “Defeat the Devil Donation” to their mail boxes to try and beat the deadline before the TV preacher’s “Special Season of Anointing” expires. Surely that smiley face on the TV will pray a custom-made prayer just for that sick lady who is about to be evicted from her fleabag apartment. After all, it costs nothin' but a few seconds of your time to yawn at the Lord to please bless so-and -so. Nobody in their right mind would have the guts to ask the preacher for MONEY, just prayer. But it's one of the preacher's perks to dun you for YOUR money, 'cause he's the big shot in Religionland, and you're just a poor churchmouse on welfare, eatin' your macaroni and cheese TV dinner while he makes his pitch. Oh, sure, he'll pray just for you. But unless you're chummy enough with him to play golf with him on Sunday afternoon, God won't be lookin' for any angel express faxes from him on your behalf. A big cheese televangelist gets fan mail from zillions of folks on a daily basis, and they're read by a bank of Brainiac robots, no doubt. It takes just as much faith to think Superpreach can find a minute to read your letter as to believe jolly ol' St. Nick can drop off toys to every mansion, mobile home and tar paper shack on earth in just one night. But give Superpreach credit, y'all. He does remember to close his show with “We sure do love you!” Just what does Superpreach mean by “love” anyhow? What if some poor peon out in TV Land “launched out into the deep” and didn’t slow down enough to pray for God’s guidance before mailin' the rich preacher his rent money? What if some jobless sucker ended up sleepin' under a bridge just 'cause he did some so-called act of faith God never told him to do? After all the boatloads of dollars that man sent in to the grinnin' TV preacher over the years, would that far-off face send the man so much as a dime to keep him fed and off the street? And if, as Superpreach preaches, God always shells
out a 100-fold return on your investment, why don't that Super doper Preacher prove HIS cotton-pickin’ faith by payin’ some poor sucker’s rent before the sheriff throws him out onto the street? Listen here, folks. If that fancy dude on TV really did believe that bull he preaches, he'd hop onto the first plane to Anywhere, USA and personally see to it that man was taken care of. He'd do that even if he didn’t give a flip about that homeless guy! What about this Scripture, the same medicine Superpreach rams down the necks of poor folks? James 2:20 says: Faith without works is dead. What gives Superpreach the idea that the hard-to-swallow part of God's Word is only for pew warmers out in TV Land? Why don't those fancy TV preachers sell some of their extra cars, jewelry and antiques and hand out the proceeds to agencies that house the homeless? For that matter, why don't they start an emergency rent relief fund for poor families about to be thrown out of their homes, if they really believe their own sales pitch: The more “seed” you sow, the bigger your harvest. The greater the sacrifice the bigger the blessing. Why don’t they get off their fat duffs and put that bit of Bible into action? Instead you hear about pampered poodles livin' in air-conditioned dog houses, gold bathroom fixtures, first-class jaunts to the Holy Land, stables full of thoroughbred Arabian horses, nine-bathroom mansions. I should'a had it so good when I was weaned on dry sagebrush in Cowpoke County, Texas. Yeah, those fine fishers for funds have got plenty to lavish on dumb hound dogs and horses, but nothin' to waste on people who don't have a fine pedigree. Oh yeah, once in awhile you'll see 'em handin' out dolls and candy to little kids in grass shacks. It sure does make a good photo op to prime the pump and keep the proceeds rollin' in. Cody was readin' his Bible one Sunday as he stretched out in the hammock. I moseyed over to say "hi" to him. While he petted my muzzle I spotted this verse in his Bible, and I wonder why Cody missed it. It's part of Proverbs 22:16: "He that giveth to the rich shall surely come to want.” Folks who pamper the rich aren't promised an easy ride, they're promised a hard ride right off the cliff. All I care to say about that verse is it means what it says, and bein' ignorant of the Bible’s warnings never protected anybody from the consequences, and, believe me, they can be awful bad. Cody always seems to be broke. If God did allow somebody to get rich quick for linin' a rich preacher’s pockets, He would only be goin' against that Bible verse. God never did like bein' used for a slot machine. Preachers love to
quote proverbs that promise wealth and prosperity, but why don't they ever preach on Proverbs 22:16? Now folks, somethin's mighty fishy here. While some fancy-dancy preacher and his fairy princess wife shed crocodile tears over starvin' babies in the third world, performers dance and sing on their gold glitter stage, and they won't quit their caterwaulin' till the tote board racks up the figures they want. But take a close-up view of those people's hands. Perfect nails, nice jewelry, no calluses and smooth as a baby's bottom. If those folks had to do just one hard day's work on the Cowpoke Ranch, they'd think they'd died and gone to Torment. Every Saturday night after the chores are done the rest of the cowpokes go into town to chase women. But not Cowboy Cody. He's glad to have the bunkhouse all to himself so he can flick on Prey TV. Me, I just hang around in the doorway to watch it too. And Cody kicks back in his bunk after a hard day of ropin' and brandin' calves. He rubs salve on his aches and pains and tries to forget how hard life is for workin' stiffs who use their muscles instead of a snake charmer's tongue to earn a livin'. Cody used to find it harder to say "no" to beady-eyed rattlers who'd bamboozle him with religious hoodoo to try and get him to pledge half his month's wages to keep their show on the air. Little by little the scales are fallin' from Cody's eyes and he's wisin' up to their game, but I'll never forget what happened one day when Cody was cleanin' out his Army Surplus footlocker. Cody thought he was all by his lonesome in the bunkhouse. Bud, Garrett, and Zack were at the race track, and Cody thought Clayton and Chester were there wastin' money with 'em. Aside from the fact Cody hardly had two nickels to rub together, he didn't believe in gamblin'…or so he said! At the last minute, Clayton and Chester decided to come back to the bunkhouse with their dates Misty and Cindy, so they could guzzle beer while they watched steamy videos. None of 'em saw me on the other side of the bunkhouse, peekin' through the window and catchin' every word that was said. Cody almost jumped outa his skin when all of a sudden the peaceful bunkhouse turned into Grand Central Station. A lot of Cody's junk was spread out on the floor. A big garbage bag was there, but he acted like he didn't want to throw much of anything out. "Hey, what's that itty-bitty stuff? Did ya save it from your kiddie meals at Bronco Burgers?" Clayton stood over Cody, about to bust out laughin'.
"How cute," Clayton's gal Misty giggled. "Cody's toy box. Hey, can I have that one?" Cody shook his head. "It's my St. Peter's Key Ring. Brother Snodgrass from Prey TV sent it to me. See these seven keys? I had to send in a special, one-time offering of seven dollars for each of 'em. They stand for health, wealth, happiness…" "Oh how cute!" Misty laughed again. "The same three wishes Sleeping Beauty got from her fairy godmother!" "There's more," Cody said. He cracked everybody up, he looked so serious. "This key chain is a perpetual testimony of the part I played in savin' Snodgrass Ministries from goin' under. Brother Snodgrass personally prayed over it to bless it for me." "You can bet he said grace over the money you sent in," Chester drawled. "What other junk you got in your foot locker, Cody?" Clayton asked. Why, you could hold a yard sale and get back some of the money you sent Brother Snodgrass." Cody looked steamed. "Don't you never poke fun at my stuff, Clayton." "Aw, Cody, we're only funnin' ya! Hey, what's that rock by your shoe?" Cody held up the shiny lump. "This here is Brother Farley's Nugget of Wisdom, and it's 24 karat gold. It only cost me one hundred and fifty dollars. He said paper money ain't gonna be worth much before long, and Christians had better invest in gold so they won't go hungry when the New World Order takes over." "Mind if I see it, Cody?" Cody handed it to Clayton. Clayton held it up to the light, then took a pocket knife and scraped away at the shiny lump. "Hey, what're you doin', Clayton? Give that back right now!" Cody looked thunderstruck when he saw how green the "gold" looked underneath the thin layer of gold paint Clayton had scraped off. "I tried to warn ya, Cody," Clayton said. "When the New World order takes over, that fool's gold won't even buy ya an order of fries!" If ever a cowboy looked crushed, Cody did. But he took his disappointment like a man. He hunched his shoulders and said, "Here, Misty, take the key ring. And here's a packet of salt from King Solomon's Mines. And here, Cindy, a vial of water from King David's Well. Clayton, you can have this replica of the slingshot that killed Goliath." Clayton grinned. "It's just a shoestring with a rubber patch on it! What were you gonna kill with this, Cody? A fly?"
"It just stands for the fact that my faith can move the mountains in my life just like David was able to blow the mountainous giant Goliath away. That's what Brother Reedy said." "Well, you can start by movin' that mountain of manure outa the bull pen before the smell blows all us cowpokes away," Clayton said.. "I've got seniority on this ranch, so I ain't gonna do it, Cody." "Well, la-dee-dah!" Cody shot back. "A fine time for you to pull rank on your own buddy." "Just be a good egg about it and I'll treat ya to Chinese this evening," Clayton said. "What's in that little plastic pouch?" Cindy asked, hardly believin' her eyes. "It's a tiny bit of meal that Brother Sweetgum prayed over. It symbolizes my faith in God's provision. I'm supposed to sleep two nights over it, then…" "Mail it back with your best offering!" Chester finished for him." "Is it Blue Ribbon Self-Risin' Cornmeal, Cody?" Clayton grinned. "Don't matter what kind it is, them preachers wanna turn it into real BREAD!" Clayton twiddled the fingers of his outstretched hand. "At least Brother Sweetgum's learnin' patience. Just think, Cody, you get two whole nights to sleep on it instead of just one!" Everybody laughed but Cody. "What's this?" Clayton was havin' fun now. He stooped down and picked up a small leather bag that had a drawstring on it. "That's my Sower's Seed Bag I got from Brother Slater." Cody looked like he could sink through the floor, with the gals gigglin' at him and Clayton snickerin'. Even soft-spoken Chester coughed to pretend he wasn't laughin'. "Well, what're you gonna put in that little tote bag? Magic mushroom seeds?" It really cracked Clayton up. He had a raucous laugh that rubbed Cody the wrong way. "Ah…I'm supposed to sign my name on it, put a gift in it and send it back to Brother Slater," Cody said. "Hey!" Clayton cackled. "I've got a GOOD gift to send Brother Slater from Brother Sucker!" Clayton fished somethin' out from under his bunk and stuffed it in the little bag. Cody wrassled it outa Clayton's beefy hands and said, "There you go, desecratin' my Sower's Seed Bag with your smelly sock!"
"Ooooh! Lookie at this," ditsy Misty yelped. "Cody, you freak me out! Are you such a tightwad that you even save the mess you scrape off your boots?" She held up a Ziplock bag which contained a love gift from a TV preacher. "It's Dead Sea mud," Cody growled through his teeth. "I got that after I sent Brother Tucker a fifty-dollar donation last month." "Can I have it for my beauty shop?" Misty begged. "It's great for doing a facial." "Yeah, Misty, you might as well have it. It's better to give than to receive." "And can I have this?" Cindy pointed at a little vial of oil. "I don't know if it'd do you much good, Cindy, bein' as you gotta mix faith with it when you dab it on," Cody said. "Otherwise you won't get a miracle." Cindy popped the tiny tube open. "Mmmm…it smells like cinnamon! Can I have it to dab onto my pillow to help me sleep?" "Might as well," Cody shrugged. "Ain't nothin' so special about it now." "What's THIS?" Clayton's face lit up as he picked up a plastic boomerang. Cody choked on his words. "A replica of Samson's jawbone of a jackass." "Made for jackasses in TV Land by hard-workin' mules in third-world sweatshops that pay fifty cents a day," Clayton said. "I should'a expected persecution from you, Clayton," Cody said. He looked hurt. "Callin' me a jackass like that!" "Well, it takes one to know one," Clayton said. "When I was a kid Billy Barton traded me a magic moon rock for my U2 collection. Said that rock would bring me good luck on tests. Boy, but I bellyached for a long time after I still flunked my English test and got two "D's" on my report card." "Trouble with you, Clayton, is you never trust nobody who claims to represent God." "Cody, I can't afford to buy the sizzle till I see the steak. Be sure the steak's really there before you shell out the cold, hard cash." "Ooooo!" Misty squealed. "I'm havin' so much fun! Just like I was a little kid playin' the gumball machine!" She picked up Cody's brass angel pin and his TV preacher recipe cards. Cody nodded when she asked if she could have 'em. "One last question, Cody," Clayton said. "Mind tellin' me what that little green hanky is for and why all them names are scribbled on it?" He pointed to a cloth wadded up near the foot of Cody's bunk.
Cody smiled in his shy cowpoke way, tryin' his best to be a good sport. "Aw, it's just somethin' I was supposed to mail back by tomorrow. See all them other names scribbled on it? Other people wrote on it so Brother Snodgrass could say a prayer for all of 'em, then he sent it on to me. I'm supposed to write my name on it, then send it back to him so he can pass it on to somebody else." "Sorta like a chain letter on a hanky, huh?" Chester chuckled. "And I suppose the magic won't work unless you wrap the cloth around your best offering?" "That's right, Chester. Unless you give, you won't receive. I don't practice a cost-free Christianity." "Well, them preachers see to it that your religion costs you plenty," Clayton said. He looked at the cloth real close. "How come the handwritin' all looks the same on Brother Snodgrass's hanky? Even the ink color's the same. I think that preacher's playin' you for a fool, Cody, and I bet he blew his nose on this hanky before he sent it to you!" "Brother Snodgrass wouldn't be that mean!" Cody yelled, pretendin' to be mad. "Better listen to us, Cody," Misty said. "My granny got suckered in by some TV preacher that sells life insurance. He called it Blessed Reassurance for over-50's, I think that's what it was. It went something like this: If Granny signed over a big hunk of her estate over to Brother Berrygood, they'd send her a commemorative medallion to pass on to her offspring when she died. And all the world would remember what a kind, decent soul she was for bequeathin' her earthly treasure to Berrygood Ministries. And once she signed the contract Granny could come stay at the Berrygood Christian Resort for free for fourteen days a year. Well, it's been four years and they still can't book a time slot when Granny can come there for a vacation. Granny'll be six feet under before they keep their end of the bargain." "Maybe they could just stick Granny in the broom closet," Clayton shrugged. Misty punched Clayton in the arm. "That's mean! Granny might be a little addled, but she got burnt bad by that guy, and it means the rest of us won't get as much when she leaves Planet Earth." "You mean YOU won't make much off her when she goes," Clayton said, as if he really cared.
"The moral of the story is this religion stuff is all a bunch of crackpot mumbo jumbo, Cody," Cindy said. "Any idiot can spray paint a rock and pass it off to some sucker as a gold nugget." "And not all that glitters is gold," Chester warned him. Cody begged to differ. "I know that fake gold nugget must look bad to y'all, but you can't throw the baby out with the bath water. There's bound to be sincere preachers out there who ain't in it just for the money. And if they need my help, I'll do all I can to keep 'em on the air." "Look, Cody," Clayton said. He patted Cody on the back, tryin' hard not to laugh, since they'd already worked him over real good. "Seems to me like any preacher who wears real gold jewelry and drives a fancy car doesn't need no help from some poor cowpoke who sleeps in a seedy bunkhouse. "Well, maybe it's just costume jewelry they wear, Clayton. People who appear on TV have gotta look presentable." Clayton rolled up his eyes. "Costume jewelry my foot! Yeah, sure, Cody, they're doin' it all for you, to pretty up your TV screen! For Pete's sake, wake up, man! Jesus drove the mother of all yard sales outa the Temple when He was on earth, and I don't know why He'd need junk peddlers in His House now!" Why is Cody such a soft touch? Why wouldn't he wake up and smell the rotten fish in Denmark? How many hungry kids could those "humble servants of God" feed if they sold some of that ritzy jewelry they wear onstage? Cody's work pardners are reprobates who need to get on the straight and narrow track. They poke fun at him for takin' his religion too seriously. But then they'll try and talk some sense into Cody so he won't go off the deep end and hurt himself. They tell him he'd better not hold his breath waitin' for his windfall to come in for the big seeds he sows, 'cause the preachers already have it stashed away in their bank vaults. Always think twice before trustin' preachers with your money. God just might tell you to donate to some cause on His heart. But if you’ve got good reason to suspect that somebody who promises to feed the hungry and bring billions of souls to Christ is really usin' your hard-earned dough to buy an extra ocean view mansion with a crystal chandelier, a pool room and nine bathrooms, think twice before you let him milk you dry.
The Hallelujah Network I swear, I was there for the whole thing. Here's what happened: One sunny day I snuck out of the Cowpoke Rodeo bullpen to go see Cow-sin Elsie at the Big Blessing Ranch. Then I got caught by some cowhand who didn't even bother to check the brand on my backside. In no time he herded me onto a truck with four calves and drove me to Bill Blessing's TV studio in Tomahawk, Texas. I'm just lucky I didn’t end up on the barbeque spit after they did that broadcast, or I wouldn't be here to tell the tale. That Gigi Conway, she sparkles from head to toe. Her hair's like pink cotton candy and she's well-preserved for her fifty-odd years. She floats around in frilly dresses and she even cries real Murine tears. But she does her bit to bring home the bacon…and the steaks. Well, me and those four calves, we were corraled in the studio warehouse after bein' unloaded from a big truck. And there was a big widescreen TV in the place so the freight workers could listen in on the show while it was in progress. Anyhow, the Hallelujah Network was holdin' its big semi-annual Give-a-thon and Gigi was cryin' and a-beggin' the folks out in TV Land to open their wallets wide and give. They did a big drum roll and when it stopped, Gigi yelled for joy: “O-ooh. thank you Jesus! We’re up to two million, six hundred thousand dollars! Can you shout ‘amen’, everybody?” And all the folks said amen, whistled, cheered and clapped. Gigi giggled and jiggled her tamborine. Rich Conway, he's the President of the worldwide Hallelujah TV Network. He's a distinguished-lookin' dude with a great big Afro hairdo and a toothy grin. He walked on up to Gigi and he hollered: “Praise God for another MIRACLE! After our next song, sung by our incomparable Susie Sweet, we have a special treat in store for you. Bill Blessing manages our studio in Tomahawk, Texas, and he’s the earth’s most expert expositor on Biblical economics. He hosts our daily program Reaping Richly. He hasn’t been feeling up to par these past few months, but I do believe the Lord is healing him. Still, he serves the Lord with all he’s got. And man, has he ever got a message for you that’ll knock your socks off! Now, Susie, we’ll just sit back and let you minister to us all in song.” Now this little Susie gal was as dainty as a cluster of spring violets. Her voice was smooth as cream and she smiled like an angel. When she started
singin' “I Surrender All”, we all went moo! I bet those folks in the audience really did wonder whether they'd given their all to Jesus. Then the camera shifted to their sister station in Tomahawk, where a lanky Texan stood on the stage to give his talk. “Thank you, Brother Conway,” he said in his lazy drawl. “Now before I begin, I’ve got a confession to make. The Bible exhorts us ministers of the Gospel to faithfully share the full counsel of God. Now, this’ll surprise many of y’all, but I’ve failed y’all in this area. For years I’ve withheld certain precious truths that would have set your lives free from financial bondage.” “And why did I do this? ‘Cause I was afraid some of y’all watchin’ might not be able to bear the deeper truths of the Word of God. Remember, the Word of God pierces through the joints and marrow like a two-edged sword. Will you please forgive me, Brother Conway, for the way I’ve failed God’s people?” Back in Hallelujah TV’s home studio in California, Brother Conway said, in a religiously soft, shaky voice: “Praise Jesus for such humility in one who has suffered so greatly in his body, after so many years of faithfully breaking the Bread of Life to us all. Brother Bill, if there’s anything at all to forgive, all I’ve got to say is this: Step boldly out in faith. Never fear to speak the truth in love. Our precious brothers and sisters have a right to hear the inspired exhortations of Scripture, however difficult they may be to receive. The Bible says in Hebrews 12: ‘Now no discipline from God seems to be joyful, but painful. But in the end it yields the good fruit of righteousness to all who receive it’.” Brother Conway wiped a tear from his eye, then he prayed: “Father, in the Name of Jesus I ask that You would soften many hardened hearts today through the words Brother Blessing is about to share. Help me and all our viewers around the globe receive the sincere milk of Your Word into our souls, that we may grow thereby. Amen and amen.” Brother Blessing lifted up his eyes to see Brother Conway on the overhead monitor and said, “Thank you, Brother Conway. Brothers and sisters, we’re all fixin’ to have a ‘Hallelujah good time’! Can you shout ‘amen’ everybody?” There were lots of whistles and shouts, and jubilant ‘amens’ in that jampacked TV studio. Brother Blessing gave 'em a wide cowboy grin and said, “Let’s get down to business, then, praise God. I’m gonna speak tonight on The Fruits of Tithin’.” Then all the people moaned like cattle bein' driven to the slaughterhouse.
“Hey now, y’all, don’t look at me like that, like you’re fixin’ to git a whippin’," Brother Blessing told 'em. "This’ll be the best message you’ve heard in a long time, and I guarantee you’ll never hear another cow-pokin’ pulpiteer preach it with the pizzazz I’m gonna give it.” That warmed the audience up a little. Now I'll repeat to you what the man actually said, 'cause this old bull's got a memory like an elephant. “For years I’ve said that if you give your all to Jesus, it’s a package deal, and your wallet goes to the foot of the Cross with you. Nobody can argue that, now. And I also said, if God don’t have your 10%, He don’t have your 90% either. Fact is, He owns us lock, stock, and barrel. Everything we’ve got is His too, and He’s the One Who entrusts us as good stewards to wisely use the money in our pockets. Tonight,” he said gravely, “I’ll show y’all how to pay a proper tithe, ‘cause I want y’all to benefit from wisdom I gleaned from my personal Bible study.” At this point Brother Blessing called out to his wife: “Honey, bring all the tithes into the storehouse of God!” Now here's where I come in. I was muzzled and roped to four calves, all in a line. Brother Blessing's wife led us out onto the stage, and right behind me a cowpoke in denim duds followed. He was pushin' a wheelbarrow piled high with other edible stuff: squash, beans, onions, melons, okra, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers. And sittin' on top of that veggie pile was a squawkin' hen in a chicken wire cage. Man, was there ever a ruckus in that studio. But it got louder when the cowhand tripped and banged his wheelbarrow against a chair, knockin' the chicken cage off the pile. When it hit the floor the bird flew out, squawkin' like crazy. It ran round and round, glad to be free. “Hank!” Sister Blessing yelled at the man, “catch it!” Hank ran all over the stage, and he finally cornered the hen against a big flower arrangement. He carried the bird over to Brother Blessing, who shoved it back in its cage. He held it up for all to see and shouted: “Even a dumb chicken’s got enough sense to know when it’s in bondage! Tonight I’m lettin’ y’all out of your cages! Can you shout ‘hallelujah’, everybody!” Can y'all imagine the joy that must'a filled every Hallelujah studio which didn't catch a sudden "technical problem"? But the crowd went wild. Now Bill Blessing was everybody's hero. People say that while all that was goin' on, out in California Brother Conway panicked and struggled to put a lid on things. He didn't really think
he could do what he promised, and receive the Lord’s admonitions in a spirit of meekness. Brother Conway's chief production engineer reportedly said that he hammered real hard on the Control Room door like his life depended on it. But nobody answered. It was locked tight as a drum. Brother Conway threatened to break his way in through that steel door, he was so mad. He paged Security, and the guy who took his call told him not to worry. Everything was under control, they claimed, 'cause they said they were already interrogatin' the varmints responsible. Brother Conway begged 'em to scramble the signal from Tomahawk, but I don't know if anybody listened to him. Nobody knows if anybody ever got interrogated, either. Now I'm no believer in conspiracy theories, but I heard that program got broadcasted all over creation as clear as a bell, unedited. It could'a been an inside job, from what I hear. Anyhow, me and the calves got all excited watchin' that show with some dudes who were unloadin' equipment. Now I'll reminisce back to Bill Blessing's sermon, which was already in progress when Brother Conway threw his fit. “That’s right, folks," Brother Blessing said, "that’s the kind of tithe people in the Bible really paid, the kind I never did preach on. I own a big spread fifteen miles west of here, the Big Blessing Ranch. We raise cattle, hens, hogs, and organic produce for the yuppie market. Only reason I didn’t tithe on the hogs,” he sniffed, “was they ain’t kosher enough. Which triggers off a powerful point: If money-hungry preachers hung onto Moses’ dietary regulations like they hang onto tithin’, they wouldn’t have their fingers stuck in the pork barrel all the time." He almost got drowned out by all the whistles, claps and happy shouts. When it quietened down a bit Brother Blessing said, “Now I’m gonna tell y’all why I’ve done this about-face, and truthfully, part of my reason is selfish. For months now I’ve been mighty sick of a blood disorder, and short of a miracle, I’ll be meetin’ my Maker in a year or so. Even after I found out, I still kept God’s truth secret, hopin’ they’d find a miracle cure so I could keep livin’ high on the hog off your money!” “Y’all probably know, ‘cause I recognize a lot of your faces, but when I’m home from all my travels, I serve as a lay preacher at Green Harvest Assembly, here in Tomahawk. Our pastor, Brother Wiley Butcher, is the one with the cemet...er, I mean, seminary degree, but he lets himself decrease, so I can man the pulpit and make his funds increase. After tonight, I suspect he’ll cross me off his list, but I’ve always been top man in
his inner circle of cronies. He says I’m the one who put Tomahawk, Texas on the map. “Folks, I've got permission to use this example in my sermon, 'cause the guy who gave that permission wants to be my partner in spreadin' the real truth about tithin', and how it's bein' misused in the church world today. But I remember after one tear jerkin’ sermon at our church, one unhappy guy shoved his way through our entourage of ushers and yelled: ‘Brother Blessing, you’ve just gotta help me! They just laid me off at the plant! I lost my health insurance and everything! Yesterday my boy fell off his skateboard and broke his arm. He ran up a big emergency bill at the hospital. Not only that, there’s no food left in the house’!” “ ‘I’m awful sorry to hear about your boy’,” I said, “ ‘and have you tried the local food bank’?” “His head hung low and he said, ‘I’ve always been a hard-workin’ man, Brother Blessing, and I’m just too ashamed to go over there’.” “All I could contribute was: ‘Well, Brother, maybe you oughta review your personal givin’ record. Have you kept current with your tithes’? “ ‘Well’,” he said, “ ‘I did borrow the tithe a couple of times to pay the rent, and patch up my old pickup so I could get to work’. “Now, y’all can guess what came out of my mouth next: ‘Did you ever pay God back’? “He shook his head ‘no’. ‘I couldn’t, Brother Blessing. They closed the plant’. “I put that poor man to shame, right there in front of a whole crowd of church bigwigs, dressed in their sharp suits and gold jewelry. The man looked like he could’a crawled into a hole. NOT ONE of us fancy kingpins offered him any kind of help, except I said: ‘No wonder your life’s under a curse. You broke faith with God, so you paid the piper. Doesn’t the Bible say: ‘God whups every believer who disobeys Him’? “I’ll never forget the look in his eyes as he slunk away. Then he straightened up and said: ‘My Billy didn’t deserve that accident, and you know it! All of y’all have got a right to talk, when now you’re about to take a rich tour group to the Holy Land to get closer to Jesus! Well, let me tell y’all somethin’! If y’all can’t see Jesus, Who had no place to lay His head, in the poor folk here in Tomahawk, Texas, y’all might just as well go blow all your excess money in Las Vegas’! “Needless to say, folks, that guy grabbed the attention of a gang of ushers who looked a lot better-fed than he did. But as they gave him a polite
escort out he turned round and dropped a bombshell to eat at my conscience, loud enough to hush up all the noisy chitchat of folks leavin’ the sanctuary: “If you’re like Jesus, I’m through with Him! “That softened me up just enough to interest me in helpin’ him, but in a way that saved his dignity. I took him on at the ranch as a hired hand, on condition he’d start tithin’ each pay day and set aside a little extra to pay installments on any past due tithes he owed ...ahem!... ‘the Lord’ from the job he lost at the plant. He didn’t sound too thrilled about that idea, but as he had a family to feed, he swallowed his pride and accepted. I gave him an advance on his wages, but I let him know he was on probation, and he’d better put in a man’s day. Next Brother Blessing said, with deep conviction: “Brother Len, I’m so glad you come tonight, and thanks for lettin’ me tell the story. I truly value you now, not just as an employee, but as a wonderful friend and brother in the Lord. You showed me a lot more about the real Jesus than I learned from most anybody else. Would you please stand up? Everybody give our brother a big ‘love clap’.” A tall, lean, sun-tanned man in the second row stood up. He gave everyone a shy smile and said a quiet “thank you”. “We’re so happy you came to help out on the ranch, Brother Len, and you’ve blessed us here as well. Thanks, brother. We really do love you in the Lord. Tomorrow we're gonna kill the fatted bull, and the followin' day we're gonna hold a big barbeque in honor of all our hard-workin' hands and their families, and nobody'll be more welcome than our good brother Len, his wife and their four fine children. God bless you, brother." My, Len looked happy but I wasn't too excited about the barbeque. I sincerely hoped the preacher wasn't talkin' about me. I was too lean and tough to nibble on after all that exercise I'd gotten at the rodeo. If only I was a dumb bull instead of a genetically modified mutation who was smart enough to know he might get chosen to get the chop. But Brother Blessing didn't expect to be around much longer, either. “Not too long ago, the doctor told me why I’ve had all those blackout spells, and why I've lost so much weight. Then last week, I had the scariest dream of my entire life. I dreamt I was standin’ before Jesus. Thought I’d passed away in my sleep. Wasn’t too thrilled to see Him, either. ‘Uh-oh,’ I thought, ‘the jig’s up! This boy’s in BIG trouble now’!
“But Jesus didn’t look mad, just sad. He came closer and He asked me: “What do you have to show for your long life, Bill Blessing? What treasures did you bring to lay at My feet? “Everything I ever loved and worked for appeared before me in a sort of vision. My very first Cadillac. My first Rolex watch. My big wardrobe full of Armani suits. My gold rings sparklin’ with diamonds. All those jaunts to the Holy Land, always first class, of course. The Caribbean cruises. My two Lear jets. My luxury yacht. The Social Security income bilked out of old ladies who ate cat food, and could barely keep their lights on. All the fivestar restaurants. My summer cabin in the Rockies. My winter home in Palm Beach. My condo in Hawaii. All the fancy cocktail parties. The heady power I wielded over fearful saints who swallowed my lies hook, line, and sinker and were suckered into tithin’ out of their poverty, while all along I halfsuspected the truth: The Scriptures only commanded Old Testament saints to tithe! Even then, they were to bring their tithes to a place of worship presided over ONLY by priests of the Tribe of Levi, and even that tithe they brought the Lord was to be ONLY ON THEIR FARM YIELD! Paul the Apostle says in I Corinthians 16:2: Let everyone give AS GOD HAS PROSPERED HIM! God doesn’t demand a dime if you’re destitute! He wants to give to YOU first! God ain’t so broke He needs your children’s milk money! Can you shout ‘amen’, everybody?” Then the hallelujahs and the tambourines rang out. That ol' crowd was in a real good mood. Brother Blessing's voice broke as he said, “All those things I set my heart on in this life got thrown in a big bonfire and burnt up. And Jesus said, “Is there nothing left for Me, Bill? I poured out My lifeblood on the Cross of Calvary to save your soul from hell, and all you labored for was things which perish.” “Oh, how the tears rolled down my face. I’d gotten saved when I was barely seven. My, how I loved Jesus back then. But what a wily old fox I’d grown up to be. I was scared stiff as I faced my Righteous Judge. All I could think was: ‘If only I’d gone home to Glory before I learned enough street smarts to turn Jesus into a big con game’!” “Jesus’ voice shook me to the depths of my being, yet it was oh, so sorrowful. ‘Why,’ He asked me, ‘did you rob My little lambs and lead them down the path of covetousness?’” “At that point I saw another vision. It was like I was transported to somebody’s kitchen back down on earth. A heated argument was in progress,
and guess who was responsible for it? I saw a woman yellin’ at her husband. Her eyes were wild. He was coverin’ his head, and her fists were a-flyin’ at him. Their words are branded in my mind to this day.” “You numbskull!’ that angry woman yelled at him. ‘Why’d you send our rent money to that clown on TV? They’re gonna throw us out on the street! I just lost my job, so I can’t take up the slack for your stupidity!” “But dear, Brother Blessing said faith without works is dead!” “Your brain must be dead to fall for that one!” “But sweetheart,” he said, “ it’s in the Bible!” “So is this one: Judas went out and hanged himself! So why don’t you go out and do likewise!” “Now, saints, here’s the whole dirty psychology of religious racketeerin’ in a nutshell. He said to her, and I quote: ‘But Brother Blessing made me feel like a stingy jerk, the way he laid it on thick about givin’ by faith even when I can’t afford to. He said if I really loved Jesus I’d give till it hurts. After all, He died for me, didn’t He? So what’s a little money? The preacher promised the Lord would pay it back 100-fold. It might just take Him a little time, that’s all. Now calm down, dear. I’ll think of somethin’ to bail us out of this mess.” “I’ll never forget what that woman said next: ‘Joe, I just give up! First, it was the dog track! When you got tired of that, you got mixed up in a pyramid scheme and that fell through! Then you blew all our savings on lottery tickets! I guess you got those screwy ideas from the Bible too!” “Folks, that man was speechless. And you won’t believe what she said to him: ‘Joe, I might not be a Christian, but I find it incredible that Jesus runs a protection racket!” “Then I was lifted up out of their kitchen, back into the presence of the Christ Whose Holy Name I’d dishonored. By then I was flat on my face squallin’ like a baby and pleadin’ for mercy. Jesus raised me to my feet and looked me square in the eye. His eyes were shinin’ with such love for me, though I felt lower than a snake’s belly. How my heart broke, just to see how bad I’d hurt Jesus by usin’ Him to get rich. Just so I could enjoy a life style my TV viewers could only dream about. “It was then I remembered I was a mighty sick man. “I asked Jesus right then and there: ‘Lord, will I get well so I can mend my ways and serve You like I should?” “He only said: “My child, learn to number your days so you might apply your heart to My wisdom. What you do to the least of My children, you do
also to Me. Consider in your heart that mortal life is not forever.’ Then I woke up with a start and knew I had to tell y’all the truth, and hang the consequences. “Folks, anybody with a mind to study the Scriptures and take ‘em at face value can learn the real truth about givin’ and tithin’, irregardless of what any slick preacher might say to pull the wool over your eyes. Now I’m gonna reiterate what I said earlier: Among the sons of sinful men, only the sons of Levi were ever authorized by Moses to collect tithes! I’ve read the Bible through several times, and not once did Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles ever command his converts to pay tithes! And if any preacher alive today, especially someone who can’t claim an unbroken line of descent way back to Aaron the High Priest, lays a guilt trip on you for not coughin’ up 10% of your salary, he’s either ignorant of what God really says about tithin’, or if he does know the truth about it, he’s just takin’ advantage of your ignorance! There was a lot of commotion in the aisles, then Brother Blessing said: “If y’all have your Bibles, turn with me now to Deuteronomy chapter 12, verses 17 to 21. “Don’t eat the tithe! Now you’ve heard me hammer you over the head with that line thousands of times. Now for a real bombshell of a sermon, one you’ll remember the rest of your borned days!" People could barely believe what their ears were hearin' or their eyes were readin'. Scriptures buried by money-mad ministers over the centuries sprang to life. The Bible said that God told the Israelites to bring in tithes of grain, wine, oil, and livestock to their place of worship. Not money! “And that’s not all, folks! Now let’s go to the fourteenth chapter, and examine verses 22-29.” And as he read that passage, lots of folks shouted “Thank You, Jesus”, and “hallelujah!”. “Now, here’s a heart-stopper for preachers who try to slap Old Testament ordinances on God’s people who are under the New Covenant of Grace. Not only is the tithe an edible product, but it was levied on the yield of the land, not on people’s paychecks! Furthermore, it was to be EATEN by the tither as well as the Levite, fatherless and widow. Remember, that passage, beginnin' with verse 24, says that if the journey to the tabernacle was too long to haul all that produce, it was to be converted into...ah! CASH MONEY, to use to buy substitute farm produce when they got there, so they could consume it before the Lord! That, folks, is the ONLY time in all of Holy Scripture that money is ever mentioned in conjunction with tithin’!
“So what did the people do with that money once they got to their place of worship? Yee-haw! Here’s where the fun begins! In verse 26 it says: You shall spend that money on whatever food or drink YOU desire; for oxen, or for sheep, for wine, or strong drink, or whatever you (not some religious dictator) desires!” Even the Prophet Malachi, who gets blamed by modern Pharisees for inventin' the tithe on cash wages, tells us the reason for tithin’ was to keep food in God’s House!” “Child of God, listen! If any preacher insists on saddlin’ you with Old Testament Laws, let ‘em go whole hog and tell you to go buy a six-pack of Bud with your so-called tithe! Just kiddin’, of course. Though we’re under grace, we’re constrained by the Love of Christ, and no true believer would ever use that scripture as an excuse to go out and get plastered. We are to give ourselves, not just 10%, but 100% to the Lord. Everything we do, even partakin’ of food and drink, is to be done to the glory of God. You’ll read that in I Corinthians 10:31. Some people say only fastin’ can make you more spiritual, but there you have it. But that’s a tangent I won’t take time to go off on right now. “Turn with me now to Leviticus 27, verse 30: And all the tithe OF THE LAND, whether OF THE SEED or OF THE LAND, or OF THE FRUIT OF THE TREE, is the LORD’S. It (not money) is holy unto the Lord. And it’s the tithe OF THE LAND, not your paycheck! “Verse 31 says: And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. Now, how can filthy lucre, which probably passed through the hands of dirty-dealin’ sinners before it got to you, possibly be redeemed as a holy thing? How can you redeem money with money? Let me put it this way: Is God’s Church supposed to be a Savin’s and Loan, chargin’ the saints 20% interest? Are preachers supposed to be loan sharks for Jesus, then? “Have I ever got a surprise for y’all now! Another trick preachers use is to say: “You’ve gotta tithe on your first tenth to God. But, child of God, I can prove right out of this Bible that it just ain’t so!” A big buzz broke out in the auditorium, but everyone got quiet to hear more. Brother Blessing said: “I can’t wait, y’all will love this one: Verse 32 says: And concernin’ the tithe OF THE HERD, OR OF THE FLOCK, even of WHATSOEVER PASSETH UNDER THE ROD (Y’all ever seen a twenty-dollarBill walkin’ by on two legs to be counted by the preacher)?” It was sheer
bedlam before he could go on: “Anyhow, the verse goes on to say: the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord. “Hang onto your Stetson hats, saints: Verse 33: He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he change it at all, both it and the change shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.” Brother Blessing rocked back on his boot heels and clapped. “Who-o-o! man, am I ever havin’ fun tonight, I hardly feel sick anymore! Y'all've heard this a lot of times, now: “Put your best tithe , the very first 10% of your hot-off-the-press paycheck, into the offerin’ plate, before you pay any other bill. But these verses show that it was every TENTH cow which was counted holy unto the Lord as a tithe, not the first one passin’ under the rod. Even if a rancher counted nine prize heifers walkin’ past him, and then a sickly, scrawny runt turned up as the tenth in line, the cowpoke wouldn’t be allowed to pass that poor lil’ critter over for the honor of bein’ the Lord’s tithe, even though he might feel to ashamed to call it a tithe. If he did decide to substitute his prize bull for the bony runt, he’d be charged 20% of its value for doin’ so. And he still couldn't get the original tithe back. You could get your fruit and veggies back by substitutin' 'em for other fruit and veggies and payin' a 20% fee, but not the livestock. Both the prize bull and the tithed runt it substituted for would still be counted as holy unto the Lord! Sometimes it would be the stringy, scrawny cow which constituted the Lord's tithe, just 'cause it happened to be number ten in line. And, by the way, “tithe” means ‘tenth’, not ‘first’! “Yes, child of God, it was the land which produced the tithe, not the Federal Mint! And it was wheat plants, grape plants, and olive plants which produced the tithe, not that plant where Brother Len worked! If you weren’t a landowner, you didn’t tithe, plain and simple. If locusts gobbled up your barley patch, you didn’t tithe on it! And nowhere do you read that God ever taxed poor wage slaves one-tenth of their income! Can you shout ‘praise the Lord’, everybody! Brothers and sisters, God is settin’ His people FREE!” It seemed like forever before the jubilation quietened down. I was hopin' with all my heart I could hop the fence and escape back to the Cowpoke Ranch before Brother Blessing picked a bull for his barbeque. Brother Blessing looked down at his notes. “Child of God, there were four types of tithe paid in any given seven-year period, three of ‘em by the people, and one by the Levites. On the seventh year no tithe was collected at all, ‘cause the land was to be allowed to lie
fallow. Now have you ever heard of any so-called ‘spiritual Levite’ stoppin’ his fund-raisin’ every seven years to give God’s people a break?” My, it got loud enough in the studio to wake the dead. Nobody knew of any preacher who ever gave God's people a break from a debt they didn't owe in the first place. “It worked like this," Brother Blessing said: "One tithe, the Festival Tithe, was eaten by the worshipper, as well as the poor and the Levites. “Another tithe, the Poor Tithe, was just for the poor and the Levites. Did you know, saints, the Levites were considered poor because God didn’t assign ‘em a share of the Promised Land? And another special tithe was reserved just for them, the Levite's Tithe. It was given to them to make up for the fact they were landless servants of the Lord. The Levites assisted the altar priests by takin’ care of humbler tasks, and they served as Israel’s health inspectors and policemen. Still another tithe was paid by the Levites themselves out of what they received, and they gave it to the Priests, a tenth of their tithe, or one percent of all the produce of the Land of Israel. All priests were Levites, of the Tribe of Levi now, but not all Levites were priests. The priests outranked the rest of the Levites. But none of ‘em ran big dude ranches like me, 'cause none of 'em owned their own farmland to work to provide their own livin'." Brother Blessing grinned. “Saints, I know quite a few ‘spiritual Levites’ who own very real real estate. They not only own their own land, but big sprawlin’ mansions sittin’ on ‘em free and clear, while some of you tithepayin’ slaves pay rent on rabbit hutches with what’s left of your shriveledup paychecks. Now if they’re gonna be consistent, it’s the landownin’ ‘Levites’ who oughta pay tithes to help you out, don’t you think?” “Amen, brother!” one man in the front row shouted loud and clear. Brother Blessing got all fired up. “Saints, the Bible is clear about this, and you can’t just pick and choose what parts you like and toss out the rest. Most wage slaves don’t have any Old Testament-style inheritance to pass on to their future generations! Some people can’t even afford to keep a dog, much less a herd of cattle! How can people be taxed on crops they don’t possess the land to grow, and what right do preachers have to substitute slave wages, produced by human sweat in Gentile territory, for crops springin’ up from the soil of Israel! How in Sam Hill can they yield the tenth of their non-existent crop to men who aren’t descended from Levi in the first place, men who disobey God’s commandment to ‘Levites’ not to have any inheritance in this world?”
And the people shouted: “Preach it, Brother!” “Glory!” “Hallelujah!” “Thank you, Jesus!” “Praise the Lord!” and “Amen!” There was lots of handclappin' and jumpin' for joy. The preacher shook his head and whistled. “Man alive, have I got one for you now. I have yet to hear any televangelist lay claim to this New Testament Scripture: 3 John 7...here, now...it’s a little hard to find, way in the back, just before Jude and Revelation, the end of the story. Maybe those preachers had already found so many other Scriptures to make money from, they didn’t bother to latch onto this one to see if they could milk a nickel out of it ...now... let’s see if I still know how to read. Y’all found it yet? It says...ahem! Because that for their fame’s sake, they went forth, takin’ filthy lucre of the Gentiles.” What a buzz broke out. “Just tryin’ to catch y’all off guard, like those wily Prosperity foxes do, but now y’all are learnin’ fast. Now to get the cobwebs outa my eyes and I’ll try again: Because that for His Name’s sake they went forth, takin’ NOTHIN’ of the Gentiles. See? Now, those preachers were perfectly within their rights to take up freewill offerings, though tithe-takin’ was strictly taboo. But they gave up the right to collect donations from poor Gentiles and ministered to them free of charge. Now, I know a few of y’all might be of Jewish origin, but I know my listeners are predominantly Gentile. When was the last time a TV preacher was in a hurry to claim 3 John 7 as the foundation of his ministry? “Know somethin’ else, child of God? I’ll bet if I got hungry and went out to some prosperity ‘Levite’s’ vineyard to stand around and eat my fill of grapes, he’d call the law down on me; although that same Old Testament Law he uses to get extra cash contains a provision in Deuteronomy Chapter 23: 24-25 that says if you’re hungry, it’s okay to go onto your neighbor’s property and eat some of his grapes, provided you don’t haul any away in a container. Saints,” he sniffed, “you oughta see the big buckets makin’ their rounds at some of these so-called miracle crusades. Those ‘spiritual Levites’ don’t have any compunction about carryin’ your money crop away to consume somewhere else...in Hawaii, maybe?” It was a Hallujah Good Time. My, but the viewers were enjoying “God’s correction”. Brother Blessing laid it on the line: “The biggest miracle in those services, saints, is that folks would rather shut up and pay up than make waves when they smell a rat as some fisher of funds makes a fishy sales pitch for prosperity! Whooo! I’m on a roll tonight! Can y’all shout ‘amen’!”
Brother Blessing was grinnin' from ear to ear from all the jubilation. “The other side of the coin is to tell poor folks that God is gonna disinherit them if they don’t measure up to some preacher’s standards of generosity and prove their love for Jesus by tithin’ ‘by faith’ even if their kids have to go hungry or do without decent school clothes! What right have they got, anyway, to tell you God can’t be pleased with you unless you’re sufferin’ in that way? Well, I sure don’t see many skinny, raggedy TV preachers!” The laughs got hysterical when he added this for good measure: “Yeah, child of God. Where IS that money-hungry preacher when you take a big leap of faith off the cliff, and end up in the fryin’ pan? Man, you’ve just landed on his plate, and he’s havin’ you for lunch! He’s like that Pharisee who devours widows’ houses! “A lot of Pharisees encouraged their disciples to take money which could have eased the sufferin’ of elderly parents and consecrate it to God. Jesus rebuked them for it, too. Believe me, brother, you don’t rack up Brownie points with God when you treat your family that shabby, especially the ones who borned you and put clothes on your back and food in your belly. But that’s just like what’s happenin’ today, when shifty televangelists tell you a ‘vow of faith’ will get you out of a jam. In my book it’ll only get you deeper into the doghouse with your Maker. Woe unto those who railroad spiritual babes into makin’ stupid vows they can’t finance. It says in Ecclesiastes that it’s better not to make a vow, than to vow and not pay. If you’ve tangled your life up like that, humble yourself before God now and pray: ‘Father, forgive me my debt, and accept instead the sacrifice of a contrite heart sprinkled by the Blood of the Lamb.’ Saints, Jesus taught us to pray that our Heavenly Father would forgive us our debts. How dare anyone undercut the mercy and grace of our God by tryin’ to get you to jump the gun and get into bondage, carried away on a wave of hyped-up, pre-orchestrated carnival emotion! “I’ll let y’all in on another secret too,” Brother Blessing said. “In Malachi 3, the chapter most used as a crowbar to pry tithes out of churchgoers, you’ll see the word ‘hireling’ spoken of in the very same breath as the orphans, fatherless, widows, and strangers, which means foreigners. Now, let’s see here...” he flipped open his Bible..."verse 5. And I will come near to you in judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, AND AGAINST THOSE WHO OPPRESS THE HIRELING IN HIS WAGES, THE WIDOW, AND THE
FATHERLESS, and that turn aside the stranger (or alien) from his right, and fear not Me, saith the Lord of Hosts.” “Saints, it just don’t make sense. Ever since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I’ve heard preachers use this chapter to heap condemnation on humble folk who struggle from paycheck to paycheck, even against some who've got a big passel of kids to feed and can barely keep body and soul together. But how in the world can this verse, which happens to be in the same chapter as the Tithin’ Scripture, be aimed at poor wage-earners, who were clearly classed as bein’ among the needy who had no inheritance in the Land to tithe on? How can the hireling be accused of oppressin’ the hireling? it’s very clear to me that the hireling was classed with the poor, the fatherless and the widows because people dependin’ on meager wages are just as vulnerable to bein' leeched off of as they are. “And just how would they ‘turn those poor people from their right’? By denyin’ ‘em access to the food in the tithin’ storehouses, that’s how! The tithe for the poor, which just happened to include the landless Levites, was collected on the third and the sixth year of the seven-year tithin’ cycle, then stored up in storehouses in all the cities of the Children of Israel. Those were, by the way, the very same storehouses pastors condemn the saints for not fillin’ up with bigger bills. Now if they're gonna compare apples with oranges, they oughta be a bit more consistent, don’t you think? When I told Brother Len to to go to the food bank, I should’a just passed him the offering plate, and told him to help himself to some of the tithes, so he and his family could eat! Can you say ‘amen, everybody!” And most of the people stood up, clapped, and yelled for more. This was one sermon on finances that didn’t feel llike a shakedown. “Now,” Brother Blessing said, “I’ve got another question, folks. Just who is this Book of Malachi addressed to in the first place? Granted, its bedrock principles of righteousness ought to have been observed by all the people, but I think it was primarily aimed at a thievin’ priesthood. If you’ll bother to read the whole book, you’ll unearth some hidden worms about the Priesthood which tithe-hungry preachers have whizzed past for a long time, those ‘spiritual Levites who are so eager to claim all the financial perks of that office, but who sure as shootin’ wouldn’t be so quick to claim the rebukes of that chapter. The not-so-fun stuff like the rebukes they’ve reserved for the peons out in the pews, can you say ‘amen’?” When it was quiet enough he continued: “You’ll discover that crooked bunch of priests rebuked by God for some heavy-duty sins: profanin’ His
holy offerings, neglectin’ the care of orphans and widows, adultery, corruption, and for causin’ the other Israelites to stumble out of the way of holiness. Just to be brief, we’ll look at some key Scriptures which prove it’s for the priests: Malachi 1, verses 6 to 8. A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master. If then I be a father, where is Mine honour? And if I be a master where is My fear? saith the Lord of Hosts unto you..unto whom, saints? Let’s go on. O PRIESTS that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we (THE PRIESTS!) despised thy name? “The Lord goes into detail about how those sidewinders palmed off the worst of their animals on the Altar of Sacrifice, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, they made the Table of the Lord contemptible. And God asks them whether they’d feel it was okay to present such sacrifices to their earthly governor. “Again in Chapter 2, verse 1: And now, O YE PRIESTS, this commandment is for YOU! This chapter denounces the dirty-dealin’, adulterous ways of that Old Testament Priesthood modern preachers are so eager to identify with. “Ah, but maybe Chapter 3 is for the laity. Not so fast, folks. In verse 3 we read: And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the SONS OF LEVI, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. “Now why was that necessary, saints? Because God had just rebuked the priesthood for profanin’ His holy offering, and they had to be purified before their work could be pure before God. Brother Blessing did a little dance. “Come on now, you ‘spiritual Levites’! You who strain at a gnat and swallow a camel! You can dish out rebukes, but you can’t take ‘em! I’ve been set free! Glory hallelujah! “Saints, even in the secular workin’ world, it’s usually the department bigwigs who get chewed out first by the company president when company profits nosedive, and there’s lots of consumer complaints. And I know God lays much more responsibilty upon blind leaders of the blind than He does upon the so-called ‘lay people’ they’re layin’ a big guilt trip on with their baldfaced lies. Yes, child of God, Malachi was addressed primarily to priests whose sins led the whole nation astray. They were the ones to blame for why the whole nation stopped bringin’ in tithes and offerings. The tithe wasn’t bein’ used to care for the widow, the poor, and the fatherless, and the priests were givin’ God only those animals they wouldn’t miss anyway. We can
only speculate about what they did with the best of the beef. Maybe they were runnin’ an illegal butcher shop on the side. Now, Brother Blessing asked everybody, "how can anyone worship a Holy God in the midst of such greed and corruption? And, after makin’ it clear that it was the priests who were bein’ dealt with, why should God suddenly decide to switch gears in midstream and focus on ordinary John Q. Public Israelites? That tithe was brought to the storehouse to keep meat (which was food, not money!) in God’s House, not only for landless Levites, but for all the truly vulnerable people of that society---even the hungry hireling who’s been beat over the head with that very same Scripture! “Child of God, can't you see how ridiculous those religious bigwigs are bein’? Why don’t they latch onto all the rebukes aimed at the Levites of the Book of Malachi, if they want all the exaltation of bein’ one? Why don’t preachers claim the curses laid on those Levites for the miserable ways they sinned against God, if they’re so eager to be the New Testament counterparts of those varmints ? Why on earth don’t they go the whole nine yards and keep all the less lucrative rules and regulations of playin’ their Levite game; a game they play just to make you think they’ve got the Godgiven right to garnish 10% of your paycheck by threatenin’ you with God’s retribution!” Brother Blessing's eyes flashed fire. “God is sick and tired of prayer peddlers preyin’ on poverty-stricken saints with empty refrigerators and emptier bank accounts! And He ain’t gonna hold His peace about it no more! Thank God I repented while there was still time! Y’all pray for me that God’ll let me live long enough to be a blessing in deed as well as in name, so I can spread a little of His Love around before I’m gone.” He got lots of warm "amen's". Brother Blessing smiled. Talk about miracles. No hecklers to speak of, just a few disgruntled folks leaving the studio. He felt both forgiven and revitalized as he went on. “What few times Christ mentions tithin’ in the Gospels, it is ALWAYS in conjunction with rebukin’ the scribes and Pharisees for their ugly attitude toward the Love of God; the way they robbed poor widows and misrepresented God to the people, and were really blind guides of the blind. Turn with me now to Matthew 23:23-24. Christ is in the middle of chastisin’ some high-and-mighty hypocrites for shinin’ off on the weightier matters of the Law: justice, mercy, and faith, even while they scrupulously tithed mint, anise, and cumin out of their gardens (again, no mention of money!) Every archaeologist worth his salt knows that money was minted in the time of
Christ, so wily preachers can’t wiggle out of this one by sayin’ that in Moses’ time, cash money didn’t exist, and that’s why they had to tithe on commodities instead!” “Ah, you might say, but Christ still told the Pharisees they were supposed to tithe on those herbs. But don’t forget now, Jesus and the Pharisees were still livin’ in the Old Testament when He rebuked them. After Christ’s resurrection, the Old Law got replaced by the New Covenant of Grace. Now, praise God, Gentiles could enter the Kingdom of God through faith in Christ alone and not have to worry about keepin’ hundreds of Old Testament ordinances. Lots of preachers wish y’all were too stupid to know that! “In Acts Chapter 15, the apostles were convenin’ in Jerusalem to settle once and for all a long, drawn-out dispute over whether Gentiles should be obligated to keep the Law of Moses after conversion, and if so, how much of it were they supposed to observe. The Holy Spirit led the Council of Jerusalem to a simple resolution of the whole matter. The Apostle Peter, chief spokesman for the council, reaches this conclusion: “Seein’ that God has saved those Gentiles by faith even as he did us, why should we provoke God by layin’ a yoke upon their necks which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear?’ “God sure don’t like it when some preacher tries to put a yoke on your neck that He never told him to put there! “In verses 19 and 20 James says: ‘Let’s not burden them with the Law of Moses. If they’ll just abstain from four forbidden things, they’ll do well. These four things are: eatin' food dedicated to idols, fornication, eatin’ strangled animals, and consumin’ blood.’” Brother Blessing cackled. ”Oops! Did they forget somethin’? What about compulsory tithin’? If it’s so all-fired important for Church Age saints to tithe on somethin’ which Old Testament saints never tithed on, why on earth didn’t the Big Fisherman give James a jab in the ribs and say: ‘Hey, buddy, wake up! You forgot the most important church bylaw!’ Incidentally, folks, Peter never paid tithes on his smelly fish, neither.” The roarin' laughter was friendly, and the applause broke out like thunder. Why, they even gave Brother Blessing a standin' ovation for that one. But Brother Blessing had turned into a humble man. He just bowed his head and said, “Folks, Paul the Apostle became the Apostle to the Gentiles because the Jews wouldn’t listen to him. Read all of his epistles to these non-Jews who never were under the Law of Moses to begin with, and that
includes me too. NOT ONCE will you ever find Paul puttin’ the screws on these people, demandin’ one-tenth of everyone’s earnings. Man, if that dude had gotten his hands on that kind of loot, he never would have had to do without or say: At this very hour we are hungry, and thirsty, and goin’ in rags. Saints, anybody with half an eyeball can see Paul never took one penny of tithe money from anybody. In fact, some congregations were so stingy with love offerings they would have made Scrooge look like Santa Claus. Amazingly, Paul continued to minister, even when he suffered need. Now that testifies to the Love of Jesus in that preacher. “Now let’s talk about Jesus Himself. NOT ONCE did He ever charge His followers 10% of their wages to finance His earthly ministry! And if anybody had a right to, He surely did. Jesus could have feasted on the fatted calf single night if that had been the case, and He and His disciples never would have had to forage from fig trees or pick through other people’s grainfields to kill their hunger pangs. Especially that day they were caught red-handed pickin’ a few measly grains of barley on the Sabbath, which raises still another point: Why on earth hadn’t they bought a few groceries the day before the Sabbath; if, as a lot of scripture-twisters claim, Jesus and His disciples lived and preached earthly prosperity? “If Jesus was loaded, folks, He sure didn’t flash it around. And He never would have said: 'Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests. But the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head'. I say to every ‘faith’ preacher out there who claims to follow Christ: It takes more faith to live without money than with it! Can you give the Lord a big hand-clap offering, everybody! “Paul the Apostle said that legalizers would try to keep you under the Old Law. If you back ‘em into a corner, they might concede that God’s people are no longer under the 600-odd ordinances of Mosaic Law, which were later added to the Ten Commandments. Yet they’ll latch onto their favorite one_tithin’_because it ain’t very lucrative for them to let God’s people go. There’s way too much gravy to skim off of other people’s misery. “Paul did, however, encourage Christians to give liberally to support God’s work. Don’t forget, folks, God owns you, and every cent you have, and it’s only by His permission you may spend any of it on your own needs, and you’d better not be a Scrooge with Him and withhold that portion He clearly tells you to set aside for His Kingdom. But, I would stress, Paul directed each individual to give only what he was truly able to give, out of a willin’ heart, not out of constraint, or legalism. II Corinthians 8: 11-12 tells us that God
wants us to give what we can out of what we have, not what we don’t have! Saints, I ask forgiveness for every time I badgered y’all into puttin’ God to the test by sendin’ in a big ‘love offering’ beyond your means. How unlovin’ of me! Jesus Himself said to satan: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God; that is, put God to foolish tests of so-called ‘faith’! God knows how many saints I’ve put in such a bind that they had to take an extra job just to pay Uncle Sam’s 30% AND ‘the Lord’s’ 10%, on top of all the ‘sacrificial love offerings’ which gave me a little taste of heaven on earth! God forgive me! “Some of y’all are wonderin’: What about the widow who gave her very last penny to God? My, but preachers have milked that story for all it’s worth. They’ve said she gave out of love and faith. That could well be, but what if the widow took the bread out of her own mouth because the Scribes and Pharisees taught her that God demanded it and she’d better pay up? How it breaks my heart, to think how I’ve badgered God’s children into givin’ beyond their means, and way beyond their level of faith! It sure wasn’t faith that drove my ministry, and whatsoever is not of faith is sin!” For an eternal moment he hung his head, amid softly whispered prayers. He shuffled and cleared his throat. Jesus’ heart went out to that poor little widow. He knew that corrupt religious leaders were skimmin’ the fat off a system which had been intended by God to be a safety net for poor people. Rich priests were oppressin’ the people of God by enforcin’ their own traditions on the needy, like so many do today. No wonder Jesus got so hoppin’ mad He drove the money-changers out of the Temple with a whip! Open your Bibles with me and we’ll take a peek at the FLIP SIDE of the ‘widows’ mite.’ Turn with me please to Mark chapter 12, and we’ll begin with verse 38, which gives the true BACKGROUND, or context, of this story, where Jesus rebukes those who profiteer from the widows’ mites. “Starting’ with verse 38, where Jesus is teaching His disciples: And he (Jesus) said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: WHICH DEVOUR WIDOWS' HOUSES, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation. “Folks, this term ‘devouring widows’ houses’ sounds an awful lot like what’s going on today. Sneaky preachers are getting so desperate they’ll put the squeeze on some poor old lady who’s scrimped and scraped and worked hard all her life and wants to enjoy what’s left of her life in peace. Once sleazy
preachers have cleaned out her nest egg, they’ll rob her of her nest. Once her savings are used up, they’ll tell that poor woman that the reason her seed hasn’t sprouted up yet is GOD is testin’ and tryin’ her (see how the Lord gets the blame for the devil’s dirty deeds?) So they’ll tell her to take on more shot at it and refinance her humble home in order to get a big loan so she can make a ‘vow of faith’ to ‘the Lord’. And who’s there to pick up the pieces when that unfortunate, lonely elderly lady gets foreclosed on and put out onto the street? Oh, she might have children or other relatives, but in these hard-hearted times everybody seems to be out for themselves, just like preachers! “Now most preachers who read this story of the widow’s mite in the Gospel of Mark tend to start readin’ from verse 41, instead of startin’ with those earlier verses where Jesus is ALREADY in the Temple sayin’ bad things about bad preachers takin’ poor widows’ money. And it’s against this backdrop we’ll continue with verse 41: And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury. For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living. “Jesus did NOT tell that poor widow she had to pay preachers the last of her bread money in order to get God to bless her. Out of sheer religious sentiment preachers read things into that passage that aren’t there. Jesus doesn’t heap praise on the widow for denyin’ herself the basics of life to make needless sacrifice to the big fat religious system. Nor does it say Jesus recommends her example to be followed by all believers. In fact, Jesus condemns a widespread practice of his day, where people would take money they needed to support elderly parents and devote it to the Temple. You’ll read about that problem a few chapters earlier in Mark 7:11. No, it is NOT all right in the sight of God to mail in your family’s grocery money to some fancy-dancy TV preacher! Just like a newspaper reporter, Jesus only commented on the fact that poor widow gave everything she had to live on! “That poor hungry widow could have received a FREE blessing from Jesus. Jesus never charged anybody a dime for eternal life. And Jesus never ordered His own disciples to tithe, either! In Matthew 23:23 Jesus was speaking to the ‘scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!’ not to His own children.
In Hebrews 8:13 it says of the Old Law, fulfilled in Christ: In that he (God) saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. “During His earthly ministry Jesus taught that the keeping of the Law must continue until it passed away. Colossians 2:14 teaches that the handwriting of Mosaic ordinances which condemned us before God has been nailed to the Cross of Christ. And those Mosaic ordinances included tithin’! “Preachers, you’ve got not right to hang onto an ordinance of a legal system which was nailed to the Cross of Christ, and Christianize it by substitutin’ money for farm produce! Nor does God authorize just any old Tom, Dick and Harry to dun any man for 10% of his wages, especially if he ain’t a Jew from the Tribe of Levi, and especially since the Jewish Temple got burnt to rubble long ago. It grieves God to see some Levite-wanna-be chain Christians to laws Jesus died to set them free from! “My, but preachers worm out of that one. Know how they manage that? By sayin’ they’re the New Testament counterparts of the Old Testament Levites. So that’s their ticket to ride on the gravy train. “Wow, have I ever got news for them! I Peter 2:9 says: But YOU are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. Just who did Peter write this epistle to? Ordinary, everyday Christians, like you and me. Now if professional pulpiteers have a right to collect tithes, so do you!” Brother Blessing said, as he pointed to one grinning man. “You too, Sister! “When I get through talkin’, I’m gonna SHOW my repentance the same way Zacchaeus the tax-collectin’ crook showed Jesus he was sorry. I’m gonna liquidate all my extra fat and use the proceeds to help brothers and sisters in need. After the service, my associates will get the names of those of you who need our help to recover from any onslaught of satan which has left you destitute. Besides preachin’ the true Gospel of Salvation, we’ll concentrate on helpin’ to feed and clothe needy people. As God enables, we also hope to provide emergency rent relief for those who need it. Our trust fund will be called the ‘Blessing Bank’. But this time, WE’LL be doin’ the givin’! Whatever comes in is gonna go right back out to bless others. I’ve discussed this plan with Jeremy and David, two of my fellow laborers in Christ. They also have forsaken the love of Mammon for the Love of Jesus, and wholeheartedly support me in this work.” “As the Lord provides, we’ll undertake that ministry in Jesus’ Name. But never again will we make appeals for tithe money, which is a man-made doctrine of bondage. And I know you won’t lie to me about your
circumstances, either. God is with me and in me as never before. It’s Christ in me you’ll be approachin’ for help, and God forbid you should lie to the Spirit of God. It’s a wonder I wasn’t struck dead like Ananias and Sapphira, after all the brazen ways I filched funds prayed over and consecrated to God by Christians!" Brother Blessing was notified that air time was windin' down, so he said, "Brothers and sisters, it's time to wrap up the show, but if any of our studio guests can stay a little longer, we'd sure appreciate it. This off-the-air segment will be made available to all who would like to view it on podcast or DVD. Any of y'all at home who'd like a DVD of tonight's discussion, just let us know and we'd be happy to send it to you as our love gift free of charge." As Brother Blessing told everybody his mailin' address he waved and grinned. The show closed on its music theme: "The End of the Trail's Just Over the Hill." Cowboy fiddle music whined and a lazy drawl sang: "God's got a big spread in the Sky, where I'll bunk down by and by…" The rest is so corny I don't even wanna repeat it! I stuck my nose in the feed bag at intermission time and had a snack, chewin' over everything that had just been said. $$$$$$ Two Texans Wrangle Over Tithin’ Time for Round Two, and this time Brother Blessing gets in the boxin' ring with the mother of all religious traditionalists. Even though the network broadcast was over, the extended service in the studio was still played over the warehouse TV, so I didn't miss nothin'. Brother Blessing smiled at everybody and said, "Now it's just us home folks. Most of y'all decided to keep me company a bit longer, and that's wonderful. We're mighty proud to have y'all. "Now we’ll throw the floor open for questions. I’ll stay up here onstage, so I can sit down if I get to feelin’ weak. Brother Ray will go around with the microphone, and take just a few questions on this subject. Please speak into it so everybody can hear, and try not to interrupt me when I answer, ‘cause I know this subject makes emotions run high. Yes, you sister in the blue dress?” He pointed. Brother Ray hurried down toward her.
“Brother Blessing," she asked him, "one preacher told how a povertystricken church in Macedonia gave a big donation to Paul. Why did Paul take money from the poor?” “Well, Sister, in the first place, Paul didn’t force those poor saints to give anything. In fact, they insisted he take their offering, despite his very human reservations. Their sacrificial gift went to provide famine relief for saints in Jerusalem, and God would bless the Macedonians for their contribution. Yes, Brother?” he pointed at a big, Stetson-wearing man in the fourth row. Brother Ray rushed to take his comments on the microphone. “Brother Blessing, I ain’t tryin’ to contradict you when you say Jesus doesn’t demand that folks give preachers their grocery money, but what about the poor widow who made a cake for Elijah with the last of her corn meal? She had a son to feed.” People laughed when Brother Blessing commented that he wasn’t too sure it was self-risin’ CORN meal the poor widow had in her jar. He grinned and said: “In the first place, it was FOOD, not money, Elijah asked this poor lady for. In the second place, Elijah was a true prophet of God and he was just as hungry as she was. In the third place, Elijah came to impart a real blessing to this woman who otherwise would have eaten the last of the meal with her son, but both of ‘em would have died shortly thereafter from the famine. Elijah was no richer than this poor lady. Both of ‘em would have died of hunger if God hadn’t intervened with a supernatural miracle. Most preachers hit poor widows up for the OTHER kind of bread, you know, the green stuff with numbers on it, and they’re in a much higher income bracket than people on Social Security. How many preachers look like they’re starvin’ to death? Reckon I could count all the skinny preachers I ever met on just one hand. God used that lady to provide food for a prophet, not profits for a fool!” Once the good-natured laughter subsided, a lady in a pink dress raised her hand and stood up. Brother Blessing called on her and Brother Ray went to her with the mike. “Brother Blessing, didn’t Abraham pay tithes to Melchisedek long before the Old Law was given?” “Yes, sister, one occasion is mentioned. It’s in Genesis 14, I believe, and it tells how Abraham took back some property stolen from his nephew Lot and other citizens of Sodom. He led his army against a confederacy of kings and beat ‘em in battle, then rescued Lot and the other captives. As a ‘thank-you’ offering to God, Abraham presented a tithe of the spoils to Melchisedek, King of Salem, who prefigures the eternal Priesthood of Christ.
The tithe itself consisted of the plunder of war, not some of Abraham’s personal wealth. What sticks out in this story is this: That booty didn’t even belong to him, ‘cause it had been stolen from the people of Sodom. We don’t dare follow Abraham’s example in tithin’,” he winked. “We’d have to give somebody else’s stuff away, and we’d end up in the pokey for it!” Everybody got tickled at hearing that. Then some man at the far right of the stage called out: “Didn’t Jacob promise to pay God tithes, Brother Blessing?” “He sure did, brother, on one occasion, and even then, strictly on his own terms. In Genesis 28: 20-22, Jacob, a natural-born wheeler-and-dealer, says: IF God will be with me, and protect me, and give me food to eat, and clothes to wear, and bring me safely back to my father’s house, THEN shall the Lord be my God, and of all that thou shalt give me, surely I will give a tenth back to thee. We don’t even know for sure if Jacob ever kept his end of the deal, and it was at least twenty years before he got back home, at which time his vow would become payable. ” “Notice this runs contrary to to what prosperity peddlers preach. They’ll say: ‘Saints, you’ve just gotta give to God first, or He won’t give anything to you. No pain, no gain.’ But Jacob says God must give to him first, and meet his needs first, before he is able to tithe to God.” Now, if, as many tithe teachers preach, mandatory tithin' began with Abraham and was to be practiced by all his descendants, then Jacob would have been in no position to use tithin' as a bargaining chip with God. Why? In that case it would have been it was a debt he ALREADY owed God as one of Abraham's children. Bargaining with a bill you already owe is just as goofy as tellin' your landlord that if he buys you a birthday present you'll pay your rent." Lots of laughter, then Brother Blessing went on: Paul the Apostle says in I Corinthians 4:7: Now what do you have that you did not FIRST RECEIVE? Remember, Paul exhorts His converts to give out of what they have, not out of what they don’t have yet. Not once does Paul ever tell his followers to go into debt to finance a $2000 vow to ‘save his ministry’. Actually, Paul disapproved of gettin’ into debt. He said in Romans 13:8: Owe no man anything, but to love one another. God have mercy upon my soul if any one of you got yourselves into hock just to keep me in Ferrari coupes! Oh, dear sweet Jesus, forgive me!” There was one cranky-lookin' lady in the audience who was out to get him. “Brother Bill,” she snapped at him, “your heart isn’t right with God, the way you peddle a cost-free Christianity, even if you do know how to play on
people’s sentiments. There WERE times money was paid by worshippers at the Temple and you know it.” Brother Blessing’s eyes darted up and down a moment, then he smiled. “Sister, let’s start off by askin’ you your name, and do you have any children?” “My name is Martha Smith. I have five children, and they’re all upstanding Christians.” “What’s the name of your oldest, Sister Smith, and how old is that child?” “Phil, he’s fifteen.” Brother Blessing broke out into a grin. “Sister, mind if I ask YOU a couple questions?" "Go right ahead," she said. "I'm not afraid to answer them." "Sister, after your firstborn child came along, did you remember to pay your firstborn redemption fee for that child, and if you did, where did you pay it, to whom, and what currency did you use to pay it?” She looked at Brother Blessing like he was nuts. “What redemption fee?” “Oh, but didn’t you know? Under Old Testament Law, the firstborn of every human and animal is holy unto the Lord, and you can’t keep it unless you pay so many shekels to a Levitical Priest as a redemption fee. Where’s the money, Sister Smith, and who are you gonna pay it to? It surely can’t be me.” “But I don’t have any shekels!” My, but she looked aggravated and worried that everybody thought it was funny. She didn't like what Brother Blessing said next. “But if you want to be under the Law of Moses, sister, or any part of it, you still owe God that money.” Knowin' he's right, she tries to change the subject. “I was planning to give a $100 offering tonight, but I don’t know about that now.” “Sister Smith, I don’t care if you were gonna give me $1000. As everybody here’s my witness, I’d rather turn my back on questionable donations than turn my back on Jesus. You’ve kept the good Lord waitin’ fifteen years now, and I can prove from Scriptures in Numbers 18 and Leviticus 27 that your redemption bill for that boy has accrued to 20 specially minted Shekels of the Sanctuary. God could care less about Uncle Sam’s money, that’s in Caesar’s domain.”
“I certainly haven’t heard that one before,” Sister Smith said. And as if she'd rather go back under Old Law than say 'amen' to sanctified common sense, she asked, “Just why won’t U.S. currency do?” “Well, sister, if you’re gonna keep the Old Law, you’ve gotta do it on God’s terms. Remember how Jesus showed some people a coin with Caesar’s picture on it and said: ‘Render to God what belongs to God, and to Caesar what belongs to Caesar’? To put it bluntly, Caesar’s money just ain’t holy enough to settle Old Testament religious debts with. Under the Old Covenant, it was expressly prohibited to worship God with anything that had an image of any livin’ creature on it. In Jesus’ day, secular currency had to be exchanged for the Sanctuary Shekel before it could be offered unto the Lord. Secular coins bore the image of Caesar, a heathen emperor, just like our own money has American presidents on it.” “Surely God can't be that picky,” the lady said, as if she knew His mind. “Oh, but He is, sister. Back in King David’s day, a man got killed just for puttin’ his hand on the Ark of the Covenant, to keep it from fallin’ off an oxcart onto the road. That tragedy could’a been avoided altogether if only that Ark had been transported back to Jerusalem the right way, as God commanded. Levites were supposed to pick the Covenant Box up with specially made poles and carry it on top of their shoulders. Even the Priests were forbidden to touch this Most Holy object with sinful hands, a place where God’s Presence rested. But those people didn’t listen to God, and that poor guy died. Whenever we tinker around with the way a Holy God wants things done, it’s downright lethal. That’s exactly what tithe teachers are doin’ today, as they reintroduce, reinterpret, and rigidly enforce old laws nailed to the Cross of Christ. “Now, sister, if you still think our New Covenant’s too easy to suit you and you insist on goin’ back under the Old Law, it’s a package deal, and you’ve gotta shoulder the whole burden of it. The Bible says that whoever offends in just one point of the Law is guilty of breakin’ the whole thing. So let’s just tackle this knotty problem first. It’s enough to chew on. If you fail to find a way to keep that Law about payin’ the redemption fee, you’ll come under a curse, just like those rascally priests who robbed God in Malachi’s day. Galatians 3:10 says this: As many as are under the Law are under the curse. Now, if a professional priest who knew all the ordinances of Moses inside out couldn’t keep the whole Law, neither could you.”
Now Sister Smith tries to justify herself before God. “Well,” she wiggles, “I live a very commendable Christian life, considering the kind of husband I have to put up with everyday!” “Sister," Brother Blessing said, "God’s gonna hold your husband accountable for his own sins, and they probably are worse than yours in some ways. But know this: Our God will settle for nothin’ less than absolute perfection, and if you can’t deliver that degree of perfection, you won’t inherit the Kingdom of God any more than he will. That is, unless you place your trust in none other righteousness than that of our Savior, Who alone was able to fulfill all the points of the Law in His own perfectly sinless life. Think you can do that, sister?” She got all huffy at him then. “I think God expects me to stand on my own two feet, as any mature person would! I’ve made a covenant with God, too. He doesn’t have to bless me unless I first pay Him 10% of all the money that falls into my hands. After all, it takes two to fulfill a legal agreement. Tithing is a far more reasonable bargain than you give it credit for. After all, I still get to keep 90%. don’t I?” Brother Blessing attacked it from another angle: “So that 90% is all yours, not God’s, and He has absolutely no say in what you do with it.” “I never said that!” she snapped back. Brother Blessing knew he was right. “I think you’re missin’ my whole point, sister. If you first offer yourself up to God, as Paul says in Romans 12:1, then He owns you and everything else you have. He really owns 100%, not just 10%, but I think He might be just a bit more compassionate than we give Him credit for.” “But if I tithe, I obligate Him to bless me!” she said, in hopes God owed her a windfall. Brother Blessing laughed. “Sister Smith, God ain’t some puppet on a string you can control with cold, hard cash. From what I gather, you think that the day you welsh on payin’ tithes, you can’t expect any further blessings from God.” Well, she turns up her pert little nose and says: “That’s right. God promised the ancient Israelites earthly blessings, but only if they’d be faithful to observe all His Law. I certainly don’t want to be a poor church mouse who has to wait till I get to heaven before God ‘blesses my basket and my store, and I’m above and not beneath’. I want Abraham’s blessings to be mine, NOW, while I’m still on earth, and people can SEE how God rewards those who keep His statutes! And I don’t expect any favors from God unless
I keep MY end of the bargain! God is my Partner in prosperity, and I don’t intend to let Him down. He can count on Martha Smith to tithe to all those fine men on this Network who shed tears of tender compassion as they pray for all the Christian viewers who are bound by poverty; souls who could be set free, if only they’d keep God’s Laws of Prosperity.” Brother Blessing guffawed at that. “Look what you’ve gone and done now, Sister Smith. You’ve been taken in by crococile tears shed by money-hungry sharks, I oughta know. God forgive me, I used to spend hours in front of a mirror practicin’ my Sarah Bernhardt faces to get ready for the show. Every actor knows how to turn on tears like a water faucet. It just ain’t that hard to do, once you get the knack of it. This is me doin’ my bit for the Hallelujah Telethon.” He looked up at the TV cameras, squinched his eyes, and stretched his wide mouth in a rubbery frown. “Oh, Je-e-e-sus!” He swayed back and forth and jerked his hands heavenward. “Set your people free,” he groaned in a shaky bass voice. “Set ‘em free to sow a seed out of their need. Help ’em believe so they’ll receive. O-h-h-h...JE-E-ESUS!... he squealed, as he held his arms to his chest and swooned . “O-h-h-h. child of God!” His twiddling fingers stretched out like a hungry beggar. “You gotta GIVE, or God can’t give to you!" Brother Blessing got the most sublime smile on his face and said with a sniffling voice, "Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy, and it’ll come back to you packed down like a cup of brown sugar, shaken together, and runnin’ over so you won’t have nowhere to put it." “And,” Brother Blessing let 'em know, “that’s where the canned organ music would come in to play people’s hearts like a fiddle. Only thing we forgot was the fake angels flyin’ around my head to go with it.” That started a noisy hubbub in the studio. More than a few folks got up to go. Brother Blessing bowed his head. His wife rushed to his side. She took the mike and said: “Saints, my husband didn’t find it easy to come clean. We’ve got no excuse for how we’ve done y’all over these past few years. Like Jesus in the Wilderness, we were tempted by satan to seek after earthly riches and power. But the difference is, we gave in, and believe me, we’ve suffered for it. You know what trial we’re goin’ through,” she said, with tears in her eyes. “All we can do now is ask your forgiveness, and for you to remember what Jesus said: ‘If you refuse to forgive your brother for his trespasses, neither shall My heavenly Father forgive you your sins’. And as Bill said, we’re gonna do our utmost to make it up to every one of y’all. Now,
could y’all please give my husband the greatest blessing one child of God can give to another...forgiveness and love in a time of great sorrow?” The studio got real still, except for a few snifflin' sounds. “Thank you, brothers and sisters,” Sister Blessing said. “And thanks to everyone who asked questions tonight.” Brother Blessing took the mike from her hand. “I’d like to say more to Sister Smith, in just a moment. But honey, I sure do appreciate you for what you just said to all our brothers and sisters out there. Thank you for puttin’ up with me all these years.” He gave his wife a quick peck on the cheek and said, “Ain’t she wonderful?” And the audience warmed up to him again. But not Sister Smith She wasn't about to let that rascal off so easy. “Sister Smith,” he asked her, “can you forgive me too?” She gave him a sour vinegar look and said, “For all your silly theatrics, I might be willing to forgive you. But one thing that’s unforgiveable is the disgraceful attitude you’ve developed toward Christian finances.” You gotta give him credit for how he handled that: “So you thought my attitude was more Christlike when I robbed people blind?” “Well, you did attack the anointed ministry of other preachers by calling them crooks and thieves." Sister Smith's teeth were sunk into that preacher like a pitbull with a T-bone. “If my memory serves me right, Sister Smith, I didn’t assign any names to those crooks or thieves, except I pointed the finger at myself; Bill Blessing of Tomahawk, Texas.” “But what about Brother Conway, and your pastor? You mentioned those two.” “All I said was they had a lot to gain by me helpin’ ‘em. God knows their hearts, and every preacher out there who knows he’s guilty of the same tricks I pulled isn’t accountable to me, but to God. And those who know they’re scammin’ the saints are skatin’ on thin ice if they claim their ‘ministry’ is anointed of God. As for me, I was real wily about it. I don’t think I ever labelled my ministry as ‘anointed’; I just hopped on the same gravy train others were ridin’ , and I told so many truth twisters that I ended up brain-washin’ myself as well as others. I wanted with all my heart to really think I had a right to go after everybody else’s money. Until Christ Himself got through to me, I doubt I was even in my right mind anymore, I was so far gone. Sin had deadened me to true righteousness, and I was a blind leader of the blind.”
“Well, still,” Sister Smith said in her uppity way, “I’ve spent years listening to Prosperity tapes and going to conferences, and Prosperity teachers seem to be bright, intelligent men in their right minds. I’ve stored a wealth of information in my heart and head I didn’t know before, thanks to those preachers you just condemned.” “I condemn nobody,” Brother Blessing said. “People are condemned before God when they knowingly twist Holy Scripture to make an easy buck off of poor people in Jesus’ Name, and cast a shadow of reproach on His Holy Name. It was only by the sheer grace of God I’ve been forgiven.” Now Sister Smith got ornery and told him off. “Unless you repent and do your first works, you are cursed with a curse! Not only are you robbing God of His tithe by teaching people their ticket to heaven is free, but you’re undermining one of the bedrock doctrines of the church! One which gives religious people a chance to put their money where their mouth is, if they expect to get anything from God!” Brother Blessing looked so sad. “You really don’t believe much in the grace of God, do you, sister?” “Whatever gives you that absurd notion!” she snapped. “Well, sister, out of your own mouth you’ve made a pact before God not to take any blessings from Him you didn’t earn. Everybody here just heard you pledge to keep all 613 of Moses’ ordinances, which involve ceremonial washings, dietary laws, savin’ a bit of your biscuit dough for the preacher, and offerin’ up animal sacrifices for your sins. Where do you think you’ll do that? Out on your backyard barbecue grill?” My, what a chorus of Texas hee-haws broke out. Sister Smith turned her beady eyes on the preacher, and she looked hoppin' mad. “You’re being ridiculous!” she told him. “Those people should be laughing at you, not me!” “Oh, they’re not laughin’ at either of us, Sister Smith. They’re laughin’ at the very notion of tithin’ today as God commanded it in the Bible. That’s what’s plum ridiculous.” “So you’re saying it’s ridicuous to be faithful to the inerrant Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation?” Brother Blessing got an idea. “Sister, answer me this, if you will. Do you work on Saturday, or just rest?” She almost laughed at that one. “When do I ever get time to rest?” she moaned. “I’ve got my washing to do, my meals to make, my house to clean, cakes and pies to bake to get ready for company coming the next day for Sunday dinner.”
“Aha! Then you, Sister Smith, are in violation of God’s holy law about not doin’ any work on Saturday, the Jews’ Sabbath Day! And do you know how terrible the penalty is for breakin’ that law?” “But that’s different!” she said. “God changed the Sabbath to Sunday!” “Well, that’s as clear as mud to me,” Brother Blessing answered. “No Scripture says: ‘Thou shalt switch from Saturday to Sunday’. Now I’ve heard strong cases argued for either day, but we won’t get sidetracked on that issue. Paul said in Romans 14:5: One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. But there is a spiritual sabbath we enjoy each and every day. We who enter into Christ’s finished work on our behalf also enter into God’s spiritual Sabbath of Rest, by ceasin’ from our own labors as Hebrews 4:10 tells us. But even if you are bent on keepin’ Sunday in the same way the ancient Jews kept their Sabbath, you’re still breakin’ God’s rules by not doin’ it the right way. Just like the tithin’ teachers change God’s rules on how to do that.” “Oh, you’re just being stubborn as a mule!” she said, wagging her finger. “You, who supposedly represent the Lord, are making a mockery of holy things! Wait! I’ve got you now, Bill Blessing, and you’ve got no answer for this one! My Bible says this, and it’s found in the New Testament: ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine and instruction in righteousness. That must include Old Testament Scriptures as well.” Brother Blessing had a comeback: “By the works of the Law shall no man be justified. That’s in My Bible too. Still, the one you quoted is very true, sister. Now, can you remember what Scripture says the tithe was used for in the first place?” “To provide for the priests and feed the defenseless and hungry,” she said. “Right. Although there are no Levitical priests today who qualify to take the Mosaic tithe, the Book of James asks us this question: ‘If ye see a brother or a sister lackin’ food or clothes, and ye say: Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; yet give them not those things necessary to meet the needs of their body, what good does it do?’ He also said: ‘Pure religion and undefiled in the sight of God is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction’. No mention of money there, just doing whatever you can to meet their need, whatever it might be."
He got lots of cheers, but Sister Smith gritted her teeth and acted like she hadn’t heard a word he said. “One more quick point, Brother Blessing,” she said, almost out of breath. “How about this one? Jesus said, “Whosoever shall break one of the least of these My commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven.” “Here we go, runnin’ round the same old mulberry bush,” Brother Blessing said. “As I said earlier, Jesus never did command tithin’ on money. If y’all will all turn with me now to Matthew Chapter 5, you’ll notice Jesus sayin’ right before that verse you quoted, there in verse 17: 'Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I AM NOT COME TO DESTROY, BUT TO FULFILL.' And in Luke 16:16 Jesus says: 'The Law and the Prophets were until John' (John the Baptist, that is). He was considered the last of the Old Testament prophets who served under the old economy of Law, and he said of Christ: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, Who taketh away the sins of the world.’ At that time Jesus was about to offer Himself up as an Atonement for the sins of the world, and usher in the New Covenant of Grace.” “Now what would cause Christ to bring up the subject of destroyin’ the Law? I suspect because there were lots of times the Scribes and Pharisees accused Him of law-breakin’. Like that time Jesus healed people on the Sabbath Day, when no work was supposed to be done. Jesus knew the Law better than anybody, and He knew you were supposed to rest on the Sabbath Day. But the greater need was to set people free from the power of satan, and He did that seven days a week. In that way, Jesus gave mercy a higher priority than the ritual law of the Sabbath. In healin' people, Christ gave them rest from their sicknesses on the Day of Rest. And Paul teaches in Romans 10: Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth. In other words, Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses in His own perfect Life, which was a sinless Life He could offer up as payment for our sins. And In that passage we quoted earlier Jesus warns us that if our righteousness isn’t greater than that of the Scribes and Pharisees, we just can’t make it into the Kingdom of Heaven. Saints, that’s a mighty tough challenge to undertake, to live independent of Christ’s righteousness, and goin’ about to establish your own. In Romans 10:3, Paul speaks of those who, bein’ ignorant of God’s righteousness, will try to create their own kind of righteousness; instead of acceptin’ Christ’s Gift of Righteousness, which God, the perfect Record-keeper, posts to the account of those who believe on His sinless Son.”
Sister Smith didn't have much to say. She just gnashed her teeth and knitted her brow. “Remember, sister, Christ came to dwell in our hearts by faith, to fill us with His own Life, and to give us His zeal for holiness. Before God’s people could be born again through the Spirit, and have the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus dwellin’ in their hearts, the ancient Israelites struggled to keep a complicated legal code written on tablets of stone. They followed the letter of the Law out of fear, because the spirit of the Law hadn’t been written on their hearts yet. The Bible says: Love is the fulfillment of the Law. If you love your needy brother or sister, you’ll do anything you can to lighten their load, even if you can’t bear it altogether. I’d say since the goals of the old tithin’ Law were: to ‘rejoice before the Lord’ in a fellowship meal with God’s other people, and provide for the poor and the priesthood, this must hold true: Whenever you share meals of thanksgiving with every class of people in the congregation, or give free-will offerings to feed the poor and support the true work of God both at home and abroad, you fulfill the goals of that tithin' law, don’t you think?” It was like arguin' with a brick wall. Sister Smith just kept it up. “But what about those tithing storehouses spoken of in the Bible? Aren’t they analogous with the church treasury?” Brother Blessing wiped sweat off his brow. “Do we have to go through all that again, Sister Smith? Food was stored in those storehouses, not money. Dollar bills don’t satisfy hunger, at least not directly. They don’t grow from the soil of the land, unless you mean the trees they grew from, before they were cut up in a pulp mill somewhere to make paper for the money.” Everybody got tickled by that. “Another thing, sister. I’ve already explained that the tithin’ system was enforced by Mosaic Law, which also served as the civil law, at least so long as the Israelites weren’t under foreign occupation. Israel was a theocracy. We live in a secular democracy, and our elected leaders are accountable to the people, not to God, insofar as the carryin’ out of their duties is concerned. There’s a Separation of Church and State here in America, and in most of the world’s other democracies. God knew that people under the Old Covenant were still unregenerated, not yet born again spiritually. They did not yet have Christ's Law of Love written on their hearts. God knew that those unregenerated people lived in a fallen world where everybody looks out for himself first, and they wouldn't have a natural tendency to look out for the welfare of needy neighbors or hungry priests. And so God had to
make tithin' a civil law which carried fearful penalites for breakin' it.. Until Christ came and fulfilled the Old Testament ceremonial ordinances, people had to bring in farm produce to feed the hungry because it was against the Law not to. When I was a kid, I didn’t always feel like doin’ what Pa said, but I knew what I’d get if I didn’t.” “But Brother Blessing," Sister Smith said, "I still think you’re supposed to keep the best of the Old Testament Laws. It’s sometimes a sacrifice to, but I want everyone here to know this: it builds character. Besides, it would be a waste to discard such noble precepts instead of making some use of them.” Brother Blessing shook his head. “It would be a waste of good sacrifices. Hmmm.... That’s the same lame excuse King Saul gave when he disobeyed God’s order to ‘utterly destroy all the wicked Amalekites and everything they have’. Now, as Paul says, the Law is perfectly just and good and righteous, but the same principle applies here. King Saul spared King Agag’s life and kept the best of the animals for sacrifice. But the prophet Samuel got mad at Saul and said: ‘Hath the Lord so great a delight in sacrifice, as in obeyin’ His voice?’ Just as God would rather have mercy than sacrifice, as I said earlier, God delights more in obedience than sacrifice. And in our case, the righteous can only please God when they obey Him by remainin’ connected to the Life of Christ through faith in Him alone. It wasn’t long after that fiasco, Saul lost his entire kingdom. I’ve read too many stories of cult members tithin’ themselves into utter destitution, and wonderin’ why God didn’t come through with all the big juicy rewards they were promised by their leaders. It’s just as if one of my men did a job the wrong way, then expected to get paid for it.” “Well, maybe they are doing God’s work the right way,” Sister Smith insisted, “but God intends to reward them in heaven. That’s a more spiritual attitude to take.” “Ah,” Brother Blessing winked, “there’s another point. As a rule, there was much more emphasis on material blessings in the Old Testament than in the New. Now, if you’re gonna live under the old economy of law, you might as well set your sights on earthly rewards like wealth, perfect health, wipin’ out your enemies, length of days, descendants as numerous the stars of heaven, and prestige in the community. These things were mentioned much more often in the Old Testament than in the New, which tells us to set our hearts on things above. And,” he added, “what did you just tell me about wantin’ Abraham’s blessings in the here and now?”
That riled the lady up. “Now look who’s sassing me! After all your sermons on hundred-fold harvest blessings for giving big donations!” “Look, Sister Smith,” Brother Blessing said as patiently as he could. “I know where you’re comin’ from, believe me. It’s hard to break with wrong ways of thinkin’, and I had the most awful struggle to get out of bondage to the Prosperity Gospel. It’s harder than breakin’ the cigarette habit. Satan sold me a lie, I swallowed it hook, line, and sinker, and turned around and passed it on to you. All my gold toys were nothin’ but chains on my spirit, and I very nearly lost my soul. I feel like I wasted the best years of my life, so I’m givin’ God back what few days I have left. I can’t do more than that to say I’m sorry.” Sister Smith snorted at him. She didn't want to accept any apology from that man. Still, Brother Blessing tried to reason with her. “What I was tryin’ to say is: If Old Testament ordinances were still in force, and could be enforced in any way we saw fit, even with no Temple and no Levitical priesthood in existence today, it seems God would have to keep His end of the bargain and bestow the Old Testament reward of material prosperity for fulfillin’ Old Testament obligations. Else, I never would’a read such shockin’ stories about poverty-stricken tithe-payers.” So she comes back with this: “Remember what the devil said to God, Brother Blessing. Does Job serve God for nothing? Maybe they’re being tried in the furnace of affliction, and it will be a long time before they reap their harvest of prosperity. I certainly don’t tithe on my income expecting an immediate return. God always demands costly sacrifices of His people, because I’ve never had an easy ride in this Vale of Tears. My ticket to heaven has cost me plenty. I’ve always said you get just what you pay for, and there’s no free lunch. We must pay as well as pray. You’re making it sound too easy to get to heaven.” Brothr Blessing looked agitated. “Look, Sister Smith, you can’t have it both ways. Mixin’ the Old Covenant of Law with Christ’s New Covenant of Grace is just as hopeless as mixin’ oil with water. You've gotta either choose one or the other, and if you pick the Old Law to live under, you’ve gotta take the whole kit and caboodle. Why do you think the early Apostles forgot to add tithin’ to that long list of four things required of us Gentiles, in addition to walkin’ in the Love of Christ?” “Well, for that matter,” she snapped back, “they didn’t ordain Christian TV or pipe organs, either!”
Before he could say something, someone called out: “Brother Blessing, if I can cut in, weren’t the Old Testament saints saved by faith too? That’s what I heard once.” “Good question, brother. Even the Old Testament saints looked forward in faith to the comin’ of Christ, God’s Perfect Sacrifice for sin. As Hebrews Chapter 10 teaches, the old animal sacrifices could never take away sins. Even back then, it was really their faith toward God their Redeemer which saved them. Galatians 3:6 says: 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.' Take the Prophet Daniel. There he was, away off in Babylon, mournin’ because the Temple had been destroyed. Now Daniel couldn’t worship at the Temple, but still he was counted as a righteous man. The angel Gabriel said he was greatly beloved by God. Why? Not because Daniel could bring sacrifices to a Temple which didn’t exist anymore, because he couldn’t, except in his heart. No, Daniel was justified by faith because he looked forward through eyes of faith to His Redeemer. Now, Sister Smith, if you’re dependin’ on your own ability to keep God’s Law and buy your own way into heaven with sacrifices, you’ll surely buckle under that heavy load and bring God's condemnation down on yourself for fallin’ short of His Glory.” Here's what she had to say to that: "But JESUS helps me bear my burdens!” Brother Blessing had news for her: “Sister, He’ll gladly shoulder all your burdens Himself if only you’ll let Him, and if you acknowledge by faith that ‘Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth’, as Romans 10:4 says. And, Christ took the whole body of Mosaic ordinances which, in the breakin’ of them, only served to expose us as sinners before a Holy God, and nailed 'em all to His cross, as Colossians 2:14 says. I really don’t know why you’d want to go get ‘em back down, either.” “But I’ve got to do my part to please God!” she insisted. “Sister," Brother Blessing said, "it’s your faith in Christ, not your donations, which keeps your soul saved. Galatians 3:3 says: Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? You can still take the hard road if you choose, but it won’t get you to Glory. Proverbs 14:12 says: There is a way that seems to be right, but it ends in the ways of death. Sister, the Law never could minister life to fallen man, only death. It only served as a school teacher to show us how far short we fall of God’s perfection, and teach us our need for a Redeemer. And as for keepin’ the Law, I say again, it’s a package deal. You can either trust in
Christ to be your all-sufficiency before God, or you’ll fall short of enterin’ into Christ’s perfect Rest of Faith. It can’t be part you and part Jesus makin’ you righteous before a holy God.” Now Sister Smith got cantankerous. “You’re leading these people down the Broad Way to Destruction! You’re making it too easy for people by telling them they don’t have to keep part of the Bible! And,” she said with her nose in the air, "if I were you, I’d be afraid to face my Maker with that attitude!” At that point, Brother Blessing’s right-hand-man, Brother Jeremy, took the podium. “Sister, please. you know the trial Brother Blessing is under. Just sit down, and listen, please. Brother Bill, you look tired. I think we should wrap things up with a song or something.” “No, Jeremy,” Brother Blessing whispered back. “I know she’s hard as nails, but there are others who need this. The Lord’ll give me the strength.” So Brother Blessing called out to the pointy-noised woman who wouldn't admit she was licked. “Sister,” he called, “it’s OKAY. Just stand up again if you will, and we’ll finish our friendly discussion.” She looked mighty pleased that he was showerin' so much attention on her, instead of dividin' his time up with the rest of the studio audience. She stood back up. Again Brother Ray held up the microphone for her. “Then I’ll just rephrase my question, Brother Blessing,” she said.. “Don’t you think your approach to salvation is a bit lax, considering the transitory nature of earthly life?” The preacher winced, but stood his ground. “Listen, sister, I’m sayin’ this in love, I’m not tryin’ to give you a hard time. With my sorry track record, I’d be mighty scared if I had to face a holy God standin’ on my own merits instead of Christ’s. When He hung on that Cross, He said: “’It is finished’, and He’s the Author and the Finisher of my Faith. And: He is able to save to the uttermost those who come unto God through Him, seein’ He ever lives to make intercession for them. Now how can I possibly put in my two cents’ worth to improve on what Jesus did to make it possible for me to get to heaven?” “Well,” the good sister sniffed, “God helps those who help themselves. You just seem to have a cavalier attitude to it all.” Brother Blessing grinned. “Sister, I’ll take back everything I’ve said up to now, if only you’ll show me that verse “God helps those who help themselves.”
Most everybody looked like they'd been struck by lightning. Pages rustled as people flipped through concordances in the back of their Bibles, tryin' hard to locate that time-honored "scripture". “I’ve got news for you, Sister Smith,” Brother Blessing finally said. “That’s the world’s most popular ‘scripture’, but it just ain’t in the Bible. Anything more you’d like to ask?” She looked mad as a hornet. “Let me tell you this, Brother Blessing, I have set my face like a flint that I will not depart from any of God’s statutes, and you can’t charm me off my straight and narrow path with your cunning words of deceit!” He just shrugged and said, “Fine with me, I ain't stoppin' you. If you’re that determined to travel the hard road you chose, instead of takin’ Jesus’ light yoke and easy burden upon yourself, go right ahead. But before we even start in on hundreds of other laws you’ve got to keep, let’s settle the issue about that redemption fee for your son, which is fifteen years overdue. How do you propose goin’ about payin’ it? Do you know where you can get hold of one authentic Temple shekel, let alone twenty, and even if you could, who could you pay ‘em to, and where? The Temple in Jerusalem hasn’t even been rebuilt yet, and the Levitical priesthood hasn’t been reestablished. That probably won’t even happen till after the Rapture of the Church.” Sister Smith’s eyes darted, as if hopin' for a last minute revelation to help her win this drawn-out argument. She had well-educated airs about her, and she wasn't gonna be the one to say "uncle." Many others were watchin' and she just had to win. “Well,” she said, “it’s no fault of mine the Temple hasn’t been rebuilt yet. Surely God can’t demand more of me than my best.” “Oh, but he does, sister, and if you don’t pay your son’s redemption fee, you’re robbin’ God.” It burst out. “But JESUS redeemed my son, eight years ago! What more does God want!” And so it came to pass that Sister Smith shot more holes in her own argument. Brother Blessing praised the Lord, as did lots of other people. “I rest my case. That’s my sermon in a nutshell. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, and He IS the end of the Law for righteousness to every one who believes on Him and rests on His perfect righteousness by faith. Sister Smith, would you like to join me onstage so I can pray for you to be set free from the bondage of legalism?”
“No thank you,” she said ever so primly. “There are plenty of other preachers who are willing to pray a blessing on my tithe, then present it to God so I can receive my harvest. You’re the first preacher I’ve ever heard of who’s turned down a big donation and turned his back on revolutionary new doctrines that a few faithful preachers are teaching to bless millions.” Brother Blessing just couldn't believe it. She was one brainwashed filly. “Sister, if your soul wasn’t at stake, I’d laugh. Yeah, plenty of preachers will twist God’s Word to prey on your tithe, and they’ll sure present it to their ‘god’, their bank account. And millions of gullible givers bless a few faithless preachers with millions. And you’ll get your harvest, all right, just like I did. A heart full of regret in later years, when you realize how much you’ve hurt Jesus by tryin’ to buy him off with your money. And as for Prosperity bein’ a revolutionary new doctrine’, you’re contradictin’ what you said earlier about stickin’ to what the Bible says. When it comes to sound doctrine, this adage holds true: ‘if the Bible says it, it can’t be new. If it’s new, it can’t be true’. “Furthermore, Sister, do you really think tithe teachers are bein’ faithful to the inerrant Word of God, the way they transfer the tithe to modern Christendom?” She gave him a funny look. “And I suppose you’re getting ready to pull still another rabbit out of your ten-gallon hat? Don’t you know when to quit? Don’t you ever get tired of resisting God?” “Sister Smith, all I’m doin’ is untyin’ a few knots that have tied up God’s people for a long time.” “You said you’d rested your case, Brother Blessing. Long-winded as you are, I bet you can’t think of any other argument against tithing on money.” He only grinned and said: “All y’all listeners out in the studio audience, do you want to know the biggest reason of all why I can’t preach monetary tithin’ anymore? Tell me right this minute, or I’ll quit right now.” A big commotion broke out as his studio listeners rose to their feet. Soon they were all clamorin': “We want more! We want more!” All their feet were a-stompin' and their hands were a-clappin'. Brother Blessing waved his hands to quieten them down. “Praise the Lord,” he said, “praise Jesus. I got a question somebody out in my audience can answer. Now can anybody tell me what Scripture says is the earnest, or down payment of our inheritance in Christ Jesus? Think about that one a minute.”
To his delight, Brother Len, seated in the second row, rose to his feet. People cheered and Brother Blessing smiled. “Brother Len, I believe you can answer it better than anybody here. What is the earnest of the inheritance God has promised us as believers in Christ Jesus?" “It’s none other than the blessed Holy Spirit, Brother Bill, and I’ll look it up for you right now.” Len thumbed through his concordance and read Ephesians 1:13-14. Many started to praise the Lord, because they got an inkling of what that long-sufferin' preacher might be drivin' at. “Thank you, Brother Len,” he said. “I believe God has saved the best for the last. “Brothers and sisters, remember how back in the Old Testament, the Israelites received an earthly inheritance from God in the land. But the Levites didn’t get any. Rather the Lord says to Aaron in Numbers 18:20: I AM thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel. And as for the other eleven tribes, the tithe was taken from the fruits of their inheritance, and shared with those who had no inheritance of farm land. “Now New Testament believers are called a Royal Priesthood. And Scripture says we are strangers and pilgrims in the earth. Our sights are to be set on a heavenly inheritance. The Holy Spirit Himself is the down payment, or earnest, of our inheritance as born-again believers. And if He is the down payment, plain logic tells you we have yet to receive the rest of our inheritance. And even if God has deeded the entire earth to us, it isn’t yet in our hands. Besides, God only ordered tithes to be taken from the produce of the Land of Israel, and not all His people are ranchers or dirt farmers. Now, if God had meant for tithin’ to be carried over to the New Testament, seems to me like He would’a carried over the bedrock principles of tithin’ along with it. And even if we ignore the fact that only Levites were supposed to take tithes, and that those tithes were to consist only of edible agricultural produce, that still leaves the fact that mandatory tithes were to be collected only on the Israelites’ inheritance! “Now, to carry the argument to its logical conclusion, how on earth do you expect to tithe on the fruits of that portion of your heavenly Inheritance you’re enjoyin’ right now, none other than the Blessed Holy Spirit Himself? Can you tithe on His fruits of love, joy, and peace? Sounds plum ridiculous to me!” Everybody enjoyed hearing these truths--except Martha Smith, who shut her soul to that powerful revelation. She raised her hand and said: “But
my Bible says this: ‘all things are ours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or life or death, or things present, or things to come. That, by the way, is in I Corinthians 3:21-22. That must include means of livelihood as well.” She was as stubborn as a junk yard dog, but Brother Blessing kept his cool. “Now, Sister, I know Scripture says “all things are yours”, but at this present time we do not yet hold all things in our hands. As Paul points out in II Corinthians 6:10, ‘As having nothing, yet possessing all things.’ Now, do you think Brother Len holds the title deed to a big inheritance of farm land he can grow Biblical tithes from, or is he just like me, a sojourner in this world whose treasures are laid up in heaven?” That drew wild applause. But Sister Smith said: “Well, potentially all things are Brother Len’s, aren’t they?” “But experientially they’re not, Sister. Even if Len did own the plant which employed him, and this supposedly constituted his personal harvest field that he was supposed to get God’s tithe from, seems to me like you’d still have to pick out God’s tithe in God’s way. Now, did the Israelite farmer present the tithe of his wheat, sheep and cattle to the storehouse, or did he just sell those things and bring money to beef up the priest’s bank balance?” Sister Smith said, “I won’t dignify that with an answer! You’re treating me, a college graduate, like an imbecile!” Brother Blessing’s eyes twinkled. “No, I’m not here to cut anybody down. I just asked a simple question. “Whoever gave preachers the right to rewrite the rules for correct tithin’ procedure...if they’re supposed to ask for tithes to begin with? Tithes never were presented to the Levites in the form of money, but in their original form: as products of the Israelites’ inheritance of land, which was also the landowner’s harvest field. “Now if, as some contend, the pesticide plant where Len worked really was his harvest field, then it follows that in order to be true to the correct Biblical principle of tithin’ on the fruits of your field, Len would’a had to take the tithe from the produce of that particular plant. If so, Len would’a had to take 10% of the fruits of that entire plant and put ‘em in the offering basket. But Len’s way to smart to do that. He knew that plant was neither in his possession nor under his authority, and he couldn’t just go in there with his pickup truck and haul away 10% of the plant’s annual output of rat poison, tick dip, herbicide and bug spray to present to the Lord as a tithe.” The whole place howled. I MO-O-OED my head off. Sister Smith looked like she'd been stung by a bee. “What devilish dribble!” And she was hardly
heard over the side-splittin' commotion in the studio. “How dare you call yourself a Christian, let alone a gospel preacher! I never heard such a crazy thing in all my life!” “Because most preachers I know don’t want you to hear the real truth, Sister, that it’s crazy to pry tithes out of modern-day Christians. In Len’s case, pesticides, not grapes or grain, constituted the fruits of the plant which provided his livelihood. And if he had said: ‘All things, even this pesticide plant, are already mine by faith’, and tried to bring in the tithe of its fruits to the church, Len would be behind bars today.” “That’s blasphemy!” Sister Smith hollered. "Poking fun at God’s holy tithe!” “No, Sister," Brother Blessing said. "It’s just plain old horse sense to know you can’t transfer a law without transferrin’ all the terms and conditions of that law too. God never took tithes off poor laborers, just off the fruits of the Israelites’ inheritance. God was very specific on that point, and He never gave anybody the right to change the stipulations of a Law He enacted under the Old Covenant. God never intended for preachers to resurrect any ordinance of the Old Testament so they could make a gold mine out of it in the Church Age. I committed that sin with my eyes wide open, and it’s a miracle God could ever forgive me for it.” “But all those other TV preachers can’t be wrong!” Sister Smith shot back. She looked irked by all the wild jubilation around her. “They make up the vast majority, and they sound so spiritual! You’re the odd man out!” “Sister Smith, as I said before, God’s Kingdom ain’t a democracy, it’s a theocracy. Majority, minority, they count for nothin’ with God. Back in the days of Noah, only him and his family were spared, while the rest of the world drowned, though the sinners were in the majority. I expect churches to go on collectin’ tithes till the day Jesus calls His Church home, but that don’t make it sound doctrine.” Brother Blessing glanced at his watch. “Hey, I’m runnin’ way overtime, but I’d say we got a lot covered tonight. I’m gonna invite all my friends out in the studio audience up for prayer. Sister, the invitation’s still open.” Sister Smith looked like she could bite his head off. Just the sight of people getting up out of their seats to get prayed for made her mad. She stomped out, and as she did, she made sure everybody could hear her wonder out loud: Who was he, a semi-literate bumpkin, to dare suggest she stood in need of his prayers!
Brother Blessing shook his head. She was hard as a rock but hopefully the seed he sowed that night just might bear some fruit_spiritual, that is. He did get lots of bright smiles and handshakes from folks in the studio, and he got excited to see all the joyful people coming forward to say a kind word. They hadn’t really laughed at Sister Smith, they were just glad to jump over some bad religious fences and be free. I really lucked out that night. I wouldn't be the main course at Brother Blessing's barbeque after all. Right before the warehouse workers got ready to load us back onto the cattle truck, Brother Len came back to talk to the cowpokes. He moseyed on over to see me and the calves. He said I didn't look hefty enough to be a fatted bull. Then he took a closer look at my brand. He told the guys to wait a minute, then he went to tell Brother Blessing that one of the livestock wasn't his. Well, in no time Len had me loaded into his own shiny new pickup. Then he gave me a lift back to the Cowpoke Rodeo, so I could get me a good night's sleep to get ready for the bull-ridin' competition the followin' day. Lately I been hearin' good reports about Brother Blessing. There's a new spring in his step, people say, and his heart is full of hope. He just ain't one to give up. Other rumors have been goin' around too. This is the best I can piece together what happened at Brother Conway's studio after the cat got let out of the bag about tithin'. Seems like it took Brother Conway forever to get the cops to come out to investigate the suspected sabotage of his telecast. Two lawmen finally turned up. Harry, the bigger cop, just moseyed along, munchin' on his jelly doughnut. His partner Gus had to bite his tongue to keep from laughin'. Brother Conway looked at his Rolex and said, “It’s been two hours since I called! Why did you drag your feet so long?” “Can’t be everywhere at once, Reverend,” Gus said. He fumbled through a forensic kit and explained what held them up so long. “A KT-UP3 was in progress, and all units had to be on the scene.” “What the heck is a KT-UP3?” Brother Conway wondered. “Cat up a tree,” Harry said with a poker face. “It was a delicate mission, getting him down safely.” “Yeah, Reverend,” Gus said. “Poor little thing had his paw caught in a nest full of bird eggs.”
“Then it was lunch time and we got hungry,” Harry said. “Our lunch break lasted for hours and hours. You know how it is to be hungry, Reverend, don’t you, for bread cast upon the waters in green pastures?” Brother Conway was fuming. “Very funny, ha ha." “So what’s the problem, Preacher?” Harry asked, as if he could care less. “Please, Officers," Brother Conway begged the cops. "You must arrest those people in there. Bill Blessing is wrecking my ministry! I’m ruined!” Harry licked his fingers and said, “Easy now, Reverend. We’re here to protect and defend.” Harry banged his truncheon on the Control Room door a few times, and barked: “Police! Open up now!” “Guess we’ll have to nuke the door," Harry said. "It’s solid steel. Know where the blowtorch is, Gus?” “Don’t look at me, Harry. You forgot to load it in the trunk!” Brother Conway was cryin' his heart out by now. “Why don’t you force open the rear exit, then?” It didn't take much muscle to open the back entry to the Control Room, and nobody had bothered to guard it. Nobody was inside there. “Look,” Gus said, “the computer is doing a nifty job running this room. See how clear the broadcast is? Is this where you stash the cash, Reverend?” “Watch it, smart guy!” Brother Conway said. “You’re just a public servant, and I pay your salary!” “Well,” Harry drawled, “you just got your money’s worth, Preach. Case closed. They just left your studio on cruise control so they could pop out for a Danish.” "Or maybe a barbeque sandwich," Gus said.
$$$$$$ Bucks in the Belfry Cows ain't the only ones that lie in green pastures. Preachers do too, and lots of lyin' gets done to keep their pastures green. But the worst of 'em want to hog it all, so they keep other folks from eatin' their fair share. This ol' boy pushed the good Lord past the limits of His patience.
Rev'run Randy, as his countryfied church chums called him, was scared stiff. Was that really him standin' next to his own body? "It's not fair!" he screamed. "Slim! Slim!" Randy cried. He ran over and jabbed the arm of his buddy, only to see it go through Slim like an X-Ray. "Slim, ya gotta help me!" Randy begged. "I'm only 37 years old! I can't die yet! Get down on the floor and make me breathe again! You gotta bring me back! Oh, please! I'm not ready for heaven yet! I've got way too much living left to do!" Well, ol' Slim, he wasn't much help. All he did was run around that ritzy restaurant like a chicken with its head cut off, yellin' for somebody else to help. That pie-eyed little feller was too nervous to be much good in an emergency. The jazz musicians stopped playin' and stared. People stopped eatin' and looked at Slim, but most of 'em were aggravated at him 'cause their dinin' atmosphere was bein' ruined by a medical emergency. Finally a tall man in a blue suit came out of the reception lounge and said, "Let me get a look at him, I'm a physician." The man got down on his knees, held back the head of Randy's big body, pinched his nostrils, and blew in through his mouth over and over again. When Randy didn't come around, the doctor opened Randy's suit jacket. He rubbed Randy's chest real hard, hopin' to jumpstart his heart. There was one man who'd just sat down with his family to eat. He wondered why Slim didn't calm down enough to call for help. The man pulled out his own cell phone and called an ambulance to come quick. Once he put his phone away, he whispered something to his wife, then came over to talk to Slim. "Excuse me, sir, my name is Jake," the man said. "Care to tell me how this happened? Did he choke on his food or what?" Slim's teeth chattered like crazy and he could barely spit a word out. He fidgeted like a bull strapped in a coach airline seat. He looked so scared that Jake worried he might get in the doctor's way and make things worse for Randy. Somehow Jake got Slim to come out to the lobby, sit down and take a deep breath. A waitress brought them both a glass of ice water. "Okay now, sir, just talk to me awhile," Jake said Your friend is in real good hands, and there's nothing further either of us can do about this. Just talk, if that helps. How did it happen?" Once Slim stopped hyperventilating he said, "He tried to eat and talk at the same time, Jake. Only trouble, he got to laughin' so hard he choked on his crab meat. I went behind him and whacked him real hard on the back and
he spit the crab out, but it didn't help him none." By this time Slim was cryin'. "Instead of snappin' out of it, he just blacked out and hit the floor… hard. He's my pastor, sir. His name's Rev'run Randy and I'm his senior treasurer, Slim Barton. I flunked English in school, but I got a real head for figures and ever'body gets along fine with me, so I'm sort of an unofficial public relations man between the congregation and the pastor. We were here havin' a bite to eat so we could have a private powwow about how to increase donations." "So your pastor might have been so upset he didn't fully recover once you cleared his windpipe?" Jake wondered. "How weird. Is your church going under financially?" "Not a’tall, sir, but our church board's been runnin' a contest to see which congregation can raise the most money this fiscal year. Whichever church wins, gets a gold-plated steeple with a digital sound system for the belfry. Now our Rev'run Randy, he just ain't one to settle for bein' second best and I wonder if job stress finally did him in." Slim brushed a tear from his eye. "So you think he got so stressed out his ticker just gave out?" Jake asked. "How tragic, he looks like he's twenty years younger than me, even if he is a whole lot bigger." "Don't none of us know when God'll take us," Slim moaned. Slim looked like he'd collapse any minute too. "Oh, Lord, please…" "I'm a Christian too, Slim," Jake let him know. "Been one for twenty-odd years." "That's wonderful, Jake. I just hope you never lose your first love and turn away from Christ. It's way too easy to get led astray by the wiles of filthy lucre." Slim's eyes showed how scared he felt for Rev'run Randy. "Why don't we pray for your pastor, Slim?" Jake offered. "Prayer would help Reverend Randy, and it would help us, too." Slim blinked. "Don't know that it'd do much good, Jake. Know what he was talkin' about when he keeled over in his chair?" "Was it something bad?" "Yeah, real bad. Truth is, Rev'run Randy's been worried sick that the church board'll get on his case for failure to maintain diz'pline out in the pews." "Sounds like your Reverend Randy must have been a military man at one time or other," Jake said. I've gotta keep him talking, he thought, so he won't go to pieces.
"Well, yes sir, he sure was. He was a drill sergeant in the service, he said once. And boy, you sure can tell it by the way he's been a- runnin' the church lately." How's that, Slim?" "He's cracks down real hard on deadbeats who don't tithe." "Well…I've got my own opinions on that subject, Slim, but we can discuss that later. What I want to know is what your pastor was talking about before he blacked out." "It was the craziest thing, Jake. He took a bite of crab gumbo and said, "My word, this stuff's so good I feel like I already died and went to heaven." Slim got to snifflin' a little. "Well, anyhow, Rev'run Randy got to makin' fun of all the poor famblies in our church who eat cheap hot dogs while he gets steak. He poked fun at the Davises, a big fambly with eight kids who eat macaroni and cheese ever' night. He said some purty mean things, Jake, things he'd never dare say in church. He said poor people churn out enough rug rats to man the Russian army, and it ain't his fault poor people have big passels of kids they can't pay for. And Rev'run Randy said that just 'cause they got all them kids, it don't mean they shouldn't give him his rightful dues in tithes and offerin's ." Jake just couldn't believe it. "So we have a real live Scrooge among us." "Live, Jake? He'll be lucky to be a live Scrooge after some of the things he done. Right before he fell over, Rev'run Randy bragged to me about how he got a-hold of Sister Jones' savin's. Now, Sister Jones, she was the last hold-out against tithin' and so Rev'run Randy made it a little game to see if he could make her feel guilty for withholdin' her tithes and get all her money for back payments. Well, he went over to see her Sattidy night and preached her such a hellfire and brimstone sermon that it weren't long before he had her on her knees a-beggin' Rev'run Randy to forgive her for stealin' his tithe money. And if that ain't bad enough, Sister Jones is a widder woman who's got six kids, and ever' time you see 'em they all look hungry. She'd been a-savin' up for five years to scrape up enough money to buy herself a whole new set of false teeth. But Rev'run Randy hassled Sister Jones so much she felt like the selfishest sidewinder in Texas. Well, sir, that poor lady forked over all'a her tooth money just to get him off her back. But anyhow, Rev'run Randy was a-crammin' his face full of crab gumbo and a-laughin' and a-slappin' his knee real hard about how he's so smart he can scare the teeth out of a poor widder woman's head, and like the queen bee once said, if she's too poor for corn bread let her eat soggy cake. Then
he just keeled over, fell outa his chair and landed on the floor. I swear, Jake, I tried to get him to ease up on the poor folks out in the pews, but all that man ever did was crack jokes about how nice it was to have his own gang of blue-collar slaves goin' out to their jobs week in and week out to keep him sittin' purty on cloud nine. You know the plastics plant has just finished layin' off a bunch of workers, and the car factory's gone belly up. But rain or shine, Rev'run Randy made his people tithe. Said the Lord would make their lives mis'rable and whup the tar out of 'em if they didn't." "Slim, I think we'd better go ahead and pray for your pastor," Jake said. "He needs the opportunity to consider his ways and repent before it's everlastingly too late." Truth was, Jake was worried that Rev'run Randy's heart failure was God's judgment on him for makin' a mockery of the poor. Still, Jake didn't want Slim to lose heart. Before the two men could bow their heads the doctor came to break some sad news. "I did what I could to save your friend, but he's gone. Apparently it was a massive coronary. I'm very sorry." Unseen and unheard by any visible soul, Rev'run Randy knelt over his body and screamed "NO! Let me back in! Doctor! Come back!" Well, that apostate preacher felt like a sumo wrestler had a hold of him. Somethin' dark and horrible pulled him away from the lifeless corpse which was already on its way out the door on a stretcher. Whatever open window there'd been for getting' back into his own body had been missed by Rev'run Randy. Where he ended up was scarier than the Cowpoke County Jail, that's for sure. Poor Rev'run Randy, he knew his Bible well enough that he realized he wouldn't be let out of his holdin' pen for a good 1,000 years. That's one heck of a stint on death row. Even when Rev'run Randy gets sprung from that place, he'll be taken to God's Great White Throne Judgment to stand trial for all his dirty deeds. And if his name's not written in the Lamb's Book of Life, he'll fry in the biggest barbeque pit outside the State of Texas: the Lake of Fire. So now let's take the story up a few weeks later. Poor Sister Jones. It was the first of the month…already. Her blinds were parted to see who might be knockin' on the front door. Not the landlord, the poor widow woman could live with that. You'd expect sinners to act like sinners, but to see saints act like sinners is a whole different ball game. There she was, right on schedule. Sister Hopkins from the church finance committee. This time somebody else let her in.
Sister Hopkins wasn't too thrilled to see him, but tried not to show it. Wasn't it HER job to take care of this? "Brother Slim…ah…what a surprise to see you here. Would it be better if I just called on Sister Jones tomorrow?" "Nope. We were expectin' you to drop in," said Slim. "You come here ever' month like clockwork, to excort Sister Jones down to the bank to cash her welfare check, just so you can get first dibs on it before she buys food for her fambly." "Well, what's that to YOU!" Sister Hopkins snapped. "It's got ever'thing to do with me, sister. Or, at least it did. I was the senior treasurer at your church before Rev'run Randy told me you'd been acomin' by ever' month to badger money outa poor Sister Jones." Sister Hopkins got hot under her high collar. "I should think you'd thank me for making your job a bit easier. Such ingratitude." "I never did give you no permission to worry Sister Jones in her own home, and you know it!" "Ah! So it's perfectly all right for you to worry people at church by reminding them to pay their tithe, but not in their own homes? What's the difference, Brother Slim?" "The difference is, I don't never wanna worry nobody about nothin' no more. I'm a changed man." Sister Hopkins got all huffy."Really! You look the same as you always did." "Sister Jones," Slim said, "show Sister Hopkins how purty your teeth are." Sister Jones smiled her prettiest for Sister Hopkins. "Well, what of it?" Sister Hopkins looked ticked off. "Sister Hopkins," Slim asked her, "can you eat without any pain?" "Sure can. I've got a good set of teeth." "Well," Slim told her, "before I helped our sister out, she wasn't even able to eat oatmeal without pain. Know why? 'Cause our dearly departed pastor bragged about how he hoodwinked her outa money she'd been savin' up for years to get her new teeth. How would YOU like it if ever' time you tried to eat somethin' it hurt real bad? Ever notice how skinny our sister is, Sister Hopkins?" Sister Hopkins patted her high hairdo and said, "I don't make it my business to pry into such matters, Brother Slim. And nor should you."
"But you sure don't hesitate about stickin' your nose in Sister Jones' pocketbook, do you?" Slim said, squarin' off to her. "Month after month after month you'd come here to make sure her welfare check didn't make it to the supermarket to buy food for her hungry kids before your fat pastor took out his tithe money so he could go on shoppin' sprees, take a nice vacation, play golf and eat at the King Crab Restaurant." Sister Hopkins got mad. "How DARE you talk about our late pastor like that, and his body isn't even cold in the ground yet." "Well, he may'a been YOUR pastor, but he sure as heck ain't mine no more. Not after all the hell he put our people through." "Swearing on top of your disrespect! Brother Slim, I'm on my way to report you to the church board for blaspheming against God's tithe. I don't know how on earth Reverend Randy ever put an ignoramus like you in such an exalted ministry of our church." "I don't expect you to think kindly of me no more, sister, bein' as we're on different sides of the fence now. But before you go cryin' to them fat pharisees, just level with me. Did you know anything about Rev'run Randy scarin' the tooth money outa Sister Jones?" Sister Hopkins smiled real catty-like. "Who do you think gave him the idea? I told him it was like pulling hen's teeth to get these people to tithe on time. And I told him how Sister Jones sometimes skipped tithe payments because she was saving up for her dentures. Well, I'll have you know he said to me: 'Never send a woman out to do a man's job, Sister Hopkins. When you talk to somebody who's stubborn you must put some teeth to your words and hang on like a pit bull till you get what you want.' So Reverend Randy personally came by here to admonish Sister Jones about the arrears on her tithing. Now, Sister Jones, isn't it high time you spoke up for yourself? Jesus died on the Cross for you. The least you could do is pay a paltry tithe out of your welfare check. Won't you come along with me to the bank to take care of this matter?" Now Sister Jones had once been the most submissive doormat in church. But she moseys on up to Sister Hopkins and says, "The Bible says: 'Let the children FIRST be fed.' A man name 'o Brother Jake came by and taught me and Brother Slim God's real truth about tithin'. It's a lie outa the pit of hell to make a Christian starve his fambly to pay the preacher. And as for Rev'run Randy preachin' to us about Ananias and Sapphira droppin' dead, he found out in a hurry what God thought of him usin' that Scripture like a devil's pitchfork to torment us with!"
red. "Brother Slim told me how Rev'run Randy choked on his own words as he made fun of me and all the other poor folks at church. That's when he keeled over." "God didn't take Reverend Randy's life and you know it!" Sister Hopkins pointed an accusin' finger at her. "He didn't choke on words, he choked on a bite of crab!" "But I already told ever'body how Rev'run Randy spit the crab out, but he still died anyway!" Slim said. "Just ask the coroner. Rev'run Randy's blood pressure was sky high. He was way too heavy and his ticker gave out from laughin' too hard. God took him, Sister Hopkins." The good sister's eyes flashed fire. How DARE you!" "Well, it's high time SOMEBODY dared," Sister Jones said. "After all the lies I've been fed about how mean God is to poor folks, and how God so loves rich preachers that He tells us to give our last dime unto them, I've finally woken up and sunk my teeth into the real truth. You know it's just as plain as the nose on your face. If anybody's actin' like Ananias and Sapphira, it's you folks, lyin' to God's people about how it's okay to devour widder's houses, and do it in the Name of the Lord." "If you had any sense you'd fast and pray for forgiveness!" Sister Hopkins yelled, waggin' her finger in the poor lady's face. "I already done my fair share of fastin'!" Sister Jones hollered. "I'm skinny as a gumstick 'cause Brother Randy took my tooth money from me, and I couldn't eat hardly nothin' till Brother Slim took pity on me and gave me money to pay the tooth dentist to make me my new dentures!" Sister Hopkins got an evil look on her face. "What's that man doing in your house to begin with? Everybody knows it's a sin to keep company with somebody else's husband!" "My wife already knows where I'm at," Slim said. "She's back there aputtin' food in Sister Jones's cupboard and her kids are a-playin' at the park with my boy! I swear, if you ain't out a-lookin' for money, you're out alookin' for juicy gossip!" "At least Brother Slim come by here to GIVE me somethin'!" Sister Jones put in. "Not once do any of you uppercrust Christians ever stick your nose in my door except for when you want money outa me! When I got sick last year and lost my job, we would'a all starved to death if it hadn't'a been for the community food bank. What help did we get out of Y'ALL? After all
"So what are you insinuating, Sister Jones?" Sister Hopkins' face was
y'all've put me through, Sister Hopkins, if y'all are any example of what bein' a Christian's all about, so were all them Pharisees Jesus yelled at for devourin' widders' houses!" "That was a cheap shot!" Sister Hopkins hollered. "Next month is the end of the fiscal year, and all the district churches will turn in their financial reports to the church board. Now, Reverend Randy wanted that golden steeple, and no matter what I've got to do to win it for him to help him rest in peace, I'm going to do it!" Slim let out a big sigh. He just couldn't believe it. Spiritually, Sister Hopkins was blind as a bat. "Sister, don't you get it? Rev'run Randy ain't with us no more. A gold steeple won't be much use to him now. It won't add one iota of credit to God's account book on his behalf." "It's more credit than YOU'VE laid up in God's tithing storehouse lately," Sister Hopkins said. "I sneaked a look at the books and you skipped the last couple months." "My son needed new braces," Slim said. "And my sister here, she needed new teeth. Go chew on that." Sister Hopkins shook her fist. "You'll go to hell for this! Unless the two of you pay God what you owe, I'll fast and pray until He sends the curse of Malachi Chapter 3 down on both your houses!" "That's witchcraft, Sister Hopkins," Slim said. "Why should God do your dirty work just 'cause you give up your pint of Ben and Jerry's? Besides, from where I'm standin' you don't look much like God, so why should we fork it over to YOU?" "Now, I'll thank you, Sister Hopkins, to get outa my house before I forget I'm a Christian woman," Sister Jones said. From now on Brother Slim and me will be takin' our famblies over to Brother Jake's church. And don't none of you religious panhandlers never come by here to leech off of us again." Slim stepped between the two ladies, because Sister Hopkins looked like she wanted to take a swing at Sister Jones. "May God strike you all dead!" Sister Hopkins said in her most self-righteous voice. Slim shrugged his shoulders. "Sorta makes me wonder which god you're a-callin' on to begin with. And talkin' like that, Sister Hopkins, you might just as well hop onto your broomstick and fly back to wherever you came from." Sister Hopkins stormed off the front porch and swore that she, for one, would honor the pastor's memory by continuing on in his tradition.
Now what was Rev'run Randy up to all the time this ruckus was goin' on? Talk about muzzlin' the ox that treadeth on the corn. Rev'run Randy felt like he'd fasted for a million years, he was so hungry. Every time he bit down on the red, juicy prickly pear he picked off the cactus bush, it would sprout stickers and make him feel like a porcupine invaded his mouth. A meanlookin' monster would hand him a hamburger. But when he tried to eat it, a tooth would break and make him bellow in pain. Rev'run Randy's throat was dry as dust, and it seemed like all the food in sight had cactus stickers all over it, if it wasn't hard enough to break his teeth. A grinnin' devil would come by and offer Rev'run Randy a tall, cool glass of water. But when he tried to drink it, fire would roll down his throat and make him scream. Rev'run Randy's hot, parched hide needed moisturizin'. He'd see a cool swimmin' pool and go jump in, only to get burnt by molten lava once he hit the water. Rev'run Randy cussed himself over and over for swappin' His cup of salvation for a big bag of bucks. Maybe Rev'run Randy realized he'd been mighty dumb to sell his own soul for a gold belfry. And it came to pass that he stewed over all the things said to him at the Great White Throne Judgment. The good Lord had let Rev'run Randy know he was worse than those religious rattlers He'd chewed out in the Temple. Why? 'Cause Rev’run Randy had been shown much more light than they had. The reprobate preacher was branded for time and eternity as an even worse traitor to Jesus than Judas Iscariot, that polecat who'd sold his own Lord for thirty pieces of silver. Rev'run Randy saw, in livin' color on a big screen video, people who'd turned their backs on Jesus because of the way he'd turned Him into a money-makin' racket. Rev'run Randy was responsible for three nervous breakdowns in his congregation. He was behind the breakup of two marriages which collapsed because of how he'd pressured cash-strapped couples to give, give, give. Worst of all, Rev'run Randy had been branded from the Great White Throne as a son of satan whose life testified to his love of filthy lucre. And just before he went to his final reward, a big angel had told Rev'run Randy that anybody who hurt God's precious children and didn't repent of it would never stop payin' for it. Every persecutor of God's children would roast in the Lake of Fire forever, from Cain, who killed his brother Abel, to Nero, who fed Christians to the lions. Hitler would be there. Every cruel kingpin in history would be there, and that went for pulpit pharaohs, too.
Lots of thinkin' gets done in hell by folks who wished they'd'a done more of it in the land of the livin'. Never a moment passed but somethin' would make Rev'run Randy's heart sink all over again. He'd grab at fool's gold in hell, only to see it turn to burnin' coals in his hand. Nothin' for him anymore but lots of pain and disappointment, the kind that makes a guy pine away inside. But what goes around comes around. Hadn't Rev'run Randy withered one widow's joy in the Lord? Hadn't he preached a different Jesus than the one Who'd saved that dear saint's soul? A make-believe, mean one Rev'run Randy used to preach to filch the funds. Hadn't Rev'run Randy argued away the light of God's Word which sets folks free, just so he could rope 'em and brand 'em and break their spirits to keep 'em as slaves to serve his own lusts? Rev'run Randy wanted darkness in life, so he was bound to have it forever in death.
Now, don't y'all never buy nobody's bull when they talk with a forked tongue to make the Bible say somethin' different than what it really does say. Christ has set you free. So don't pay no heed to religious cattle rustlers who try to make you stray outa God's green pastures with their long-winded lies. They only wanna fence you in so they can milk you dry, before sendin' you to the slaughterhouse. Check out the Bible for yourself to see what it really says. $$$$$$ Redefinin' The Tithe To Take Off The Cross My, how weasly prosperity padres can be when it comes to resurrectin' manmade traditions Christ died to set His people free from! Fact is, they can't afford to let Christ's people be free when there's loads of loot to be made off of their ignorance. Wily Bible school scholars know better, but they don't want John Q. Pew-warmer to know he's no longer under the Law of Moses. Where it concerns enforcin' any part of Jewish ceremonial Law, preachers who know the Word of God inside out also know they don’t have a leg to stand on. Like a politician spinnin' away the real truth in order to sell a smelly fish to the voters, the clergy of Christendom will invent their own regurgitation of the Law, dress it all up in fancy religious robes, and sell it to
the congregation ever so softly and tenderly...at first. Those bigwig Bible scholars are real sneaky, the way they do it. The word “law” makes John Q. Pew-warmer head for the hills. It makes him wonder if he's strayed into some kind of cult. While the word “law” makes you think of Wyatt Earp's shootout at the OK Corral, the more respectable word “principle” is soft and fuzzy. Used as juicy bait, it makes people feel better, not worse about themselves Why? 'Cause the preacher in the pulpit must think his people ain't so dumb after all if he starts bringin' out the big words in his vocabulary. And so they'll love that preacher to pieces for sharin' what they think must be God's "deeper revelations". No matter that the preacher is feedin' 'em spiritual loco weed to bring on the mother of all guilt trips. “Law” is the stick approach, which the tithe teacher might use if he's in an ornery mood and the church finance committee's in the hole. “Law” says you MUST tithe on your picayune paycheck or God's gonna run you in. Now, “principle” is the carrot the preacher'll pull outa his hat when he wants to buddy up to ya. “Principle” says you OUGHT to tithe, 'cause tithin' is one of God’s "foundational operatin' principles, and a vital key for unlockin' His blessings." And it works every time. If you know your belief doesn't pass Biblical muster, just bedazzle your dumb 'ol sheep with big words. Get the cobwebs outa your ears, amigo. Even this bleary-eyed bull can see through some of that pulpit spit that passes itself off for Biblical Christanity. What Padre Prosperity is really sayin' is this: You'll end up panhandlin' on Rodeo Drive if you don’t fork over ten percent of your milk money to the bandito in the pulpit. Now I might look dumb, but I shore ain't stupid. This genetically mutated Texas longhorn can read real good. My dictionary defines “principle” as: “scientific law shown or used in the working of something”. A law by any other name is still a law, “scientific” or not. Them tithin' tycoons talk dribble outa both sides of their mouth. When they're in a civil mood, they'll say in so many nice words: "Hey, man, even if God ain't mad at you for non-tithin', He is BOUND by scientific law not to bless you unless you cough up ten percent of your earnin's to yours truly up here. Even if you’re too smart to get saddled with the Law of Moses, and even if you think religion is just superstitious hocus pocus, a dumb pewwarmer who never went to divinity school wouldn't dare argue with science! Over and over again, preachers preach that you shouldn’t eat the tithe. But I doubt there's a single tithin' preacher on earth that's got the gumption to expound on this passage:
Deuteronomy 14: 22-27 teaches about the Festival Tithe, one of three tithes brought by the Israelites to their place of worship. Verse 22: Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase (harvest) of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. Verse 23: And thou ( the tithe-payer, that is!) shalt EAT before the LORD thy God, in the place which He shall chose to place His name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thy olive oil, and of the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always. Verse 24 introduces the only context in all of Holy Scripture where the word "money" is associated with tithin'! Let’s read. And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the Lord thy God shall choose to set His Name there, when the Lord thy God hath blessed thee; Verse 25: Then thou shalt turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shalt choose: Verse 26: And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after; for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and THOU SHALT EAT there before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou and thy household, Verse 27: And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee (in the Promised Land). Lots of churches teach that it's an outright sin to drink alcoholic beverages, even though Old Testament saints drank wine aplenty and so did Jesus. Why, they even accused Him of bein' a winebibber and a glutton (Luke 7:34). Cowboy Cody told somebody about a buddy of his who got spotted in a restaurant with his wife. Those two were toastin' their wedding anniversary over a glass of wine. But they weren't left alone to enjoy it in peace. A spy from the church was eatin' there too that night. Sweetly he smiled and greeted the couple, then feet afire, he bolted back to the pastor with his evil report. And so it came to pass that the guilty tippler was disqualified from becomin' a church elder, just for toastin' his anniversary with champagne instead of root beer! Speakin' of beer, Cowboy Cody said that his buddy's pastor taught both liberation from the Old Law and compulsory tithin' at the same time. He thought it was a sin to pop open a cold Coors on a hot day, 'cause that was bein' a bad example to the weaker brethren. But Jesus drank wine. And what was his very first miracle? I bet Jesus would'a got thrown outa
church for this one: The very first miracle He ever did was turn water into wine (John 2:1-11). And I bet no religious traditionalist has preached much on that passage I just quoted which tells worshippers to go ahead and buy foods of their choice and STRONG DRINK with tithe money the tither got from sellin' farm produce he couldn't haul over a long distance. About the only way Bible School cemetarians could cook up today’s tithin' law was to play on people's religious heart strings, 'cause they KNOW the early apostles neither taught New Covenant tithin' nor took up tithes for their own use. Now, if you’re gonna lay down a tithin' law on New Testament saints, at least be consistent about it. If one tithin' ordinance is bindin' upon the saints, they ALL are! So let the tithers go out and buy a six-pack of Bud with their tithe money and hold a big party of thanksgivin' to God in the church fellowship hall. You CAN bring forth both the Old Wine and the New Wine to teach truth as Matthew 13:52; Luke 5:37-39 show. But nobody's got God's permission to cook up new doctrines out of Old Testament Laws which might help the preacher rustle up an easy buck. That makes mockery of the foundation of the New Covenant: Christ hath redeemed His people from the curse of the Law (which falls on a man who can't keep it God's way, and that Scripture's in Galatians 3:13). As many as are under the works of the Law are under this curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in ALL things whch are written in the book of the Law to do them (Galatians 3: 10). You can’t just hang onto one law you like and transplant it to the New Covenant of Grace. I'm a genetically modified longhorn, but don't anybody DARE create a Frankenstein mutation of God's Word. That's the same as pourin' new wine into weak old wineskins, and it creates an explosion of confusion. These days much is made of "makin' covenant with God". These days, Christians spice up their New Testament diet with tidbits from the Old Testament, in hopes God'll bless 'em with more and better goodies. And Prosperity Padres count on that. They'll use "covenant" and other over-thehead Old Testament buzzwords as a religious smokescreen to hoodwink saints outa their money in the short-term, and they'll promise 'em a boatload of blessings for the long-term. But listen to sanctified common sense, saints. When you covenant with God to keep one of the 613 ordinances of Jewish Law, you make yourself a debtor to keep ALL the others as well, as Galatians 5: 3 tells you. When preachers teach people out in the pew that they're under any part of the Law of Moses, they're hitchin' their people
up to all of it as well, and bringin' those dear saints under a curse. Galatians 3:11 tells us that no one was ever counted as righteous by God through keepin' the Law, but by faith only. The Law of Moses is a package deal, pardner. If you covenant with God to keep one ordinance, you're expected to keep 'em ALL. You might as well barbeque a nanny goat on the communion table if you think any of the Old Ceremonial Law has to be kept today. Accordin' to Galatians 2:21, Christ's sacrifice for you was in vain if you think that way. Wily theologians who know better because they've studied all the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation will use religious doubletalk to sell their own brethren back under the Law, even though Christ died to set 'em free. Like Judas, they sell their own Lord down the river for a big bag of money and bait religious booby traps for baby Christians who haven't had a chance to check out the Bible for themselves. Revelation Chapter 18 talks about “Babylon”. Now Revelation is hard to figure out in places, but a lot of folks think "Babylon" might refer to some false religious establishment which will persecute the Tribulation saints who turn to Christ after the Rapture of the Church. Verse 13 mentions “the souls of men” as bein' traded in Babylon's meat market. Prosperity padres are profiteerin' off the souls of men. In Matthew 18:6 Jesus says: But whoso shall offend (shanghai) one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. That's what Jesus thinks of religious cons who make babes in Christ stumble into a spiritual briar patch as they begin their walk of faith! They might get their pie now, but the whippin' cream comes later! I heard some old lady from Cody's church tell him: “God requires everyone, from prisoners to pensioners, to tithe.” I’ll believe that “scripture” when I see it in the Bible. II Timothy 3:16 is one Scripture tithe twisters resort to to prove tithin' is still required: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. But this is the Age of Grace, not law. Even if the tithin' law was still in force today, tithin' on money is nowhere sanctioned by Scripture. If circumsizin' males was a moneymaker, they'd make that a condition for church membership too. But hey, give preachers credit for tryin'. They do supersize their meals. But if they were really serious about keepin' the Old Law, they'd knock off work and rest on Saturday, which is the true Biblical Sabbath, by the way, not Sunday! To
them, their imaginary scriptures commandin' them to take tithe money ARE profitable for makin' doctrine...and dollars! None of the early apostles taught tithin' under the New Covenant, and those varmints know it. Wherever Old Testament and New Testament teachings seem to lock horns, the demands of the Old Covenant must bow to the inspired teachings of the early apostles. And I mean EARLY apostles, not self-appointed poodle-permed "apostles" runnin' around today teachin' babes in Christ a convoluted mixture of genetically modified Old Testament law and church tradition. So early apostolic teachings, along with Christ’s commandments TO HIS CHURCH, oughta have the final say in what constitutes a Christian’s faith and practice, not the Old Mosaic Ceremonial Law. Talk about a holdup! How can any preacher stoop so low as to pinch some poor prisoner’s weekly candy ration, so he can pig out on prime rib! II Corinthians 3:12 says: Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech. In other words, Paul wasn’t speakin' with a forked tongue, and he wasn’t tryin' to slip a dead skunk past his congregation. If the early apostles had authorized any head honcho of Christ’s church, past, present, or future, to slap a monetary tithin' law on the church, what better time to do it in than at the powwow they held in Acts Chapter 15? Verses 23 and 24 clearly state, concernin' whether Gentiles must keep the Law of Moses, or any part of it: And they (the apostles) wrote letters by them after this manner: The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia. Forasmuch as we have hear, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying: YE MUST BE CIRCUMCISED AND KEEP THE LAW, TO WHOM WE GAVE NO SUCH COMMANDMENT. In verse 29 you'll see only four restrictions were placed on the liberty of Gentile believers who walk in the Spirit: Not to eat meats dedicated to some big Buddha on a shelf, no drinkin' (of blood, not Bud!), not to eat any critter strung up in a noose, and no friskin' around outside of wedlock. The apostle Peter doesn’t brag on preachers who use fancy religiousese to filch funds. In II Peter 2:1-3 he says: But as there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily (in a wily way) shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and shall bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious (harmful) ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness (greed) shall
they with feigned (pretentious) words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. It ain't gonna be John Q. pew-warmer roastin' in the devil's barbeque pit for holdin' back paper tithes from rich preachers. It's gonna be rich kingpins of Christendom who are gonna answer to God for puttin' the screws on gullible people to pay tithes to keep 'em in green pastures all the days of their life. Those self-appointed Infernal Rascally Sidewinder agents are gonna get the mother of all whuppin's someday. 'Ol St. Peter's dead-on about one thing: Cowboy Cody feels like he's treadin' water tellin' others about Jesus, 'cause the conversation always steers toward fishers-forfunds and how they sell Jesus for a bag of silver. John 14:6 says Jesus Himself is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. These days Jesus, the Way of Truth is bein' evilly spoken of because of the bad smell left by religious skunks out for money. TV comedians have a blast roastin' Bible banditos over the coals. Based on what the Bible says, I'll go out on a limb and say that not only is tithin' on money not taught in either Testament, to force New Testament believers to tithe on anything is a sin condemned by God. Givin' out of love is okay, and good, and right. I Corinthians 13:3 says you could even give your body to be burned, but if you don't do it out of love, it's a worthless sacrifice. Laws are kept out of fear, not faith. The New Covenant is a covenant of grace, but there's plenty of prosperity peddlers who don't show much grace toward the poor people in their midst. Romans 14:23 says: Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Now how can tithin' be an act of faith if you do it while knowin' it's nowhere sanctioned under the New Covenant? But lots of Christians will keep un-Biblical traditions because they follow the rest of the herd without askin' where the herd is headed to. Galatians 2:16-19 says: Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the Law; for BY THE WORKS OF THE LAW SHALL NO MAN BE JUSTIFIED. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. FOR IF I BUILD AGAIN THE THINGS WHICH I DESTROYED, I MAKE MYSELF A TRANSGRESSOR. For I through the law am DEAD TO THE LAW that I might live unto God. Lots of preachers will own up to the fact Christians are no longer livin' under law, but they’ll build again, even
bigger and better, their favorite ordinance (tithin') into an even bigger cash generator. Now, the way a lot of preachers get around the sticky problem of Christians not bein' under the Law anymore is to re-brand their favorite law as a “principle”. Maybe Jesus did nail the Law of Moses to His Cross, but nowhere does it say He nailed God’s PRINCIPLES to the Cross. Even if New Testament tithin' weren't still in force as a law, it’s still a principle God set in motion, and you'd better observe it anyway, sez some tithin' tycoon who's got his eye on your piggy bank. After all, prosperity padres say, the law of gravity can still kill you even if your local sheriff doesn't run you in for breakin' it. If you thumb your nose at the principle of gravity and jump off a cliff, you’ll die. Notice, breakin' a principle might not be the same as robbin' the bank, but it'll still make you suffer. Call the tithe a principle, but if something looks like a law, sounds like a law, smells like a law, barks orders at you like a law, and punishes you for not keepin' it, it’s a law! II Corinthians 3:6 says: Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; NOT OF THE LETTER, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. Behind every bubbly promise of pie-in-the-sky in the here and now for tithin' or makin' pricey “vows” to some TV preacher is the insinuation that you’ll never get blessed unless you buy his fishy bait and cough up the cash. Preachers might be able to fool other believers by takin' the tithin' ordinance down from the Cross and re-brandin' it as a principle for positive livin', but God sure ain't fooled! In I Samuel chapter 15: 3 God gets on King Saul's case for not followin' His specific instructions to the letter as he fought his warfare against the Amalekites. Tithe twisters are like that today, the way they misquote Malachi 3:8-10 to lay a guilt trip on Christians who actually have to go out and earn their own livin'. They'll say that John Q. Pew-warmer is responsible for drivin' away God’s blessings from their church for refusin' to tithe. But even when the tithin' law was still in force, the book of Malachi was aimed primarily at the priesthood, not the people of Israel. Malachi 2:1 says: AND NOW, O YE PRIESTS, THIS COMMANDMENT IS FOR YOU! What an easy copout, to lay the blame on the “laity”. The Spirit of the Lord departed from stubborn Saul for rewritin' God's rules as he went along (I Samuel 16:14). When God’s glory departs from a church, blame can be laid at the door of humans who obey the will of man rather than God (Acts 5:29).
Instead of agreein' with Saul that fightin' the war his own way was a great improvement on God’s program, the prophet Samuel called Saul on the carpet for it. He says in verse 22: Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king. Money-hungry preachers do their own thing today, too: While Christ left the Law unresurrected and nailed to His Cross, they’ll grant a last-minute stay of execution to tithin', their favorite Old Testament Law. To make it respectable and easier to swallow, they'll just call it a principle. They can't let that one ordinance die on the Cross like all the other ones. Too many buildin' programs and vacations in Hawaii are at stake. So it's a good idea to rescue tithin' from its appointed death on the cross, and pretend it's for makin' sacrifices unto the Lord...yeah, right! Jesus brings up tithin' only three times in the New Testament, and all three are in the middle of verbal whippin's He gives self-righteous Pharisees who think their good works make them look holier unto the Lord than others. One passage is Luke 18:9-14 where A haughty Pharisee stands before God and brags that he is better than the sinner standing next to him. In verse 12 he brags about how he starves himself twice a week and pays tithes on every cotton' pickin' thing he owns. Fastin' and tithin'. Two civilized tortures of the flesh which make a guy or gal feel real religious. By the time of Christ, the Pharisees had added oodles of new ordinances to the Scroll of the Law given to Moses by God. They tithed on everything from A to Z, not just on agricultural products, as stipulated by the written Law. The Pharisees added extra days of fastin' to God’s calendar too. My, how holy it made 'em look to other people. While there were times of emergency when God told His people to fast, the Law of Moses ordered only one regular day per year of fastin': the Day of Atonement. But here we see the sweetly smilin' Pharisee braggin' on himself: “Now you see here, God. Twice a week I give up MY Budweizer and MY Big Macs just to please YOU. Twice a week I suffer with water and a toothpick. Just look at this pudgy IRS agent, his mouth full of Mars Bars, not songs of praise. He’s so plastered you could smell his breath clear to Timbuktu. Not only do I contribute fresh parsley from MY window sill to sprinkle on YOUR salad, I share MY CD collection with YOU. I donate MY old phylacteries to
the Salvation Army. What on earth does this selfish slob ever give? What’s salvation anyway?” That hoity-toity Pharisee never did find out, but the sinner standin' next to him sure did. Instead of white-washin' his sin with a load of bull like the Pharisee did, he admitted he was a sinner in need of the grace of God. He threw himself on God’s mercy and he went home justified by God instead of the Pharisee. The other two verses where Christ mentions tithin' are Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42. Again, these passages are in the middle of a verbal whippin' Christ is givin' the Pharisees. Jesus gets on the Pharisees' case for tithin' tiny Garden herbs while neglectin' the love of God and His righteous judgment. Jesus calls these men “so-called experts on the Law”. (Whenever somebody claims to be the pro from Dover, look twice at them.) But, ah, in the last part of Christ’s comment on their tithin', legalists find a loophole to lay down the tithin' Law in this Age of Grace: “These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” Yes, people WERE required to tithe, even up to the time Christ went to the Cross. But when Christ went to the Cross, He took the Law with him. Colossians 2:14 says so! When readin' even the words of Christ, it's best to ask: “Who is Christ talkin' to in this passage, Jews under the Old Covenant, or believers of all ages? Is Christ speakin' of ways to love thy neighbor, or the proper way to observe the Law of Moses? The Law of Moses was still legally bindin' on the Jewish listeners of His day. It is not bindin' on modern-day Christians. Present-day believers have been set free from the Old Law by the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1-2). But even when God’s people were still under the Law, religious leaders made it even harder to follow by addin' extra ordinances of their own. Yet they could care less about the things that mattered most to a God of love. I guess the Pharisees thought God would rather do without charity toward starvin' widows than the parsley sprig on His salad. If you depend on tithin' to help you stay righteous before a Holy God, or practice tithin' to keep the Mosaic tithin' ordinance, you're just takin' down an ordinance which Christ nailed to His Cross. In doin' so you're sayin' that that Jesus’ blood just ain't enough to keep you saved after salvation. Where it concerns faith in God's Word, actions speak louder than words. Tithe twisters push that point all the time to get people to part with their money. But tithin' under the New Covenant is done under the assumption that works of the Law can keep one righteous, which just ain't possible.
Tithin' is included among the works of the Law which never can justify any believer in the sight of God. Based on what the Bible says, I am moo-o-ved to conclude that it is a sin to observe the Mosaic tithin' ordinance. Hebrews 9:10 talks about how carnal ordinances which stayed in force only till the time of reformation. You can't follow Old Covenant ceremonial laws and Christ at the same time. Hebrews 10:38-39 states: Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. Look twice when some preacher fishes for your finances with “principles” of prosperity or any other profitable principles, which are none other than easy-to-swallow laws. As Mary Poppins might sing: “A spoonful of sugar makes the messages go down.” Beware of preachers that talk with a forked tongue, sayin' one thing when they really mean somethin' else. That’s just a smoke screen to sanctify their highway robbery. Now, don't expect old sluefoot to use TNT to blast the door of the sheep pen open. He's one slippery snake, and all he needs is just a tiny crack to creep in. Tithin' on money was never enforced in any part of the Bible, and it's a sin to enforce it under the New Covenant. In the book of Hebrews converted Jews are warned not to stray away from Christ and go back to the old Law of Moses and its animal sacrifices. Watch out for preachers who do a snow job on you to clean out your pockets. The devil hides behind a sunny smile, and he's an expert when it comes to buryin' God’s simple truth under an landslide of misapplied Scripture. $$$$$$ Vow Now And Get Milked Like A Cow That Cody, he's one lone maverick. He sticks out like a sore thumb around here. Everybody else yaks about girls and sports. But Cody dotes on all things religious, especially slick-talkin' TV preachers. All the other hired hands love to give him a good ribbin' about it, though it's all done in fun. For the longest time Cody was so broke he couldn't afford to take his girl friend out to the Coke machine. Just when you thought that sweet guy couldn't fall any deeper down in the hole financially, he'd dig it deeper himself. Cody just wouldn't wake up and smell the coffee. Anyhow, this is how I remember it.
Another Saturday night and all the cowpokes leave the ranch to go whoop it up in town with the ladies. Not Cody. He's got the bunkhouse all to himself again, and I stick my head in the window and moo a hello at him. Well, Cody feels so lonesome he starts tellin' me all his troubles. He says to himself: "I must have a few screws loose, talkin' to a dumb animal, but nobody around here takes me seriously anyhow. They just call me a Biblebashin' fanatic. Hi, feller," he says to me. Cody and me, we're best buddies now. Cody likes to share his bag of nachos with me whenever we watch his TV preachers together. I just stick my head in the window and watch the whole program with him. Even though Cody knows I take TV preachers with a grain of salt. That was some guest they had one night on Prey TV, Brother Jubal. He's a tall, skinny guy with a big puff of gray hair and beady eyes. His face is long and lean like a fox's. Brother Jubal's pretty agile for an old guy. He skips across the stage like a frisky calf, shoutin' hallelujah and talkin' about how God can make you rich if you'll only open your wallet wide to show your faith. The music rises and falls like a cowpoke breakin' a wild mustang . With every jolt of the chorus Brother Jubal jerks his head back like he's been struck by lightnin'. He shuts his eyes tight and begs the good Lord to help people part with their dollars to show their faith. His long, skinny fingers wiggle as he stretches 'em out. Brother Jubal's hands look babysoft, like he's never put in a man's day in his whole life. I heard Cody snifflin' as that voodoo music played. The preacher said Cody's miracle might never come unless he promised the Lord a big offerin' of sacrificial faith. The bigger, the better, and it should be at least $2000. Even if Cody didn't have it yet, he should go ahead and make a down payment on that vow. Rob Peter to pay Paul, that type of thing. The hair stood up on Cody's head when the organ in the background belched out a tear-jerkin' chord in cadence with the preacher's plea to give till it hurts. Brother Jubal made moanin' noises and quoted Ecclesiastes 11:1. He used that verse to tell Cody to cast his money upon the waters of the US Postal Service, 'cause after many days, it would swim back to him on every wave. I don't know about y'all, but I tend to suspect that bread that's been swimmin' out in the ocean would taste mighty soggy after many days and you wouldn't want it back anyway. Kiddin' aside, I believe that Scripture refers to spiritual bread, not hippie bread made out of paper. I stood at the window and mo-o-oed at Cody, tryin' to warn him away from that poodle-permed crook. I wished with all my might I could talk some
sense into his thick skull. But Cody got so aggravated at me, he told me to git on back to the barn and bed down, 'cause I was drownin' out an important message from the Lord. Now I know better than to beat a dead horse, so I just left to hit the hay for the night. Sad to say, Cody fell for that Colgate-smile preacher and sent him just about all his paycheck as a "down payment" on his "vow of faith". Just like Chester always comes back to the bunkhouse broke after blowin' his money on lottery tickets. Know what made this ol' longhorn see red? Some line of bull Brother Jubal said about how Cody had better not make a deal with the Lord and then welsh on it by stoppin' his payments on his "vow of faith." That preacher must serve some strange god I know nothin' about, a mean one who'd beat the money outa Cody's hide if he didn't cough up his protection payments regularly. Wasn't long after that, Cody was walkin' around moanin' to the other guys about his tooth achin'. Clayton, he was no churchgoer, but he had a big heart. Clayton asked Cody why he didn't just go see the dentist. Cody said he was broke. Clayton asked him how he could be, seein' as they'd all just gotten paid, and Cody never went nowhere or bought much of anything for himself. Well, Clayton and Chester wiggled it out of Cody and they just couldn't believe their ears. All of Cody's paycheck had gone to some rich preacher with diamond rings on his pudgy fingers! Clayton didn't hesitate. He dug deep in his pocket and gave Cody two hundred dollars to go to the dentist to go get his bad tooth fixed. He said for Cody not to worry about how long it took to pay it back. Then ol' Sluefoot appeared as an angel of light, just like it says in II Corinthians 11:14. I just happened to be hangin' around when the guys said "see ya" to Cody and headed off somewhere. Once they were out of earshot, Cody let out a joyful shout: "I got it! I'll cast MORE bread upon the waters! If I sacrifice the dentist today, God MUST give me back a hundred times as much! That's twenty grand! I can get my tooth fixed before it rots out, pay Clayton back AND buy me my own pickup truck! Praise the Lord!" Cody RAN back to that bunkhouse, with great jubilation. And I ran right after him, bellowin' at the top of my lungs. I stood by the window and watched Cody sign his dental treatment away. He folded his prayer request letter up, then stuck it and the money in the envelope. He left it unsealed, 'cause he wanted to change the cash into a money order. Cody looked at his
watch. "Two-thirty," he mumbled. "Mail goes out at three-thirty. Better ask Bart to drive me to the post office right away." He stuck the envelope in his shirt pocket, then put on his hat to go out. I couldn't let Cody get even poorer than he already was. Now I'm pretty scrawny for a bull, but I was bound and determined not to let Cody blow his tooth money on no rich preacher. I threw all my weight against the bunkhouse screen door. Whenever Cody would try to sneak past me, I'd bellow and push at him. Cody took a swing at my flank. "What's the matter with you, Tex? You dumb 'ol bull! Git outa my way or I'll shoot you!" "What'd you hit me for, Cody?" I heard myself say, in plain English. "Ain't I the best buddy you got around here?" Cody went white as a sheet. "Oh, Lord!" he cried. Then he hollered: "Hey, Clayton! You come outa hidin' now! It ain't April Fool's Day!" "Cody," I said again, "why'd you hit me? I'm only tryin' to protect ya." My muzzle was movin, and Cody could see my throat workin', and me lookin' straight up at him with my big brown eyes. "This is crazy!" Cody said. "Or it's just the devil. Animals ain't smart enough to talk!" "Well, did ya ever read that stuff about Balaam's jackass in the Bible, Cody?" I asked him. "It's happenin' all over again. God just couldn't get through to you any other way, so He put the mother of all CD's in my mouth to straighten you out." "What one earth would I need to be straightened out for?" Cody looked mad. "Have I gotta spell it out for ya, Cody? God don't want you to waste your money on preachers who don't care two cents about you!' "I'm bound and determined to make this sacrificial offerin' unto the Lord," Cody said, "talkin' bull or no talkin' bull. Now git outa my way, varmint!" "Make you a deal, Cody," I said. "God didn't put me on earth to be your punchin' bag. I get enough punishment at the rodeo, havin' to jump up and down to keep tourists happy while worryin' 'bout some greenhorn cowpunk who might get himself hurt by fallin' offa my bony back. Now, if Clayton doesn't come back in five minutes flat, I'll mo-o-o-ve outa your way and you can go blow that dough in Las Vegas if you want to." "Fair enough, Tex. But I don't expect him to show up till tonight. He went all the way to town to go see some buddies." "Only if God lets him get there, Cody. Man, you sure do pack a punch."
"Hope I didn't hurt ya too bad." "Naw. But YOU'RE gonna get hurt bad if Clayton finds out you're gamblin' his money away as if you're goin' to a big casino in the sky." "Tex! Don't you DARE tell Clayton…" "Tell me what, Cody?" Boy, was Cody ever surprised to see Clayton come round the corner, up to the screen door. "Hey, Cody, who're you talkin' to anyhow, and what's that steer doin', hangin' around here?" "He's sort of a pet," Cody said. "I call him Tex. He's one of our best rodeo steers. Some folks cotton to dogs, but I got a way with cows and I can almost read their mind." "What's he thinkin' now?" Clayton said, as if he thought it was funny. Cody cleared his throat. Maybe one white lie wouldn't hurt. "Tex, he don't want me to tell ya that dentists rattle me real bad and I'm too chicken to go to one. I was just tellin' Tex about it to get it out of my system, and I told him not to tell YOU I was too scared. I couldn't tell one of the guys. You won't tell nobody, will ya, Clayton?" Clayton grinned and twirled his finger around his temple. "Cody, I heard of talkin' to plants to make 'em grow, and that's crazy enough, but that bull's dumb as a doorknob …" "MO-O-O-O!" I bellowed, rearin' my head back and pawin' the porch with my front hoof. "Clayton, Tex here's my buddy. Don't you never call him dumb!" "Now, now, Cody," Clayton said. "The sun's bakin' everybody's brain. Why don't ya just lay down a while? A man can get heatstroke mighty easy this time of year." "Nothin's wrong with me!" Cody yelled. "And why're you back so soon, anyhow? I thought you'd be in town by now!" "I just turned round and came back to hunt for my bank card," Clayton said. Cody's face screwed up and he held onto his jaw. "Look, man," Clayton said. "You better swallow your fear and go see a dentist or you could lose that tooth. It ain't so bad. They got all kinds of pain killers these days." "I'll take care of it soon, Clayton, honest. I just took two aspirins to help till I get a chance to go." "Well, help me find my bank card, then I can drive you over to see Dr. Lockjaw. He's one of the best dentists in West Texas."
Both men looked all over the bunkhouse, but no bank card. Clayton noticed the bulge in Cody's shirt pocket and said, "Not bein' nosy, Cody, but I've checked all the pockets in my own duds. Okay if we check yours? Hey, that's my shirt anyway. Must'a ended up in your wash pile." Cody got red as a beet. "Uh…don't need to bother, Clayton. It's just a letter I meant to mail today. There's no bank card in the pocket." I started bellowin' for all I was worth. "Sure about that?" Clayton said. "Hey, why're you so antsy? What're you tryin' to hide anyhow?" Clayton was nobody's fool. "Way I see it, that's my shirt so I got a right to inspect it." He fished the envelope out of the shirt. "Another letter to some brother so-and-so, huh? It's purty fat, too." "Give it back!" Cody yelled. "You ain't got no right openin' somebody else's mail!" "No I don't, Cody, but I got a say in how you spend my hard-earned money! You claim to be a Christian, so don't lie to me! Were you even thinkin' of takin' money I loaned you to see the dentist and send it off to some TV preacher?" I let out another loud MO-O-O-O! Cody rubbed his jaw and nodded. He gave me a look that threatened to turn me into the main course at the next barbeque. "Sorry about that, Clayton. I should'a been up front with you about that. I do need to go to the dentist. But I made God a promise that I'd give Him two grand and keep payin' on it till it's all paid off. And the preacher said God would pay back a hundred times as much as I give Him. Not only that, he said it's dangerous to break any vow you make unto the Lord and God would punish me if I welshed on my vow of faith and stopped sendin' money in." Clayton grinned. "Way I see it, that bull was here to keep an eye on you, even if he can't talk. If I was you, I'd make my peace with the Almighty and ask Him to just write off that debt the preacher talked you into owin' Him. And who is that preacher, anyhow, to play God and collect His debts for Him? That's the craziest notion I ever heard of." "Why, Clayton, you sure do surprise me," Cody said. "You almost talk like you know how God thinks, judgin' from what you said about askin' Him to forgive us our debts. That is in the Bible, if you've ever read it before." "There's lots of things you don't know about me, Cody," Clayton said, and he looked real sad. "I used to read the Bible all the time when I was a kid. Lots of times you go into your own little religious world while me and Chester go to town to have a drink on Saturday nights. But you don't seem much
happier about your life than I do about mine. Anybody who's scared of God and pays Him off like you do can't enjoy their religion very much. Sorry, that ain't none of my business." "Maybe it is your business, Clayton. Jesus is a big part of my life, but He wants to be a blessing to everybody around me, as much as I'll let Him. But my problem is I soak up too much of what I watch on TV and I need to learn how to separate the wheat from the chaff so my relationship with Christ doesn't go sour on me. But honest, Clayton, I never would'a taken you for havin' any religious experience in your life. I guess, 'cause I just never took the time to get to know you better." Clayton nodded. "I got converted as a kid, but somewhere along the way I strayed off the Straight and Narrow. I wish I could find contentment in religion again. I've sunk mighty low over the years. I had to be like everybody else in high school, just to keep from bein' picked on. Yeah, I keep the wrong kind of company in town and chase skirts, but that's just my macho man act. One reason I don't go to church is this: Too many people I cared about have lost their shirt payin' some preacher to keep an angry God off their backs. I've been burnt bad by religion, Cody. Way I see it, that preacher on the TV who uses God to get what he wants outa poor folks is worse than Adolf Hitler. Do you think that fancy preacher would give a flip about your hurtin' tooth even if you wrote him about it? If he really thought God gives a guy back a hundred times as much as he sends in, seems to me like he'd send YOU a couple hundred bucks to get your tooth fixed, even if he didn't like you. He'd do it just to make himself richer, don't ya think?" "Yeah, I guess you're right about that one, Clayton." Cody walked over to me and patted my muzzle. "Sorry I acted like such an ornery cuss, Tex. Thanks." "Ah…if I was you, Cody, I wouldn't make a habit of talkin' to the livestock around here," Clayton said. "It looks mighty loco." "Still, Clayton, animals have got more sense than humans sometimes. How many dumb animals go out and build bombs and start wars all over the planet?" "Not too many, Cody, but ya know what's really strange?" "What, Clayton?" "If God cares about your tooth at all, He couldn't show it through that smiley preacher on TV. He used a dumb animal and an even dumber reprobate like me to show how much He cared."
$$$$$$ Missin' The Postmark Now I'm gonna tell y'all a tale about one lady who turns into an outlaw by keepin' some Bible bandit's "laws of prosperity". Janet knew she'd better enjoy her break while it lasted. She stretched out in her easy chair and yawned. This hard-workin' lady knew she'd have to go back to her job sellin' airline tickets, after stayin' home with her new baby six months. But at least Janet knew she'd get her old job back and wouldn't take a pay cut for bein' off so long. Janet knew of others worse off than she was. She thought about one girl friend of hers who got fired off her factory job after her baby got sick and she took off too many days to look after it. Life was hard for ordinary workin' folks. Janet's poor hubby Ralph had to work long overtime hours on the police force just to keep them all goin', and it sure wasn’t easy keepin' up the family without Janet's contribution. But Janet would make the most of these precious moments of quiet in her soft chair. Her two older kids would be comin' in from high school in just an hour. Then the house would get noisy from their horseplay, and the baby would wake up from her nap, howlin' to be changed and fed. Janet flicked on her favorite televangelist, "Brother Harvey Greengold". The tall, tanned poodle-permed preacher belted out his usual smiley "Bless the Lord! Your blessing’s about to blossom!" Janet clung to hope that it just might happen to her. Harvey bounced along to the calliope music and fairyland flowers as he said in his singsong way: "God meets big needs when you sow big seeds." Well, Janet wasn’t so sure about that anymore. Times were harder than ever. Even after the family income had nosedived she'd been faithful to send this guy a good hunk of her housekeepin' money. But ol' Ralph hadn't heard anything about what Janet was up to. He’d hardly even noticed the missin' grocery money. Janet had told him the truth when she said prices were goin' up all the time. And Ralph realized they'd all have to tighten their belts to let Janet stay home with the baby for awhile. Ralph didn’t resent it, though. A new baby was lots of work. And Janet was anemic and tired. She needed this precious time to get her strength back.
"Sometimes God tests our faith," Brother Greengold said. "I know how horrible trials of life can be" As he said that, the music synthesiser churned out a swirlin' organ groan of pain. The good rev'run bowed his head. His shoulders shook. "Yeah, I know all about heartache. I been run through the meat grinder myself, so I can feel for you, saints. I've languished in the valley, but God brought me up to the mountaintop, and He can do the same for you too! If you’ve sent this ministry a sacrificial offering and you haven’t gotten back your hundred-fold return yet, just hang on." A lightnin' flash of soap opry music, then the camera shifts over to the sparkly stained glass window with a ray of hope shinin' through, then the preacher bows his head again, whisperin' over and over a Name which he had abused to serve his own ends. That preacher knew it paid rich dividends to get chummy with John Q. Pew-warmer out in TV Land. He could act like your best buddy. He grinned and said, "In school, my nickname was "Hang-on Harvey". No matter how hopeless the basketball score got, I’d never give up. I’d just keep on playing the game till I sank the winning ball into the hoop. And because I refused to be defeated, God has richly rewarded me for it. The devil wants you to be discouraged and to give up. But instead of confessing defeat, send in a onetime "Defy the Devil Donation" to show you’re standing up to satan and won’t give in to his temptation to be a quitter. The more money you sow to keep this ministry on the air, the madder satan will get. Onward, Christian soldiers!! Let's storm the gates of hell and show old sluefoot we ain't scared of him no more! And don't forget, saints. Without your help, we wouldn’t be able to feed the hungry around the world. We’re dependent on YOU!" And ol' Harvey pointed his sparklin' finger at the camera to let Janet know he meant he was dependin' on HER, her money, that is. After the rinky-dink organ music closed the show, Janet felt uneasy about it all. But it didn't feel too good inside to keep Ralph in the dark about her donations. She took a ten-dollar bill saved from her grocery money and folded it into a letter she wrote askin' Brother Greengold to personally pray for her deliverance from poverty. Hank and Jeff, her tall, skinny teenagers trooped in, barely sayin' "hi" to her before they stampeded to the kitchen. The baby started yellin'. Janet heard the fridge door bang open, then a loud commotion: "Gimme that milk! You’re hogging it all! Hey, it’s mine, you pig!" No sooner did Janet reach the kitchen than a splash of milk hit her in the face. Her two teens were wranglin' over a plastic jug which was almost
empty. "Hey, stop acting like animals, you two! It’s all we’ve got, so share it! Look, there’s 70 cents on the table, so go get another quart and stop arguing." "Just a quart!" Hank, the 16-year-old, griped. That wouldn’t even wet my tongue!" "Well, that’s all the money I’ve got left," Janet said, and she wondered if she was lyin' about that. "Unless you two can pitch in." Jeff, the 14-year-old, dug deep in his pocket. "All I’ve got is six cents." "All I’ve got is eleven cents," Hank said. "Guess we’d better mow a few yards so we don’t starve to death, huh!" "Well, we could just mix flour and water and pretend it’s milk," Jeff suggested. "If we’re not out of flour too," Hank said with a note of sarcasm. "Very funny," Janet said. "Why don’t you just pray God will provide milk for us?" Hank rolled up his eyes and sang: "Showers of milk, showers of milk we need. Milk drops around us are falling, but for the pizza we plead!" "Stop it!" Janet scolded. She remembered some story she'd read in II Kings Chapter 7, about a man who'd poked fun of the idea that God could provide in hard times, and didn't live long to regret it. Then Janet said: "God’s teaching me to have faith even when things look bad! If it wasn’t for Prey TV helping me believe in God’s promises I’d be up the creek without a paddle!" "Those guys don’t look too poor to me," Jeff said truthfully. "There’s always milk in their fridge. And I bet it’s chocolate, too." "And they’ve got a swimming pool in their back yard," Hank chimed in. "Well, God rewards those who faithfully preach the Gospel," Janet said. "You bet He does," Jeff said. "I oughta get into the religion racket so I don’t have to suck out chicken guts at the Henny Penny plant after I get sprung out of high school." "That was uncalled-for and you know it!" Janet looked mad. "Your Aunt Marsha works there!" Why did teenagers have to be so sassy anyway? "If you guys want to make yourselves useful, drop this in the mail when you go get the milk," Janet said. "Baby Brenda is yelling her head off, so I’d better go feed her. Be sure to get this off right away, so I can get God to bless us. I want today’s postmark to be on it, and the last mail is collected at five." She handed the boys her letter to Brother Greengold.
Hank and Jeff grinned. "God sure is particular about when the mail truck collects His fan mail and takes it to Preacherland, California," Hank said. "Never mind your lip, just mail it for me, okay?" Once the baby was fed and cleaned up, Janet put her in her play pen and went to fix supper. Why, a good cook like her could work wonders with leftover pinto beans, a couple cans of tomatoes, rice and chili powder. There was even a chunk of cheese in back of the fridge. She cut the mold off of it and went to work on her special creation. Tomorrow would be another day. Maybe then God would multiply back all the money she’d sent in to that preacher. And today’s donation would go out in today’s mail, the deadline Brother Greengold told his flock to aim for. It just wouldn’t do to "miss the season of anointing" by waitin' for a more convenient time to give. Today’s postmark on Janet’s letter would be her special point of contact to show faith for her miracle! October 20 was, Brother Greengold claimed, the Lord’s chosen Date for Destiny! One hour later the boys still hadn’t gotten home, but Ralph came in for two hours to rest up and eat before goin' back in to work the night shift. He gave Janet and the baby a kiss and said, "We’re collecting odds and ends for the police rummage sale. I need a couple bags to stuff some of my old junk in." He fumbled underneath the sink till he found a few plastic shopping bags. He spotted a grocery receipt in the bottom of one of them. Curious, his fished it out and looked it over. "October 19, that was yesterday, wasn’t it?" he asked Janet. "Yeah, honey, what about it?" "The total amount due was $19.30. We already gave the boys their bus and lunch money for the week, so you should have ten left from your shopping budget. Where is it? I might need it tomorrow." She just about choked on her words. "You’ll get it back, Ralph. Every penny. I promise." "Where IS it?" Ralph asked. He looked mighty worried. "The Lord told me to send it to somebody who needs it even worse than we do." "And who could need it even more than us?" Ralph’s voice rose. "Brother Greengold, that preacher on TV. He runs charities to feed the poor around the world." "Harvey Greengold? Is THAT the one who sends people 'anointed' brook water to sprinkle on their checkbooks to get a hundred-fold return on donations?"
"Yes, Ralph, that's the one." "Janet! You can't be serious! You wouldn't believe all the things I've heard about that guy! How could you fall for his con game?" "What con game, Ralph? He shows pictures of hungry kids. It breaks my heart to see them." "The pictures may be real, but that doesn’t mean Brother Greengold’s an honest guy." "But what if he is, Ralph? Why run the risk of not helping those innocent children? What’s fifty cents, or a dollar, every now or then? At least we don’t have to do without the necessities of life." That really riled Ralph up. "Oh, I’ve done without a lot since my mom had that illness she was uninsured for, and when she fell between the cracks of our system it was up to me to pay her hospital bill. But what can you do when it’s your own mother but make sacrifices to help!" "Well, we had to help, Ralph," Janet said, and she really did feel sorry for him. "She’s your mother, right?" "Yeah, I’ve had to do without a lot, Janet. I do without my coffee and my favorite cookies. It’s been ages since I saw a single piece of fruit in this house. No meat to speak of. Every morning day in and day out I get slopped with mortar mix oatmeal for breakfast. Once a week we get hot dogs and macaroni if we’re really splurging. I buy all my civvie clothes at thrift shops...when I can afford to. In heaven’s name, who could possibly need that money more than us!" His face was red as a beet. Janet blinked back the tears. "Brother Greengold does run foreign missions, I’m sure," she said in a whisper. "What foreign missions!" Ralph punched his other hand. "The only foreign missions he collects for is foreign missions to Hawaii and his Lands of the Bible cruises, first class, of course!" "Why, Ralph, that’s a terrible thing to say about the servant of the Lord!" "The only "lord" he serves is himself!" Ralph looked madder than ever. "Busy slave though I am, I had my suspicions all along about what you’ve been up to, because I spotted a few of his mail-outs laying around the house and caught you watching him one day when I was off. But I didn’t want to be the bad guy and force you to stop giving to what you thought was the Lord’s work. But God helped me see through this religious racket he's been running on TV. And instead of saying anything to you just yet, I kept quiet about it and started checking this guy out on the Internet and doing a little free lance detective work. If I had any suspicions about this guy they were
confirmed by an article posted by one of his former associates. Anyhow, this guy’s conscience ate at him so bad he asked God’s forgiveness for being associated with Brother Greengold, and he was one of his right-hand men too." "Well, Ralph, Brother Greengold did say something about how the devil was coming against his ministry..." "Some infernal revenue agent, no doubt," Ralph snorted. "I did more digging on this guy. I just never told you till now. He’s being investigated for fraudulent use of donor funds. And I just found out about his little nest egg in Switzerland. Tax-free, of course. "Wanna know more about how Brother Harvey Greengold lives, Janet? Want me to pull back the carpet and expose the cockroaches hiding underneath it?" Janet looked like she was licked. "Oh, well, I guess you'd better!" She hung her head. Janet felt madder at herself than at the preacher. "Now, here’s just a partial list of the perks of his so-called ministry! A multi-million dollar mansion with nine bathrooms, a tennis court, a horse farm, top designer clothes, Chardonnay wines, private jets, platinum gold diamond jewelry, a collection of Rolexes, fancy paintings, yachts, fancy cars, gold bathroom swans, trips to the Holy Land! When’s the last time you or I had even one lousy weekend together where we could even go to Ruby Falls for a lousy fishing trip! While Brother Greengold has a fleet of Mercedes and Porsches, the only decent car I drive belongs to the force and I have to rob Peter to pay Paul the payments on my own second-hand car. Hank just told me his track shoes are falling apart and the other guys are razzing him about it. We little guys and gals work like donkeys so hucksters like Brother Greengold don’t have to! I bet he thanks God every single day for those poor starving kids he shows off on TV! Oh, he might cry crocodile tears over them to keep the money rolling in, but when his tear-jerking show is over he laughs all the way to the bank! While he feasts like a king we eat garbage food to keep guys like him in style. His cats eat better than we do," Ralph grumbled. My, you should'a seen the hurt look on Janet's face. "Garbage food? Why, we’re having something special tonight...Festive Beans and Rice. My own recipe." "We ate beans last night, and the night before that potato soup," Ralph grumbled. "Beans are beans and I’m turning into one big rootin’-tootin’ bean, I’ve had so many! What does Brother Greengold and his entourage eat? Five-star cuisine at Figaro’s!" And just so Ralph wouldn't miss a single detail,
he pulls his notebook out of his pocket and reads: "Let's see here now: Asparagus tips coddled in lemon herb butter! Lobster Lorraine in a rose petal souffle ! Noisettes of milk-fed veal in Cointreau sauce! ! Praline brandy croissants! And guess what they had for dez? Passion fruit mocha crepes flambeed with raspberry liqueur!" That was the menu served at his special "Inner Circle Banquet" to honor his top ten donors! They sure didn't serve cheap chicken legs at that meal! I’d say I did my homework thoroughly!" "How could Brother Greengold deceive us like that!" Janet blubbered. "He never told us about that banquet! He said he does without to help his hungry babies and he fasts a lot!" "Yeah, maybe for ten minutes at a stretch as he rides his stretch limo to Figaro’s to wine and dine his cronies to celebrate their latest windfall!" Just then two guilty-lookin' boys came into the kitchen carryin' big paper grocery bags. While Jeff set 3 frozen economy pizzas, a gallon of milk, and some cheap cookies on the table, Hank fessed up for them both: "Mom, Dad, we know you’re probably gonna kill us, but we just committed highway robbery." Janet sucked in her breath. "You didn’t…please tell me you didn’t open my private mail and steal the money out of it." "Yeah," Jeff shrugged. "Didn’t have no choice." "Here’s the fifty-seven cents change left over, Mom." Hank plopped it on the table and swallowed hard. That's when the stern cop went back on duty. "Don’t you know it’s a Class A felony, boys, tampering with other people’s mail?" Ralph said, even as he gave the groceries a hungry look. "I oughta slap cuffs on both of you and run you in!" "But Dad, we were starving. Please don’t run us in. We’re awful sorry." Ralph looked at Janet, then asked her: "How long have you been mailing our food money to that guy behind my back?" "Ah...six months or so, dear. I…I’m sorry. I kept on sowing seed for a miracle that never came." Janet was real ashamed of herself. Ralph let out a big sigh. "No wonder Hank and Jeff got desperate enough to commit a federal offense. Now I’m not excusing what they did, but if you had spent ALL the grocery money I gave you on food, they never would have fallen into such temptation." "I know, dear," Janet whispered. "I was fed a lie on TV, and I fell for it."
Ralph frowned at the two teenagers, though the prospect of a decent meal made his mouth water. "Ordinarily I’d ground you two guys for what you just did till the Rapture comes, but I’ll go easy on you just this once because you got so hungry you weren’t thinking straight. And you did confess right away. Just don’t tell anybody else about this…except maybe Jesus." The boys nodded and swore they’d never do it again. Ralph looked back at Janet. "You and the boys aren’t the only ones to blame. You embezzled cash from the food fund to send to a fool, and the boys stole that money, but that TV preacher robbed our family of money that should have gone into adequately feeding us. Now here’s a verse the pastor uses against us all the time: ‘Will a man rob God?’ But don’t preachers commit grand larceny against God every time they take food out of the mouths of God’s people so they can have gold-plated shower stalls and private jets?" "I should say so, dear," Janet meekly lowered her head. "The Bible also says it’s not okay to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs," Ralph said. "That’s First Degree Child Abuse." "Ralph," Janet gasped, "you’ve convinced me Brother Greengold is only out for money. But don’t you think it’s a sin to call him a dog?" "I should say not, Janet. Somewhere in Isaiah it talks about ‘greedy dogs that can never have enough, and shepherds which lack understanding’. That fits Brother Greengold to a tee." "So it’s okay we took the money to eat, then, Dad?" Hank wondered. "No, not that way, son. It would have been best to come to me once you suspected that your mother might be sending our food money away. That was an invasion of your mother’s privacy, though you acted out of sheer desperation. Both you boys are grounded for two weeks and I expect you to pay your mom back out of your lawn-mowing money. Okay?" "Fair enough, Dad," Hank said. Ralph had more to say to Janet. "From the start of our marriage I made it plain that in good times and bad, we’ve got to be honest with each other. I know your motive was to try to get God to bless us, but you were led astray by a con artist and we all had to suffer for it. Just like satan deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden the preacher deceived you and played on your emotions to get you to open your heart, and your wallet, wide. But this time I’ll let you off with a warning." He put on his mad cop face. She gave him a quick kiss. "I’m so sorry, dear. I’m really surprised you found out all that bad stuff about Brother Greengold. Besides the fact I
sent him money I saved by putting my family on short rations, maybe the reason God hasn’t blessed my donations to him is this: Because God’s blessing doesn’t really rest on him and if God had made us rich from sending him money, God would have been aiding and abetting a con man." "Amen to that," her husband grinned. "So it hasn’t been a total loss. It might have been an expensive lesson, but we’ve all learned something from this case." He cleared his throat. "I think it would be best, Janet, if for the time being, we did the grocery shopping together as a family, eh?" She looked wounded. "You don’t trust me anymore, Ralph, but how can I blame you?" "I didn’t say I don’t trust you, dear, but this ‘pay the preacher’ prosperity game can get to be an addiction. Everybody’s got their own temptations to struggle against…me, you, the boys. That only shows how human we all are. And I’m not fool enough to think there aren’t other carnival acts on Prey TV hustling for easy dollars with a sob song. They preach a slot machine religion which obligates God to give you the moon if only you put enough quarters in the slot. But in that game, only the devil wins. I’m not trying to put you down, just help you to resist temptation. Besides, helping you do the shopping would give Hank and Jeff an education in getting the most for their dollar. You’d really be doing them a favor, Janet." "Well…okay, dear. It’s the least I can do to show I’m on the right track now." "Good. Oh, by the way, boys, what did you do with your mother’s letter to Brother Greengold after you fished his funds out of the envelope?" "We resealed it with chewing gum and sent it to him. But first we wrote him an IOU...payable in the year 2500. Sorry about that too, Mom," Jeff said. "We were way too hungry to behave like good citizens." Even Janet had to laugh at that one. "In the year 2500? I doubt Brother Greengold will still be fishing for funds during the Millennium!" Ralph laughed with them, then got a sad look on his face. "Honey, if I had my way you wouldn’t have to go back to work unless and until you really felt like it." Janet swallowed hard. "I’ve got no choice, Ralph. Short of a miracle." Just then the phone rang. Ralph went to answer it. When he came back after about fifteen minutes, his face was all lit up with joy. "Guess what, guys? Captain Gunnar just called to say I’m the one they picked out of eight candidates to replace Sgt. Phillips on the force when he retires next month.
Did you hear that, everybody? I’ll be the new police sergeant of this entire town!" Cheers all around. "Know what, Janet?" Ralph said. "With my increase in salary maybe you can stay home awhile longer, at least till Brenda’s bigger. What do you say to that?" "Well, I don’t know…what with the high cost of living, wouldn’t things still be a bit tight around here?" "I’d already been wondering how to work that out, Janet. We could move all that junk out of the basement and convert it into a spare bedroom to rent out to some student. That would take a lot of pressure off us, too." "Maybe Mom could even afford to make cookies for us again!" Jeff’s eyes shone. Hank got excited too. "And I could get those new running shoes I need!" "But first let’s pop those pizzas into the oven," Ralph grinned. "Afterward we all go out for ice cream. Time to celebrate and praise the Lord for the light at the end of the tunnel." A happy endin' makes ya feel good all over, don't it, folks? Sure do wish every story like this could end happily ever after. Oh, well…Let's moo-o-ve on to the next tall tale and see how it pans out for two preachers who just can't see eye to eye.
$$$$$$ Bbq Tithes And Party Wine Pastor Bob knew that the head honcho of his church board, or Regional sinus…er…I mean, Synod! would think he'd gone way off his rocker this time. Pastor Bob was accountable to a crusty ol' bear who held the title of "Rev'run Superior" and man, he really felt like he was superior to that freshfaced kid of a pastor he lorded it over. But Bob also knew he was caught between a rock and a hard place. Better to take flak from another man than rile the good Lord up by hidin' truth God wanted him to share with the church about tithin'. In God's eyes, other Christians actually had a right to know it, just like they had the right to know about heaven and hell. The New Covenant tithin' tax was as heated an issue to the modern church as circumspection…or whatever! had been to the early church, and just as much
a sacred cow. But Bob had prayed and studied his Scriptures like any faithful pastor should. Bob could no longer make excuses for a bad teachin' which wasn't backed up by Scripture. Even if it had been pushed onto the church for hundreds of years. It was an outright sin to dun a poor family for ten percent of its income and do it in the Name of the Poor Carpenter Who never paid His own ministry expenses that way. Paul hadn’t taken tithes, and neither had Peter and John, who said: "Silver and gold have I none." So it made Pastor Bob wonder: What on earth gave the leaders of his denomination the idea they had the right to milk poor families dry? Bob knew that in this Age of Grace, God’s people are no longer under the Mosaic Law, so it was even wrong to hit the rich church folks up for tithe money. Seems like there was always a storm brewin' in the air at Bob's church. That congregation was mostly workin' class and they were always beefin' about the preacher pressurin' 'em to tithe. Bob wasn't too thrilled about havin' to visit with Rev'run Superior Rufus. But it was put up or shut up time for Bob, where it concerned defendin' God’s Holy Word. Now Rev'run Rufus could be one prickly cactus to deal with, but Bob’s first loyalty must be to the Redeemer Who had washed him in His own blood, not to modern-day pharisees soaked in tradition. The two men met in Bob’s big study. "Pastor Bob!" the starchy ol' cemetarian…uh…seminarian said, "What is this I hear? You refuse to respect the long-standing dogma of our diocese! Rumors are circulating that you disagree with our church’s policy on member tithing!" "True, Reverend Rufus," Bob hesitated to say. "Are you aware of the fact that the Apostle Paul never once enforced tithing in the churches under his oversight?" "You’re splitting hairs over mere semantics," Rev'run Rufus said. "You’re obsessing over what you CALL the money laymen put in the plate! A hundred dollar check is a hundred dollar check irregardless of whether you label it a tithe, a donation, a contribution, or an offering. Paul taught generous giving, and he didn’t even turn down contributions from the destitute saints of Macedonia. So why do you make such a fuss over the label you attach to the funds coming into this church? God loves a cheerful giver, so the logical implication is that He hates a stingy one." "But you’re a doctor of divinity, Reverend, with a string of degrees as long as my arm. You’re Head Chair of Doctrinal Forensics at Stonewall Seminary. You must know what Scripture really says about the Biblical tithe, and that Gentiles were never appointed by God to collect it."
"Gentiles, smentiles!" Rev'run Rufus barked. "Pastor, you’re one Gentile who will end up a janitor if you don’t submit to church authority as the Bible commands! I’ll be back in town to check on you in two weeks’ time, and if by then you aren’t enforcing tithing in this congregation, I’ll have you excommunicated from the flock of the faithful. Not only that, you’ll be defrocked faster than a fiery chariot. By the time we’re done with you, boy, you won’t be able to preach to a parish of winos on Bourbon Street!" Winos...for some reason that word kept swirlin' around in Bob’s brain long after the head honcho went home. After prayin' over his predicament for a few minutes, Bob stood straight as a soldier in a parade. Some key Scriptures in the Old Testament came to mind. If this preacher got shot down in the pulpit defendin' the truth, he would go down in a blaze of glory! After Pastor Bob’s next Sunday sermon, he announced an event, to be held in two weeks’ time. Most everybody got excited about it. There were just a few skeptics among them who said they wouldn’t stay in any church which could split over fundamental doctrines. They got up and walked out. The day before Rev'run Rufus was due to visit the diocese, Pastor Bob prayed for the guts to do it, then phoned his superior. "I’ve got some very good news for you, Reverend Rufus. I’ve seen the light! I preached my heart out about the tithe, and the whole congregation shares my enthusiasm!" "So your discourse was well received?" "Believe me, Reverend Rufus, they gobbled it up! I really do look forward to seeing you again. I’d thought that since you’re in the area, we could meet tomorrow...say, about one o’clock? "That would be just fine with me, Pastor, and I am so relieved we won’t be needing to retire you." Pastor Bob was polite as a starched butler at a royal tea party. "Reverend Rufus, since the weather is so lovely, I’d like to confer with you out in the Sunday School courtyard tomorrow. That picnic table under the shady tree would be a pleasant place to converse. My wife will be providing a light lunch for us, including some of her home-baked cherry pie. Would you enjoy that?" The old churchman's gravelly voice softened. "Why, Bob, you know I never could resist your wife’s cherry pie. I’ll be there at one o’clock sharp." Next day Rev'run Rufus swung by the church, right on schedule. He parked his car, but he wondered why there were so many cars outside. He called up Pastor Bob on his cell phone and asked him if he still wanted to meet out in the courtyard, and why the full parkin' lot? Bob said Sister
Jane Smith was startin' a diet club in the east wing conference room, and not to worry. The rev'run reached the flower-dotted courtyard. He sniffed some mouth-waterin' smells in the air. The gate was wide open. It was quiet, but Pastor Bob wasn't all alone there. "SURPRISE!" a jubilant multitude hollered. Far from startin' a diet, the congregation was holdin' a surprise picnic for him! What was the occasion? Why, it wasn't even his birthday! The place was packed with laughin' grown-ups, but where were the teenagers and kids? Rev'run Rufus saw burgers, chicken and steaks sizzlin' on barbeque grills. Salads, desserts, burger fixin's, and potato chips were spread out on tables. But what were some of the church people holdin' in their hands? The rev'run was scandalized! Beer bottles! Wine coolers! No wonder there weren’t any kids squealin' and runnin' around! It would be illegal for kids to be present on premises where alcohol was bein' served. And on church grounds, too! Before the Rev'run Superior could chew his flock out for guzzlin' on his grounds, he noticed a speakers’ podium set up in front of a great big billboard. Painted on it, in bold black letters, was one Scriptural passage the good rev'run wished would'a been left buried in the sweet sea of forgetfulness. And this was written above the scripture in sprawlin' scarlet letters: MONEY CAN’T PAY TITHES...IT BUYS TITHES TO THROW A PARTY WITH! And then, those pesky scriptures that refused to stay buried: Deuteronomy 14:22: Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year Verse 23: And thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of they corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always. Verse 24: And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the Lord thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the Lord thy God hath blessed thee:
Verse 25 Then thou shalt turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose: Verse 26 And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thy household. Another bold red message appeared underneath that aggravatin' passage: DON’T EAT THE TITHE? WHAT DID THAT SCRIPTURE JUST SAY? That ol' Rev'run Rufus didn’t care too much for scriptures which didn’t replenish the church treasury. Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, he bowed to religious tradition. So the Word of God was not the final authority in his own life and the lives he tried to control from the pulpit. This was too rich for his religious blood. "Pastor! What in Sam Hill is going on here! People drinking booze on church grounds! I’ll have your head on a paper plate for this outrage!" Pastor Bob moseyed on over, sippin' a tropical cooler. "But Reverend, we’re only doing what you wanted! We’re observing the tithing law. If you’ll read that sign, you’ll know we’re well within our Scriptural rights to buy Bud and wine cooler with the tithe money! We could have brought stronger stuff, but we exercised self-control. Back in Bible days, the kids would have joined in, but they’re having their own cookout over at Sister Lola’s. Phoebe and Marge are keeping the babies and toddlers. The designated drivers are drinking Cokes and iced tea." "But we’re under the New Covenant, reprobate Bob," the superior rev'run rebuked. "I know a lot of these people drink privately in their own homes, but if they really loved Jesus, they’d only partake of spiritual wine, and you know it! Look at all those six-packs on the tables!" "Well, Who turned the water into wine and drank it Himself, but Jesus?" Bob asked, as hickory smoke hung in the air. "Jesus said His own life was to be an example for us, if you want to split hairs, Reverend Rufus. You’re the one who ordered us to observe the tithe, so this party is part of it. Well, It’s about time to start my sermon." Bob went to collect his notes and hopped up onto the podium. Rev'run Rufus felt bound and hog-tied because of all the people cheerin' their pastor on.
Bob began to preach through the microphone: "We're going to talk more about the tithe, everybody. Now we all appreciate Reverend Rufus, and I’m not attacking him today, just a few flawed doctrines, and I’m only doing that to defend the truth. Reverend Rufus says it's a sin to drink wine, and we respect his right to believe that, irregardless of the fact the Israelites drank wine at their annual tithing festivals. Now we know Paul the apostle denounced drunkenness as a sin, but where in Scripture does he forbid the occasional glass of wine with dinner? Paul told Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach’s sake and for his oft infirmities. As for spiritualizing away the literal wine and strong drink which Scripture clearly instructs worshippers to buy with proceeds from the sale of literal tithes; why not go whole hog and spiritualize away the literal MONEY literal laymen out in literal pews pay into the church pork barrel to finance literal ministry perks? You know as well as I do the Bible only commands New Testament believers to offer up spiritual sacrifices unto God, and whatsoever good work is not done out of a heart of faith is sin. If you scare money out of people, that is a dead work of the flesh springing from fear, not faith, and God cannot accept such tainted works as righteous." Bob was plum tired of knucklin' under to error to “prove his love for Jesus”. The picnickers barely touched their food as their pastor laid it on the line: "We Gentiles have been grafted BY FAITH into the spiritual tree of Israel, not because we kept their Mosaic Law. You, Reverend Rufus, demand that we Gentiles graft the old Mosaic tithing law into our Dispensation of Grace and observe it as meticulously as our culture will allow. But we know that our modern way of life as well as our lack of literal Levites to take the tithes will not permit perfect fidelity in following God's divinely ordained pattern of correct Mosaic tithing procedure. And what is sin, except falling short of God's mark of 100% perfection in doing things HIS way, rather than man's way? To put it bluntly, anybody who practices tithing in observance of Mosaic Law today has to conclude they're sinning in doing so because they cannot perform this ancient ritual to God's exact specifications. In Galatians 3:10 Paul reminds his listeners: ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in ALL things which are written in the Book of the Law to do them’. If you omit even the most picayune precept of the Mosaic Tithing Law, whether it’s tithing only on farm produce or COLLECTING TITHES ONLY AT HARVEST TIME, AND EVEN THEN, ONLY SIX YEARS OUT OF SEVEN as the originial Law stipulates, you stand in violation of the Word of God, and you’re bringing yourself under a curse, not a blessing!”
Rev'run Rufus's protests got drowned out in a big uproar. Once it quietened down, Pastor Bob continued: “When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, satan quoted from Psalms 91 to trick Him into thinking that even if He threw Himself off the top of the Temple, that God would still protect Him. But Jesus didn’t cave in just because the devil whitewashed that temptation with Scripture. Jesus said: ‘It is written: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.’ Jesus triumphed over satan’s Scripture-twisting temptation with a proper application of the Word of God, saying: ‘It is written’. Whenever somebody tries to shame you into observing unscriptural traditions of men by questioning your love for Jesus, remind them that Jesus Himself resisted wrong traditions with ‘It is written’. Jesus denounced the dog’s dinner unscrupulous Pharisees had made of the meat of God’s Word by twisting it to serve their own ends. “In Mark 7:9 Jesus says to the Pharisees: ‘FULL WELL YE REJECT THE COMMANDMENT OF GOD, THAT YE MAY KEEP YOUR OWN TRADITION.’ In this context, Christ rebukes the Pharisees for encouraging people to neglect the care of their aged parents in order to dump more money into the Temple Treasury. In Matthew 12:7 Jesus says to some self-righteous Pharisees who are criticizing His disciples for picking grain to eat on the Sabbath Day: ‘But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless’. Even if God had commanded tithing to be done on dollars and cents instead of agricultural produce only, He would still choose mercy over sacrifice, where it concerns feeding hungry poor people. That’s what the tithe was used for in the first place!” “But Brother Bob,” one man called out, “what about the widow giving her last two mites, even though she was hungry?” “She sure did, Brother Hayward, and Jesus said she’d given more than all the rich men who were only giving out of their surplus fat. But where does Jesus say that the Law of Moses REQUIRED the poor widow to donate her bread to the rich! Did Jesus COMMAND that hungry widow to give her last two cents to the Treasury? When preachers misuse that passage to pry money out of God’s people, they are appealing to the same traditions of men condemned by Jesus. In Jesus’ day, the safety net provided for poor people by the Law of Moses had been twisted into a cozy hammock for rich religious men to lounge in. Gone were the days when the hungry of the land could go to their local tithe storehouse, confident that they would be fed. The Mosaic tithing system had been ordained by God to provide for the poor, not to
gratify the greed of men. But that was before the Law was tampered with by scribes and Pharisees who interpreted it for their own benefit, and added lots of burdensome new ordinances to it. In the beginning the priests and Levites were counted among those who had no inheritance of land in Israel. They were numbered with the poor, the fatherless, and the widow who also consumed the tithed produce of Israel. But by Christ’s time, the priests were the richest members of Jewish society. By the time He walked the earth, the corrupt religious system, far from caring for the poor, was robbing the poor to pamper the rich! Far from commending the clergy for taking mites from widows, in Mark 12:40, Christ promises only terrible damnation to hypocrites who devour widows’ houses. How many moneyhungry ministers are provoking God today, the way they preach on the Widow’s Mite to rob even more widows! Do you think God will go any easier on today’s Pharisees than Jesus did on the Pharisees of His Day? "Just why are we Gentiles acting out this farce today?" Bob said. "Because a picture is worth a thousand windy words, that's why! The goal of this picnic is not to chow down on Bud, burgers, and hot dogs, but to give you all an idea of how much men have violated the spirit of the Law by spinning and transmuting His written Word into destructive traditions. If you think God is open-minded about that, remember that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted by God because he followed God’s precise instructions, while Cain’s offering was rejected because he did things his own way, rather than God’s way. Hopefully, this picture sermon will help stem the tide of newer heresies creeping into this congregation, but since there aren't any Levites around to make this affair kosher, we might as well go whole hog again and chow down on Gentile food, eh? Hmmm....that reminds me. Susan is sizzling some juicy pork chops. Care to join us at our 'Gentile tithing party', Reverend Rufus?" Rev'run Rufus started hollerin' and turnin' red. "You're making a joke out of something HOLY! Abraham was a Gentile, and HE tithed!" "Yes he did, but guess what he tithed ON, Reverend; or have you, a renowned professor of theology, never studied Genesis Chapter 14 with a mind unbiased by tradition? Abraham presented to Melchizedik a voluntary, not obligatory tithe, only of the spoils of war, some of which had been plundered from the home of his own nephew Lot. And Scripture doesn’t say that Abraham ever tithed on his personal estate of livestock, gold or silver. Granted, Abraham frequently offered up animal sacrifices to God, but Abraham's tithing appears to have been a one-time act of thanksgiving to God for His help in battle. Are you sure you want to keep the tithe the same
way Abraham did, Reverend Rufus? Wait until some burglar breaks into your nephew Clarence’s home and loots it top to bottom. Then go after that burglar and beat the stuffing out of him. After all, Abraham fought a battle before he paid a tithe. Once you’ve whipped the burglar, take back Clarence’s CD player, computer, designer clothes, TV, and his CD collection, which our theoretical burglar stole. But before you give Clarence his stuff back, take ten percent of it off the pile and donate those things to the Salvation Army.” Pastor Bob gave the rev'run a cheesy grin. The old pharisee's blood was boilin' by now. "You're out of order, pastor, and I'm gonna report you to the Regional Synod for heresy! What in Sam Hill is going on over there?" He spotted Deacon Denton and his buddy Ted carryin' boxes of goodies to a van out in the parking lot. "Relax, Reverend Rufus. Denton’s keeping yet another tithing principle. Last week, I asked the congregation to ‘tithe’ one final time, as part of this project. I told them the money would also be used to feed the men at the rescue mission down on Seaview Avenue. My, I never saw such enthusiasm for digging into purses and pockets as I saw last week. Once the people realized God wasn’t holding hellfire and brimstone over their heads for switching from tithing to gracious giving, they gladly chipped in.” Rev'run Rufus started snifflin'. "But you had no right to do that, and you know it!" Bob knew he was right. "Remember, Reverend, a hundred dollar check is a hundred dollar check, irregardless of what you call it? Where it concerns generosity the Old Law says: YOU MUST. The new Law of Liberty in Christ Jesus says: YOU MAY. All I know is, if we had stuck more closely to the letter of the tithing law, those men would have been here at this party rejoicing with us. If you’ll read Deuteronomy 16:11, you’ll see that the poor are provided for by the tithe, and they are to rejoice before the Lord together with the tithe payer. But rather than bring those recovering alcoholics here to be tempted by the wine coolers and beer we used as today's object lesson, we thought it a better idea to take soft drinks and barbequed meat over to the mission so they could have their own party." Rev'run Rufus pounded the podium. "But we needed that money for the building program and you know it! God DEPENDS on tithe money to build churches for His glory! Do you really think those tight-fisted cheapskates out in the pews will turn loose of their money unless we put pressure on them?"
"Reverend Rufus, God created the heavens and the earth in only six days. How much tithe money did He need to finance THAT mother of all building projects? If buildings are so all-fired important to God, HE will provide for them! That’s where faith comes in. Little people have to live by faith all the time, so why not us? We’re the ones who preach faith from the pulpit. Let us set an example for our flock and practice the principles we preach." Rev'run Rufus resorted to religious guilt. "If you really loved Jesus you would submit to authority and stick to decent doctrine! You’d better change your tune, son, or you’ll roast in hell!" Bob licked his chops. "Reverend Rufus, I’m getting mighty hungry for roasted tithe food, and those pork chops are getting mighty cold. We’ll close my message with a little food for thought: "Show me just ONE Scripture in the Bible where Jesus collected tithe money to build buildings with. Most always He instructs His hearers to give to the poor, not to rich preachers. He told His disciples to PROVIDE NO MONEY in their bags when they went out two-by-two to preach the Kingdom of God. Instead, He promised them that God would provide for all their needs. Are you a follower of Jesus, Reverend Rufus?" "Not YOUR kind of Jesus, you stubborn reprobate! Now I want you to go to your office, clean out your desk, and take Him with you when you go! Both of you get out of MY church now! You’re fired!" $$$$$$ No More Nickels! Honest, Cowboy Cody came by the bullpen one starry night and told me about this after he got in from church. I just about choked on my alfalfa. It sounded like somethin' out of a comic book, though anytime somethin' like this happens it's pitiful, 'cause good folks always get burnt by it. Brother Bullard was one old pulpit pilot who’d forgotten how to count his blessings properly. Years ago God had done him a good turn by healin' him of rheumatiz of the shank. After that, Brother Bullard wanted to serve Jesus for the rest of his days, and so long as he kept his priorities straight he did just fine. Brother Bullard was a jolly ol' guy. Cody said that folks would get to dancin' in the aisles whenever the piano pumped out the old timey gospel hits. Brother Bullard taught folks to believe God for the impossible, 'cause
he was walkin' proof that God is still in the healin' business. Brother Bullard was so full of life you never felt like fallin' asleep in the pew. Hard times had hit the town so bad that stray dogs and cats had to go out to the desert to find scraps to scavenge. Cody said he was lucky to have a job, 'cause quite a few in his small congregation were out of work. Just burnin' the gas to get to church was a big sacrifice. But it never occurred to any of these good folks to stay home till times got better and they could put real paper money in the offering plate again. These good-hearted folks just gave what they had...and, money-wise, it sure wasn’t much. Brother Bullard and his family were pretty comfortable, even though they were far from millionaires. They didn’t have to slave at the plastic plant or the chicken cannery. While Brother Bullard’s flock could barely make ends meet, the Bullards got to travel to church conferences to get recharged spiritually. This was like icin' on the cake for the pastor. His poor flock had to scrimp and scrape to make ends meet. But now it was a whole lot harder for the pastor to afford his fun way of life, above and beyond his livin' expenses. And he dreaded countin' up the proceeds after each service. He got tired of all the nickels and pennies given by jobless, strugglin' Christians. Despite the fact that the majority of prayer requests seemed to be for jobs for young couples with kids, or to meet some financial emergency. Well, Brother Bullard would take authority over this financial crisis...in the wrong way. The congregation had hardly sat down before he got their attention and picked up the offering plate. Why should you be ashamed to let others see what you’re up to, he asked his people, if what you’re doing isn’t wrong? Let the whole wide world see your good works! “Now, I’ll start the offering the proper way,” the preacher said. He whipped out a ten-dollar bill and flipped it into the plate. “And don’t place your nickels so softly inside so they won’t make a clink, as if you’re ashamed for people to see your generosity. Just pick ‘em up and throw ‘em right in!” With that, Brother Bullard took a fistful of nickels out of his pocket and flung 'em down in front of the pulpit. Cody said nobody made much of a fuss but him. He just put on his hat, picked up his Bible and walked straight out. If they didn't like it, fine with him. In John 2: 13-17 you’ll read about another Preacher Who slammed some coins down on the floor. Only that time it was to protect the poor, not bring shame on 'em like Brother Bullard did that night. Jesus didn’t much care for
the way the devil’s business was bein' transacted in the Temple. His Father’s House was not to be a market place, but a House of Prayer. I can imagine the bellowin' beasts stampedin' away from the whip Jesus made, how the money changers’ coins jingled onto the pavement. I can even imagine one or two of them gold diggers chasin' those rollin' coins and scoopin' up as many of 'em as they could while Jesus yelled and chased 'em all out. Brother Bullard sure didn’t value the coins he threw down. Anybody who’s ever been broke knows that a nickel can be the difference between gettin' all the grub you picked out at the supermarket and havin' to put somethin' back. Maybe it was just as hard for those folks to put a whole quarter in the plate as it was for Brother Bullard to reward himself with a ten-spot. God’s kingpin kids better watch out. Any pea-brained turkey who pretends he's Chief Big Eagle in God's church is liable to land his tailfeathers in a cactus patch after fallin' off his high horse. Just who did Jesus brag on in Luke 21:1-4? The rich kingpins who dumped big offerings into the Temple treasury or the hungry widow who gave her last two pennies? That was all she had left to live on, but them scholarly scribes and fancy Pharisees who bragged about their truckloads of donations were too blind to see as God sees. Jesus said the poor widow gave her all, but the rich gave just gave a bit of their extra fat. God's math ain't the same as human math. I tend to suspect that God credited an extra weight of golden glory to that poor widow's account, while He subtracted points from the proud Pharisees. From what Cody says, I get the feelin' prosperity preachers have hijacked Jesus. Just like the big fat livestock of Ezekiel Chapter 34, they're headbuttin' the poor, weak Christians outa the way and hoggin' all the best pasturage at the Father's Table. They're foulin' up the religious waterin' holes with their muddy feet and sayin' to the others: "Mo-o-o-ove over!" Seems like Prosperity Theology has really thrown its weight around these days, and drowned out quieter voices which preach about the need to go back to God's old ways of "love thy neighbor as thyself." But the book of James has somethin' powerful to say about that. The first nine verses of James Chapter 2 exhort the Church of God not to treat rich church members better than poor ones. James even goes so far as to label it a sin against God’s Royal Law of Love to treat poor Christians like second-class citizens. Verse 5 says: Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? James wonders how these Christians who
show partiality to the wealthy can forget that it's the rich who give 'em a rough ride in this world. Heaven won't be hijacked by uppity ten-cent millionaires who bribe St. Peter to let 'em into the Pearly Gates, after a lifetime of turnin' their botoxed nose up at the poor single mom who can't afford to go to church. All God's children qualify to eat at His table. Jesus died for rich and poor, and all share alike in what He has to offer. Cody told me just the other day, "Tex, I sack out every night in a bunkhouse and stuff my duds in an old army footlocker. I've hardly got an inch of space I can call my own. After I give to God's work, most of my check goes home to help my mama and six brothers and sisters. But know what, Tex? There's a great big spread in the sky a-waitin' for me. I'll have a big fancy sittin' room with a fireplace where I can visit with my loved ones when they come see me. I'll strum my old six-string and we'll all sing the praises of Jesus together. I won't never have to pinch nickels no more. Maybe I'll even look up Brother Bullard and say: 'See? I ain't poor no more. And I didn't feel poor when I was on earth, neither, 'cause the good Lord gave me lots of good friends. And while I'm up there in heaven mendin' fences with Brother Bullard, some goofy-lookin' longhorn might mo-o-o-o a happy 'hello' at me while he munches clover in green pastures."
$$$$$$ Here's a mo-o-o-ovin' story about a real life SCROO-O-O-OGE! The Loveless Landlord Major Hardy felt like he'd really done the Lord proud in his long lifetime. But you couldn't tell it by lookin' into the glum face of the big shiny angel who held him and flew up in the sky with him. Wouldn't Major Hardy's distinguished service record be his ticket to Paradise? The tall, wiry soldier was due to give His Lord an account of his life. Major Hardy had been wellknown for givin' good testimonies in church durin' his sojourn on earth, and he hoped that the Almighty would remember what a blameless officer he'd been throughout his career in the Marines. Surely the Master would be impressed by Major Hardy’s service record. Major Hardy had one cherished treasure on earth, which he couldn't bring along. In the years before he
died the retired officer would pull out all the medals he'd earned for bravery and distinguished service and show 'em to his big passel of grandkids. But this time the major hoped for an even higher decoration: one which would last him for eternity. This spit-and-polish leatherneck who had reviewed many platoons on parade was about to get reviewed himself, and by the Supreme General of the Armies of Heaven. As the angel flew him to the outer reaches of the Celestial City, the light which shone from it grew stronger and stronger. It seemed to go right through you, like an all-seein' X-ray. Everything was so beautiful, so perfect, but Major Hardy got butterflies in his stomach. “How far are we from the Throne Room?” he asked the angel. The angel stared up at a mountain peak which glimmered like a diamond crowned by a rainbow. “It will not be long now, Major,” he said. “He eagerly awaits your arrival.” The major didn't look so self-assured now. “Please, could we just pause so I can collect my thoughts? I never walked into a conference room without adequate preparation.” The angel slowed down. He saw a flowery bluff where they could rest a moment. He put the major down. “You were supposed to prepare yourself for this moment while you were on earth,” the angel said. The major felt like he might not be ready to go face God. “Please,” he begged, “let’s take a moment to rehearse...if that would be possible.” The angel thought it over a minute, then agreed. “It is an unusual request, but you must be shown the fairness of God's judgments. Shall we inspect just one of those presents you were going to lay at the feet of your Sovereign?” “What presents?” the major wondered. “See? My hands are empty. I didn’t even bring my wedding ring.” “I speak of your record of efficiency in business, and specifically of your pride in personal stewardship over your own possessions. Briefly let’s review one incident where you fought valiantly against a threat to your financial security.” The angel said somethin', and a faraway movie filled the air. It was the early ‘70’s. The two saw an old stucco house, which would'a been expected in Cowboy Cody's part of the planet, but it was a mighty odd way to built a house in a muggy Southern state. The place was surrounded by a jungle of wild grasses and vines which ought to have been uprooted many years
before. There were giant rats as long as your arm out in that field, and they wiggled in and out of the badly built foundation of the old house. “Your property was in that wretched condition long before a certain young couple moved in,” the angel said. “You, who boast of being an orderly, disciplined soldier...why didn’t you care for your own property?” Time to come up with his first excuse: “I didn’t have time, with all my other duties." “But you found plenty of time to go worry the poor woman who inhabited that house,” the angel said. “See? That’s you getting out of your car to harass her about your rent money, knowing full well her husband is not home.” The scene shifted to a young woman who heard him knockin'. She got up from layin' down with her baby. Marie peeked out the window. Her brow knitted like she was worried. Oh no, she thought. As Marie slipped on her shoes she heard a key turnin' in the lock. She forced on a fake smile and went to the door. “She doesn’t look very happy,” the major said. “Nor would your wife, if someone walked in unannounced on her,” the angel said. The focus zeroed in on the major’s head as he called out: “Anybody home?” As Marie came closer the Major's thoughts were exposed out loud to the angel: Why did I ever rent this place out to hippies anyway? Long hair, long dress, no curtains on the windows, shabby furniture... The angel paused the video and said: “Before we go any further, show me the Scripture which makes it a sin for women to wear long hair and long dresses.” “Well, my wife didn’t look that way,” the major said with a sanctimonious air. “Her skirts were always the proper length, and her coiffure was always lacquered in place. And what was the matter with those people anyway, with no curtains on the windows?” The angel had news for him: “You can’t eat curtains." After that, the focus shifted to a kitchen cabinet. Nothin' was in it but a box of bakin' soda. The weather has interfered with her husband’s outdoor employment,” the angel said, as if the major would care. “Two self-righteous gossips from Marie’s church came by the other day to give her a hard time about her attitude toward a fellow believer who cheated her husband out of his rightful wages. After they finished carving up her soul into tiny little pieces,
they went out for a hamburger. How cheap to kick someone who’s down, but how costly to offer practical help. And to make matters worse, this woman now has to contend with you.” Brother Hardy did his grand inspection tour, checkin' to make sure "those hippies" hadn't trashed it. Marie told him about rats and roaches comin' in from the fields. Her husband had sprayed for bugs and laid giant traps for the field rats, but all in vain. Marie kept the place scrubbed top to bottom but the major let it be known it might be her own fault for not cleanin' even more. “She spent so much time with her broom and mop that they became her closest companions,” the angel said. “The devil tried to make Marie think her own self-worth was tied up with the cleanliness of that old house. How could you have held her responsible for the water which collected within the walls of the stucco which attracted the roaches, or for the big masonry gaps which let in the big rats? Why were you so slow to admit the problem was your own fault, not hers?” “Because I needed the money!” the major barked. “In order to keep my financial ship afloat I had to plug up the leaks. Her husband badgered me so bad I called in the pest control people.” “What if one of those rats had bitten her baby, or someone had been hurt by the rat trap?” the angel asked. “How would you have felt?” Major Hardy snorted. “I sure wouldn’t have felt good about it, but it was like pulling hen’s teeth to get those folks to pay their rent on time.” “Even on an empty stomach?” The angel looked disgusted. “All I can say is this: It was God’s responsibility to look after those people, not mine.” “And who looked after you when you were dead in sin and on your way to hell? Don’t you believe in showing your gratitude to God by treating His children with compassion?” Major Hardy turned up his big nose. “I’ve repaid my debt to God many times over. Just think of all the tithe money I’ve dumped into church offering plates over the years. Those people sure didn’t contribute much, now, did they?” The angel couldn't believe this stubborn mule. “So the spiritual gifts of the poorer saints don’t count for much in your estimation? I find that a bit ludicrous.” “Okay, I’ll admit God blesses His poorer children with spiritual riches too, but I wouldn’t have been doing those kids any favor by letting them stay in
MY house rent-free. They needed to learn some responsibility. I learned plenty of discipline in the Marine Corps.” Major Hardy looked proud as punch. “Marie’s husband worked hard to try to improve your house,” the angel said. “Doesn’t that count for anything?” “Well, it hardly looked like the Taj Mahal when he finished.” “Were you generous with your contribution for materials?” the angel asked point-blank. “Well, why should I have wasted MY money on that old dump?” And now we get to the nitty-gritty: “Major, you aren’t being consistent. If that house wasn’t worth investing in, why was it worth collecting rent on?” “Well, it kept them out of the rain, didn’t it?” A new scene flashed in front of the major: Pots and pans spread out on the floor collectin' rainwater drippin' through the leaky roof. “Some years after the couple moved away the house was condemned by the city and torn down, as you well remember,” the angel said. "But as long as it stood and I still owned the property I had to pay tax on it," Major Hardy grumbled. “No one's disputing that," the angel answered. "But I recall that under the Old Covenant, the rich were commanded by God to act charitably toward their poorer brethren so that they could continue to dwell in His Land. A rich Israelite was forbidden to profiteer from money or food loaned to a poor Israelite. Yet you didn't want to merely cover the cost of owning that property. You were ready to evict those poor people to rent that crumbling house to others who could always pay you on time. If you lived under a better Covenant of grace and had Christ dwelling in your heart by faith, then why did you not show His loving grace toward Marie and her husband until circumstances improved for them?" The major snapped to attention and clicked his heels. “God is a God of order, sir, and I adhere strictly to my principles. I asked no more of those people than I would ask of myself. No one lives in any of MY properties rent-free. Everyone pays the going rate and pulls his own weight. I would expect that of my own son, sir.” The angel groaned. “Do you care to retract that statement before you go in to meet your Maker?” “No sir, let it stand on record that I had a right to my own rent. Fair is fair.” “It shall stand on record, but not in your favor,” the angel said solemnly. “Out of your own mouth you shall be judged thus: You, who were forgiven a
debt as vast as the heavens, refused to forgive a debt infinitely smaller. You stored up plenty of treasures for yourself on earth but what provision have you made for your own home in heaven?” “All the tithe money I just mentioned, doesn’t that count for anything?” “Not here it doesn’t,” the angel answered. “If you failed to see your Redeemer in the face of His poor brethren, you’ve missed Him altogether. In God’s Kingdom you only keep for eternity what you give away. Far better to make a feast for the poor than for the rich who can easily recompense you upon the earth.” “But that isn’t what Brother Silverspoon taught!” the major protested. “He said I could have my pie on earth, with lots of ice cream piled on top, and a big mansion in heaven after I died.” “All that matters is what Jesus taught,” the angel said. “After you left Marie’s church you found another church which preached a gospel more to your liking. And you forgot your First Love. Instead, you invented unto yourself another Christ Whom you will not encounter in the Throne Room. Take, then, your poor offering offered out of a hardened heart and see if it will be sufficient to pay adequate rent to live on God’s heavenly property.”
$$$$$$ So many Christians wonder why they don't get their fair share of Abraham's blessings in this world. Well, unless you ain't afraid to get your hands dirty, and you've got a good strong back, and you own a spread big enough to keep a few of Abraham's blessings on, you've got nothin' to beef about!" Beam Me Back To Abraham’s Blessings Brother Ben Buck and his wife Miranda had just finished doin' that day’s filmin' for Green Manna Ministries’ Holy Land Tour Special. Ben cackled like a hen that just laid the golden egg. "Oh, Miranda! I just can’t get over how people are falling for my latest ‘revelation’ about the blessings of Abraham! What a gold mine!" Miranda giggled like a schoolgirl. "If we don’t stop rehashing that baloney, we’ll start swallowing it ourselves and end up in the crazy house!"
"Not me!" Ben cackled. "I’m the brightest brain in the cosmos! Nobody else can preach the grand old story of Father Abe and his loot the way I do! He keepeth us in green pastures!" That night the couple went out to a local waterin' hole. The booze flowed like milk and honey. Brother Ben’s right-hand man kept pourin' refills. "Time for celebration, Ben," Sam said. "We launched out into the deep and all them ‘Joe Six-Packs’ out in TV Land took the bait. Mercedes showroom, here we come!" Miranda laughed. She gave Ben a smooch and wrapped her arms, heavyladen with fancy jewelry, around his neck. Ben just couldn't hold his liquor that night...or was it something else that launched him into another world? The last thing Ben remembered was arguin' eyeball-to-eyeball with Sam about how to carve up the ministry funds, while Sam's wife Rosie yakked her head off with Miranda. The light was so dim in the bar that nobody noticed Sam’s cupped hand sweepin' over Ben’s wine glass as he leaned over the table to drive his point home. Ben thought nothin' of it, 'cause Sam always waved his hands when he argued. Rosie was wavin’ her hand, too, as she poked at Miranda and pointed over at a dress some woman at the bar was wearin’. Once Ben emptied his drink Sam grinned like a fox in a hen house. What was brewing' in that reprobate’s brain? Ben’s head went all wobbly. He started seein' double. He felt his head grow heavy, then his head sank down, down, down... Ben felt like he was bein' sucked down into a throbbin' bathtub drain, away from the fun and laughter of the wine bar. It looked like Miranda was goin' along with him...or was she? The last sounds Ben heard in the bar were garbled jokes about the "ministry of mooch". He blacked out. A white, bright shape flew over Ben’s head and shouted: "Ben Buck! Robber of the righteous! You shall reap the harvest you have sown and get a taste of your own bait: "The material blessings of Abraham!" Next thing Ben knew, he was layin' face-down in hot, burnin' sand. Oh, no, he thought, I’m in hell. That Abraham scam backfired big-time. Ben heard a familiar aggravatin' whine: "Where’s my Evian bottle? Oh, Ben, didn’t I tell you it was dangerous to go hiking in the Negev on our own? If we don’t get help soon, a snake will bite us!" She swatted Ben on the head with a travel brochure. "Get up, you idiot! You’re the man! You’re supposed to protect me!"
She nagged him till Ben sat up and shook the cobwebs out of his dizzy head. Then they heard a faraway tinkly sound, like bells. "Look!" Miranda cried. "A camel caravan! And people with bed sheets on their heads!" "Must be making a movie," Ben said. "They’ll help us get back to civilization." It looked like a picture out of a children’s Bible story book. A tall man who wore a big turban and a stripy robe came up to the couple. He looks like he’s lord of the cavalcade, Ben thought. He worried about how to talk to those strange people, but if it really was a film crew, no problem. Filmmakers always know English. But where were the trucks for their gear? All Ben saw was a multitude of camels, donkeys, sheep, and cattle. The chieftain spoke softly to Ben while he helped him stand up. His speech sounded a little like the Hebrew jargon Ben heard in Jerusalem. Ben couldn't make heads nor tails of it in real life, but somehow Ben could understand everything that was said to him. Wherever Ben was, there weren't any language barriers. He would try talkin' to the man in English and see if he could savvy. "My son," the elderly man said, "you have gotten lost in your journey. Please come with us as our honored guests and take refreshment. We are about to stop at the next oasis to set up camp. You and your wife must take the evening meal and rest with us there. Let all your needs be on us. Welcome. My name is Abram." A woman in a silky robe rushed up to Miranda. "Oh, Abram!" she cried. "This man’s wife is in need of clothing to protect her from the heat of the sun!" Her mouth hung open when she saw Miranda’s tank top and shorts. She ordered one of her young servant girls to go find extra duds for Miranda. Nobody would'a recognized Miranda now. Miranda had suffered through low-carb diets, face lifts and liposuction to keep Ben from strayin' after younger heifers, so she felt like she'd earned the right to strut her stuff. The only thing she'd ever worn to protect her from the scorchin' desert sun was a glob of sunscreen. But now Miranda was covered head to toe in a colorful caftan with a golden sash. Her short blond mane was covered with a blue silk veil. And in no time Ben was decked out in the fanciest robe the caravan had, topped off with a stripy turban. "They must be doing a remake of Lawrence of Arabia," Ben said. "Only this time, with gorgeous gals in it."
"I hope you’re talking about me, Ben!" Miranda snapped. "Stop staring at that slave girl!" At supper time, Ben sat with the other men, while Miranda joined the ladies of the company, who couldn't get enough of lookin' at her straw-blond hair. Miranda noticed that meat, and lots of it, was the main course. After bein' sizzled on a bed of white-hot coals, it was served up in big hunks with whole wheat flatbread. A slave girl set a rare slab of beef in front of Miranda. "EEK!" Miranda squealed. "I’m a vegetarian!" Ben grinned and called over to her, "They might not have any vegetarian alternatives. Don’t offend them, honey, just eat!" As he stuffed his face on milk-fed veal Ben cackled: "If Dr. Hacksaw could see me now, he’d say: ‘Naughty, naughty, Ben, better watch your cholesterol!" Abram didn’t even crack a smile when Ben told him to stop kiddin' around about being the original Honest Abe, and when would the camera crew arrive to do more filmin' on their movie?" "What is a movie?" Abram asked, as innocently as a child. "I am who I say I am, so why would you question my identity?" Ben rolled up his eyes. "We’ll discuss the latest blockbusters after we prove this is one of Sam’s gags and we’re still in the 21st century. Miranda, see if your cell phone still works. Download a website, then call somebody up. If there’s still a transponder satellite up in heavenly places, I’ll kung fu chop that jerk next time I see him!" Miranda excused herself, then hid herself behind a palm tree where no one was lookin'. She dug into her shoulder bag and fished the phone out. Good. The screen was lit up, so the battery wasn’t dead yet. She breathed hard and tried a video game on it first. It worked. But when she tried to download a web site, she got a CANNOT LOCATE SERVER message. She selected one phone number, then another, from the PHONEBOOK menu, only to get this message: CONNECTION FAILED. PLEASE TRY AGAIN. Before anybody could see her phone she slid it back in her bag and walked back to the campfire. "Oh, Ben!" she said. "Israel is such a tiny country, we can’t possibly be out of range of these numbers! Before we left the hotel it worked just fine!" Ben tried a trick question: "Abram, what’s the name of the son Sarai gave birth to?" He knew full well that if this man’s name was still Abram rather than Abraham, Isaac hadn’t even been born yet. "Sarai’s son exists only in her heart, and mine," the wise old man said. "God shall give him to me and Sarai in due time, if He will still be gracious
unto me after the hasty error of judgment I made. In my zeal to see the promise of the Lord come to pass, I produced a son by my handmaid Hagar. His name is Ishmael. A headstrong lad who does not yet walk before the Lord as I do. See? He is sitting with those boys on the far side of the fire." How could anybody not notice that mouthy kid? Ishamel didn't look much older than ten, but he was barkin' orders at the kitchen staff like Omar the Oil Oligarch. Never a dull moment with wild child Ishmael challenging gentle Abram’s patience, thought Ben. It wouldn’t be too long before Isaac came along. Then Hagar and Ishmael would get mighty jealous and Abram's camp would turn into one big soap opry. "I love Ishmael, even if he is a handful for an old man like me," Abram sighed. "But deep in my heart I know that my Redeemer lives, and His Word of Promise to me and to My house shall surely be fulfilled in its time. My God promised me my seed would exceed the stars of the heavens in number." Abram pointed up at the deep dusky blue of the early evening heavens. Ben and Miranda had never seen so many zillions of bright stars in their who lives. That virginal, peaceful, uncluttered sky was an environmentalist’s dream and a multi-national’s nightmare. Just the sight of that crystal clear sky made Ben and Miranda realize they probably weren't in the 21 st century anymore. Ben laughed to ward off the creeps. "Where I dwell, Abram, about the only stars you’ll see stroll up and down Rodeo Drive. Our skies are a filthy mess, but we’ll get off that subject. I won’t spoil this moment for you." The more Ben talked with Abram, the man of faith, the more sure he was that he was either in a dream or had been beamed back to the Bible Land of 4,000 years ago. "Abram," Ben said, "you will surely think Miranda and I are mad. We were sent here from the distant future. But if I show you evidence of that, will you believe me?" He asked Miranda to fish his cell phone out of her Gucci bag. He showed it to Abram. "The reason I believe you now, Father Abraham, is because of this little device we brought with us. Miranda and I use it to speak with faraway people. But because there is no...er...extra moon in the sky to carry its messages, it will not work. All you can do is play tic-tac-toe on it. See?" Abram was fascinated by the plastic miracle, with its tiny buttons and digital screen. "It is a great wonder, my son, and your clothing was unlike any I had ever seen before. Could it really be that you are not from my world? Could you truly be an angel sent by God to bring me a message?"
"Oh, no, Father Abraham. Miranda and I aren’t angels at all. See? I shall show you another item from the future." He asked Miranda to find her fancy camera, then he showed it to Abram. "We use this to produce images of our loved ones." He had Miranda take a flash picture of Abram in the dusky twilight. She peeled the new photo off the developing paper. Abram could barely believe it. "My own likeness produced from a burst of lightning! Surely this is sorcery! No mere man can do such a thing! Who are you people, and why do you call me ‘Father Abraham’, which means ‘father of a multitude’?" "I am one of your sons. That is why I call you Father Abraham," Ben said, "and you shall have many millions of both natural and spiritual descendants. I do not spring from your loins, but I am a child of faith, even as you are. I preach these truths to millions: Those who are men and women of faith, the same are the children of faithful Abraham. You and your wife Sarai shall have a son together and name him ‘Isaac’. His greatest Descendant will be a poor Carpenter Who will come to make many rich, just like you." Ol' Abram looked mighty confused. "A poor man making others rich? And what does it mean to you to be rich, Ben… possessing a vast hoard of gold?" "Well, Father Abraham, in our world, ordinary people don’t trade with gold anymore. It’s against the law. So they use paper…uh…you don’t know what paper is, I guess. It’s a bit like papyrus, the stationery of the Egyptians. It’s green and has big numbers written on it. Miranda," he called, "do you still have that hundred-dollar bill you never exchanged?" "Yes, dear," Miranda said. She pulled it from her wallet and gave it to Ben. The old chieftain took the money and turned it over a few times. "It looks like a green leaf. How thin this is, how light to transport," he said. "And those strange characters are numbers?" "Yes, Father Abraham. "That is how we write ‘one hundred’ in my faraway land. One hundred bucks is a lot of money to poor people, but not very much to me." "Indeed," Abram said. "How strange that its value surpasses gold in your society. Well are you named: ‘Ben Buck’, which means ‘Son of Buck’, the wealth you so covet. And whose image is on this ‘buck’? That of your ancestor?" "Oh, no!" Ben laughed. "He is a Ben, same as myself, but he is not a Buck, though his image is on one. He is Ben Franklin, a wise old man who said: "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."
"So you highly value this leafy thing just because the man on it is reputed to possess a wealth of wisdom?" Abram frowned. "All true wisdom springs only from knowing God as your dearest Friend." Ben shook his head and grinned. "Ben Franklin will die many, many years before I am born, Father Abraham. But a truer friend I have yet to meet. The more Ben Franklins people give me, the more blessed I am. And that’s what I tell people everywhere I go. Your greatest Descendant will come to earth to make it possible for men like me to get many green bucks so we can dwell in spiritual green pastures on the earth so long as we live…at least that’s what we teach at Green Manna Ministries. We took that name because ‘manna’ is the food of heavenly angels, and prosperity comes down from heaven." Abram looked worried. "Then you must serve an entirely different god, my son. A paper god with images of dead gods on it! That is all wrong. That is idolatry even more foolish than I beheld in Ur of the Chaldees. I serve the Unseen God, the Eternal One. Ever since the Fall of Adam, men of faith have clung to the Hope of a Promised One Who would redeem us from the curse common to all mankind: sin and death. Such a mighty One sent from God will come to impart to us the eternal riches which endure. My finest robes can be eaten with moths. Bandits could steal all my gold and silver tomorrow if the Lord permitted. My flocks and my herds, do they live forever? A lightning storm could wipe them all out tomorrow. Everything my eye can see could perish in a single night. My hope lies in things which are not seen, rather than in the fading glory all around me. I live to please My Maker, and all that I have is from Him, and is His. My eyes look for His salvation. I am but a wayfarer in this earth, an exile from the Garden of the Lord who longs to come home to the Eternal City in the heavenlies where my Maker dwells. No, my son, when God sends His Promised Seed, it will be to bring His salvation to men of faith, not to send down from the sky green leaf idols to feed the greed of men." Shallow as a saucer, Ben said: "Your clothes might get motheaten, but MY clothes last for years. I bought them with many Ben Franklin bucks. My suits are custom-made of raw silk fortified with Duralast Polyester. Whenever I donate my old duds to the Salvation Army, there’s still plenty of wear left in them. As for my other wealth, my church has provided a comprehensive insurance policy for me…."
"I see the confused look on your face, Father Abraham, but I swear I came back 4,000 years in time to receive some of the wealth I’m entitled to as your spiritual descendant." Abram shook his head. "I see an honored guest sitting before me, nothing more. How can you possibly be my descendant when you are so unlike me?" "But the angel sentenced me to enjoy your blessings!" Ben begged. "You can’t argue with an angel, Father Abraham!" "Very well," the old man said, though he was still suspicious of the polished con artist sittin' across the fire from him. "You may be talking out of your head, and you may even be mad, but I am a fair man. I will give you a trial period of 30 days. If you are able to properly care for some of my blessings, I will believe you are who you say and give you and your wife a share of my wealth. It will take more than magic toys and green idol leaves to impress me, Ben Buck." Abram was generous to a fault. Ben and Miranda Buck were given their own tent and staff of servants to wait on them. Miranda’s chief maid Naamah knelt down to sponge sweat off the face of her new mistress as she laid moanin' and groanin' on her silk cushions, gripin' about the endless heat. Miranda was like a baby bawlin' for its bottle, she missed her Evian bottle so much. "Are you better, Mistress Miranda?" the maid asked her, with a wily grin. "Yeah, I guess. Go fetch me more wine, Naamah. The well water might contain E-Coli, and I can’t drink it." "Ah...Mistress"....the pretty girl said. "You have no children of your own?" "We have two daughters who are with friends back at the hotel," Miranda said. "Eight and twelve years old. They didn’t want to go hiking with us in this hot sun." "But you have no son, Mistress…if I may ask?" "Naamah, I’m 41. I just had a tummy tuck and don't feel like having any more kids." The girl's almond eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. "Oh, but that is no problem, Mistress! If you are not well enough to produce an heir for Master Ben, I will gladly be at your service if you will give me to him to wife." Miranda got so unhinged she fired her slave girl on the spot and promoted a homelier slave to her fill position. She’d have to keep an eye on "Master Ben".
It wasn’t long before Sarai paid a social visit. "Miranda," she said, "If you are unfamiliar with our ways, perhaps I should teach you to properly run a household. Can you spin?" "Only a roulette wheel," Miranda said. "Can you bake?" "Not without a muffin mix, no." "Can you make chicken soup?" the mother of all Jewish mothers asked. "Not without a can opener and microwave." "Can you weave?" "Only in and out of rush hour traffic." After a few more questions Sarai felt like she'd had it. What kind of woman was this, who couldn’t spin, weave, bake, or even draw water out of a well? When Sarai offered to teach Miranda how to knead unleavened bread and bake it in a clay oven, Miranda made excuses. She might pull a muscle, and she was too far away from her personal trainer. Her nails might split, and she were too far away from Mitzi, her manicurist. Days passed. While Miranda laid around in her tent and did nothin', slave girls cooked and washed for her. They sponged and fanned her as she bellyached about everything under the sun. Miranda worried about her dark roots growin' out, so she kept her head wrapped up even on the hottest days. She missed her herbal shampoo, conditioner, hair straightenin' gel, Pearl Drops Toothpaste and Kleenex. She worried about her e-mails pilin' up unanswered. Thousands of years and thousands of miles away, Sam and Rosie must be havin' a ball with those surplus ministry funds. As for Ben, he wished he could ditch the flocks and herds and get back to his big bucks. Back home, Ben couldn’t even paper-train his own puppy. He could barely handle a computer mouse, much less round up livestock. How gross, havin' to deliver a calf without rubber gloves! Ben’s modern back ached like hell from helpin' Abram’s servants haul rocks and dig up dry roots for firewood. All those hours loungin' around the pool sippin' cocktails had shrivelled up Ben’s arm muscles and made his midsection flabby. He swore a blue streak when a flint knife he used to skin a carcass broke and nicked his thumb. He lost his lunch when the guts slipped out of the carcass. Even Abram's greenhorn cattlemen laughed at Ben behind his back. Why, he’d never even cleaned a fish before. Abram promised Ben he’d soon have his own personal slaves to do all the hard, dirty chores if he passed the trial period. The way Abram saw it, no man is qualified to give another man orders unless he knows how to do the job right himself.
The day came when Abram’s tribe had to move on to find new rangeland for the livestock. Miranda whined about runnin' out of Wet Wipes and Chapstick on the hot, dusty trail. She hated drinkin' the unfiltered well water, and she didn't trust the raw goat’s milk. She hated drinkin' out of a leather wine bag, "because it tasted like shoes". Visions of Dove Bars, Popsicles, Caesar salad, and Diet Coke filled her head. Oh, for a Big Gulp packed with ice! She pined away for Pizza Hut! She missed her mocha cappuccinos. Even the camels thought Miranda was funny. Even though her own camel came with a de luxe padded pavilion on top, she swore with every jerk and bump. Every now and then the camel would turn his head to grin and hee-haw at Miranda, as if it knew how saddlesore she got from ridin' on him. Miranda's back was a chiropractor’s nightmare. But skinny-minny Miranda had lost more weight than any of her girl friends and she felt mighty proud of herself. Ben did some cryin' of his own. Where, oh, where, were Abram’s REAL blessings, the green ones with numbers on 'em? The only greenery in Abram’s world was the odd oasis they'd come across in their travels. Ben’s muscles were tied up in knots from all those blessings he wasn't man enough to take care of. How long would the angel make him suffer before he could get back to the coddled comfort of his hotel room? Ministry associates wondered if Ben and Miranda ever would come back to the real world, after sufferin' the weirdest mental meltdown and bein' hauled away to an observation unit. The high octaine angel dust Sam and Rosie had slipped in Ben and Miranda's drinks as a joke had blown their brains to kingdom come. That alone should'a shamed Sam and Rosie into fessin' up to the cops. But the smell of crisp hundred-dollar bills and checks kept 'em way off the Straight and Narrow.
$$$$$$ But that ain't the end of the story. Ben Buck's got a lot more territory to cover on his rocky road to enlightenment.
Beam Me Back To Green Pastures
Pastor Ben Buck and Miranda were back on track…health-wise, that is. In spite of the hair-raisin' nightmare they went through on their angel dust trip, both of 'em still hung on tight to their Prosperity Religion. It would cost 'em way too much to get their religion in line with the solid rock truth of the Bible. Only the doctors at the observation unit knew anything about the horrible head trip Ben and Miranda had when they were beamed back to the low-tech world of Abraham. The stuff Abraham had to do without, well, that was too hard for that money-mad couple to believe: no air-conditionin', no Rolex on Abraham's wrinkled wrist, no personal jet to the Caribbean. And as for Abraham's type of wealth, nothin' much was worth goin' back in time for. Just a big mob of shaggy goats and sheep, mooin' cattle, persnickety camels. A whole lotta livestock which needed constant feedin', waterin' and cleanin' up after. Endless backbreakin' work for Ben. That greenhorn had spent a miserable time bein' on probation with Abraham. What a mean thing to do, makin' beergut Ben work like a pack mule to prove he was man enough to handle responsibility. Miranda remembered wonderin' how Sarai put up with the heat, the dust, and lack of modern conveniences she took for granted in her own life. Miranda wondered how Sarai could'a kept her good looks for so long, livin' under Third World conditions. What if Sarai started to sag and needed a facelift or Botox? How humiliatin' for Miranda and Ben, to have their mental health checked over and over again at the medical center after comin' back to the real world. But now those two moneymoochers were back in the religious meat market where they belonged, as greedy for the green as ever, and neither of 'em had learned much from the real Abraham of the Bible. Once they got released from drug rehab, Ben fumed about the hell Sam put him and Miranda through. He threatened to sue the pants off slimy Sam. But Sam sank to his knees and begged Ben to forgive and forget like any real Christian would. Sam promised he'd keep his nose clean from here on out. And Besides, Sam said he'd make it worth Ben's while to forgive him. Not only would Sam and Rosie let Ben and Miranda have their own slice of the surplus ministry pie they'd feuded over, but Sam would dream up even more lucrative donor appeals to pry money out of TV viewers. Sam knew how to cook the books to balance income with alleged outgo. From now on Ben could skim the cream off the ministry kickbacks while Sam and Rosie took what was left. Ben just had to be reasonable. Besides, Sam argued, nobody could say they'd SEEN him spike anybody's drink, so why stir up bad publicity which would only scare the fish away? It would be bad for
everybody. They were all tryin' to make an easy buck sellin' religious fairy dust, so why spoil the magic for the 'faith partners' out in TV Land? Ben grumbled his forgiveness. Then he got up off the sunny veranda and went into a big refreshment lounge which overlooked his swimmin' pool. Miranda stayed at the patio table with Sam and Rosie while Ben went to the wine cabinet. Ben's back was turned to his friends at the time, so they couldn't see much through the slidin' door. Ben popped open a bottle of fancy French champagne. He filled up two blue wine glasses and two pink ones. Ben sneaked a quick peek out at the veranda. The three others were laughin' and carryin' on as if nothin' had ever happened. Ben dipped into his pants pocket and lifted out a tiny plastic bag. Careful not to contaminate the blue glasses, he mixed somethin' powdery into the pink ones with a swizzle stick. Rosie looked at Miranda and said she needed to go inside to fix her makeup. At the same time, Ben jumped when he heard a loud crash. He rushed out of the lounge into the hallway, slammin' the door. "Stupid cats!" he yelled. Caldonia and Calpurnia, his two pampered Persian cats, were scrappin' again. This time they'd knocked over and broken Ben's favorite alabaster statue. It was smashed to smithereens on the marble floor. The two cats were still squealin' and fightin' when Rosie went to work. She opened the bottom of the cabinet and took out two more blue and two more pink wine cups. She poured the drink from the blue wine cups into the clean pink cups, then filled the clean blue goblets with wine from the pink ones filled by Ben. She arranged the cups on the tray. Quick as a wink Rosie put the empties in the balsa cabinet and shut the door. Good, she thought, the cats are still fighting and I've got time... By the time the cats calmed down and Ben got back to the refreshment lounge, Rosie was already back at the veranda table. She looked relaxed. Ben brought the wine out and said, "Darn cats. That butler's never here when you need him. Too chicken. Occupational hazard, breaking up cat fights. See the scratch on my arm?" Miranda pouted like a mama hen. "Oh, Ben, why don't I ring Gracie and she'll bring you a Band-aid and Bactine for that?" "Naw, it's just a tiny booboo. Here, Sam, here's yours." Ben handed him a pink goblet. "And a rose goblet for Rosie, too." "To friendship and letting bygones be bygones," Ben said, as he raised his glass in a toast.
Miranda got cold feet. Would Ben really do what he had in mind? "Hey, wait a minute!" she cried. "Just because of these two, we had to spend six weeks drying out in rehab, and I've had to make excuses for us being in that place!" She set her glass down. "No way! If YOU want to forgive those jokers, Ben, go ahead!" She got a sour look on her face and walked off. "She's still a bit fragile," Ben said. "Nothing a night at the Film Priemiere wouldn't cure. Give her time. Hey, I'll drink with you guys. To friends," he said. The glasses clinked and Ben took a long drink. Only when Sam saw Rosie gulp her drink down did he stop sniffin' round the edge of his cup and take a swallow himself. Ben finished his glass and then, as if to make up for Miranda's hard feelin's, he grabbed Miranda's forsaken wine and drained it on one breath. "Know what, Sam?" Ben cackled. We raked in millions from that Abraham scam. But there's other virgin territory to exploit. David was rich, Solomon was rich…" Ben said no more. His head wobbled, then he slumped onto the floor. "Oh, my lord!" Rosie cried. "Déjà vu! I've done it THIS time! Sam, call an ambulance!" It was one full-blown freakout. As Ben whirled through space and time, a favorite childhood chorus blared through his brain: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want He maketh me down to lie In Pastures Green He leadeth me The silent waters by. Ben's arm felt like it was on fire. Calpurnia's claws sure were lethal. "Oh, for cool still waters in green pastures," he moaned over and over. He blacked out. "I found him here, my lord, beside the watering hole," Ben understood someone to say, though oddly enough, the words weren't said in English, the only language Ben was any good at. "Give the man a drink of water and a few raisins to revive him," a takecharge kind of voice said. "He must have fainted from the heat. Once he has sufficiently recovered, I shall ask him who he is and inquire about his origin." A copper-skinned man wearin' a turban rubbed oil on Ben's arm. Then he held a clay cup up to Ben's mouth. Ben choked and coughed from the dust
in the air, but he finally took sips of the unfiltered oasis water. Ben hoped he would not get Montezuma's revenge from it. The man opened a small leather bag and offered Ben some raisins. Weird-lookin' raisins, too, still attached to a stem and a bit crunchy, 'cause seedless raisins hadn't been invented yet. But Ben was happy to be showed this hospitality. At least he didn't have Miranda to worry about this time. Life in ancient Bible Land was enough of a grind without havin' to put up with her gripin'. Ben took a long hard look to get a feel for where he was. He was layin' in a patch of scrub grass, next to a deep desert pool which was seasonally watered by a gulch which snaked down from the high hills. There wasn't much vegetation in the place. Ben stared into the distance. The rugged hills glowed with a reddish haze from the late afternoon sun. Craggy rocks cast long shadows over a rocky wilderness. Ben was surrounded by several hundred bearded men dressed up in all manner of cloaks, tunics and turbans. It looked like they were filmin' a Bible epic. Some of the men carried spears with flinty points. Others had quivers of arrows slung across their backs. Shields, whenever Ben saw them, looked makeshift and patched together from scavenged leather and wood. Here and there Ben could see women doin' chores or tendin' fires next to goat hair tents. There were a lot of little kids runnin' around playin'. A red-headed man circulated in the crowd of men. They treated him like a VIP, but acted like best buddies with him, too. The man carried a sword which looked to be way too long and heavy for him. The man walked with the air of a king without bein' snobby about it. Compared to men of Ben's time, he was short and wiry, but looked like he was in tiptop shape. You could tell he used his Stairmaster and hadn't donated it to the Salvation Army, as Ben had his. Whenever the man walked, he made no sound. Just like an Apache warrior. The man came up to Ben and said: "I am David, son of Jesse. Who might you be, and where are you from?" "I am Ben Buck," Ben said. "I come from very far away. I am a stranger in this land." "So how did you come to this place?" David asked. "You were half dead when we found you, and talking out of your head." "I was sent from the future, David. "I will not be born for nearly three thousand years." David's men hee-hawed over that one. They swore they'd never heard such a crazy notion. Ben pulled his cell phone from his pocket and made sure
the battery worked. It had been recharged just before he drank the champagne. Ben told David he had a toy he wanted to show him. He stood back and took a picture of him. When the light flashed, David blinked and shouted: "You would kill me with lightning?" He pulled out his sword. His men tried to grab Ben but he said, "Hold it! I'm not trying to hurt you guys! Ben twisted the cell phone away from them so they wouldn't grab it and smash it. Talk about fightin' the paparazzi. Ben showed David the picture on the tiny popup screen and said, "Surely you have never seen a device like this before, which can reproduce a man's image in an instant. And never have you seen such clothing as mine." Ben pointed at his suit jacket and his tie, then the watch on his wrist. "This is called a Rolex. It tells me what time of day it is. It says that it is four o'clock…er, I mean, the tenth hour of the day. At least that's what time it was when I was suddenly taken from the land of my origin." "Surely it is sorcery!" one of the men hollered. "David, a conjurer is in our midst! You must run him through this very moment!" "Hold your peace, Jubal," David ordered. "If this man is not against us, he must be on our side. Perhaps he is running away from an adversary, just as we are." Ben looked into David's eyes. "David, you are destined to become a man of great wealth. You are destined to become the king of Israel. One day you will attain to God's favor and you will no longer have to run from your enemy King Saul." David lifted an eyebrow. "And who are you to tell me I do not yet stand in God's favor?" "Well, David, isn't it evident that you must be doing something wrong or you'd be cooling your heels in a palace right now? If God were already smiling upon you, you would always be comfortable and well-fed. Your face is hollow from hunger. Where I come from, we know what those green pastures mean that you're always singing about." Ben reached in his pocket and withdrew a wad of cash. "See? These green papers are called dollars. They are what makes people of my time happy, David. And when God blesses me with many dollars, I'm lying in green pastures." David thought it was funny. He picked up a twenty dollar bill and flipped it in the air. "As flimsy as tree leaves! Can these truly satisfy your hunger, Ben Buck?"
"Sort of, David. You take these dollars to McDonald's and you can gorge yourself on Big Macs and fries. Where I come from, dollar bills are worth more than fine gold." A strong breeze blew the bill out of David’s hand. Old Jubal caught it and flipped it into the fire. “But it doesn’t stand the trial of fire, Ben Buck! Lookie there!” Ben went ballistic. “You gotta be crazy, man! That’s a sin against the poor! A poor man could buy a mountain of Big Macs with that money! You’re lucky the feds didn’t catch you desecrating Uncle Sam’s legal tender! You’d do time in Leavenworth!” "You’re the crazy one, babbling such insanity!" some of David’s men yelled. "The hot sun has roasted your brains, Ben Buck!" "Maybe so, but if you had enough of those green bucks you just burnt to a crisp, you and your leader wouldn't have to roast under a hot desert sun everyday, hungry and thirsty and running like a jack rabbit. Instead, David could sit in a fancy palace and be fanned by slaves…since air conditioning won't be invented till after World War II. David, as a brother in the Lord I'm going to exhort you: If you would only learn to release the Force of Faith and start confessing victory, old Saul would tuck tail and run away from YOU instead of you having to run away from him, and your father-inlaw troubles would be all over." David shook his head. "Ben Buck, you're speaking foolishness, and you'd better not speak disrespectfully of my father-in-law…even if he is trying to kill me. Those green things which float away on the breeze cannot satisfy my hunger for God, and it is an insult to His honor to say that they are tokens of His favor. I am a devoted servant of the One True God. And I love Him for Who He is, not for what He gives me. The Lord is my Rock and my Salvation. He only is my defense and my Refuge. In prosperity and in adversity, the Lord is my Shepherd, now and forevermore." Ben blushed and bowed his head. "You are a man of great piety, David, but my blessings are so real they can be touched. I have many things to thank God for, David. Useful blessings which improve the quality of my life in the real world." "Let us not quarrel," David said. "You might very well be a sorcerer from a foreign land, or even an ordinary man from a land we know nothing of. But thus far you have done nothing to harm us and I will not sit in hasty judgment upon you. You will feel better once you have rested and enjoyed
our hospitality for a few days. Then, if you choose to remain among us, you may begin military training with my men." David ordered a young man to bring his harp. "Do you enjoy music, Ben Buck?" "Sure do. I'm sort of an old fogey and I dig Bob Dylan, the Eagles, Elvis…" "Perhaps this will cure your madness, Ben," David said. He picked up his harp and began to strum a delicate, pretty tune, a style of music Ben hadn't heard before. Ben yawned, then fell asleep on a straw mat beside the still waters. Ben's time trip fast-forwarded to a trainin' field out in the wilderness. No matter how Ben tried he couldn't bend the bow right. His forearm, exercised only with a computer mouse, was way too weak to swing a sword or throw a spear. He couldn't even hit the broad side of a barn with a sling. Every arrow Ben shot would start out straight, then lurch up in a curve before landin' well short of the clay target. The other men would point and laugh at him. David just walked up and patted him on the back. "At least you are trying to learn. And though you have not yet been born, you are not so youthful as myself. Pay them no heed, Ben Buck." "Oh, well, David, what do you expect? All I got in high school archery was a lazy C." Ben got tired of bein' the butt of jokes. Boldly he said: "It's high time I practiced what I preach! All you guys are wasting your time, fighting with bows and arrows. Spears and arrows aren't a Christian way to solve conflicts! You've gotta fight spiritual enemies with spiritual weapons. Satan is the one who's pulling King Saul's strings. The devil's been making Saul chase us all over the place like a chicken with its head cut off, and right now I'm gonna teach you guys how to wage war in the invisible realm! "Stop whining to God to save you! That's just a religious copout for spiritual laziness and unbelief! God expects US to take authority over our enemies and subdue them! Positive confession releases the Force of Faith to go forth to do battle on your behalf! Speak unto that problem and order it to go away! We're all hungry, so let's all release the Force of Faith right now to bring us our dinner! Big Macs, we command you to come to us on every wave to feed us right now!" Ben grabbed his breadbasket and cried: "Nothing yet, but true faith is persistent! Let's ACT our faith out now! I'm travailing in birth. The thing I
desire is real but it's still in the invisible realm. I am laboring to bring forth the answer to my need! Ugh! I groan in childbirth, expecting to see big juicy hamburgers emerge into the visible realm to feed us! Food, come to us! And while we're at it, let's fight our enemies! King Saul, I confess that even now, your mule is sinking in miry clay and you can't go on chasing us! I confess that we are free to beat our bows and arrows into plowshares because the power of my faith is even now breaking yours into toothpicks! "David," Ben added for good measure, "by the power of my words I LO-OO-OSE you from the bondage of poverty! You are free to become the rich man God intended you to be! Follow my example and God will love you and bless you and lead you into green pastures just like He's done for me. Ben pointed at his expensive suit, which looked threadbare and rumpled from wilderness life. "If only you would dress for success and look like a child of God, you would deserve to be blessed like a child of God, and you would ATTRACT success! Never again would you suffer the curse of poverty and suffer the penalty of having to dwell in a dry and thirsty land! David, it's a sin to be poor and hungry, so repent of your lack of faith right NOW!" More than a few of David's men got riled up. They charged Ben. Ben ran off like a ruptured duck. Rocks and dirt came flyin' Ben's way. He blacked out, then found himself lyin' on a cold marble floor. He heard a loud, scary voice: "You dare bring THAT weakling into my presence? Will you call THAT a fitting tribute to your king?" Ben peeked up. Two scruffy-looking men in raggedy robes stood over Ben. They were so scared of that terrible voice they fell on their faces and whined: "O Lord King, we present this man to you as just we found him lying in the wilderness. We swear by the light of the moon that we did not first strip him of booty." A guard rushed over to those two people rustlers. He grabbed one of 'em and held a bowie knife up to his throat. "You BETTER not have taken anything from him! From the looks of this poor specimen, his adornments are worth far more than he is!" "We swear he is worth his weight in gold, and he comes with all the attachments, one of the sidewinders snivelled. "FOOLS!" the angry voice hollered. "It is bad enough that you Bendonites are stirring up rebellion against me, and my wives are nagging me about the latest teen idol craze. But do you think presenting your king with a weak, middle-aged slave you scraped up off the side of the road is going to placate my wrath, or settle past due accounts? You must still make up what
is lacking in the tribute your tribe owes! And you'd better have it by this time next week, with compounded interest! GET OUT OF MY SIGHT!" The King’s secret service hustled the people rustlers outside. Once Ben's head cleared, he sat up on the floor. It just about took his breath away. This was the mother of all audience chambers, in the mother of all palaces. Compared to this place, Las Vegas looked like Sober City. Any archaeologist would give his eye teeth to dig around this fancy artifact. Porcelain columns sparkled with gold trim. Gorgeous oriental tapestries adorned the walls, along with itsy-bitsy mosaic patterns. Ben saw twelve golden lions. There was one great big lion on each end of six carpeted marble steps. Those steps led up to a shiny throne of gold-plated ivory. And sittin' on that mother of all Middle Eastern thrones was a frownin' monarch with jet-black curls that fell to his shoulders. It must be Solomon, Ben thought, the richest king in all human history. At least Ben got that part of his preachin' right! Solomon's jewel-studded crown was so massive Ben wondered if the King's head ached from the weight of it. Solomon wore a bright scarlet robe done up real fancy in needlework and tiny gemstones. He held a scepter topped off with a big diamond solitaire. On both sides of him there were servants who wore lookalike velvet nightshirts trimmed in gold. They cooled Solomon off with great big ostrich feather fans. Pretty girls knelt on the floor, softly strummin' harps for his pleasure. The air smelt of spices and flowers. Hundreds of people in robes of many colors stood in the giant room, gawkin' at the golden glory of one mortal man. The King stared down at Ben as if he was a bug. "Who are YOU!" Ben’s brain whirled. This was David’s son, and chances are, Solomon would'a been told about Ben Buck bein' run off from his daddy's army camp. On the spot he sputtered: "I am Ben Balaam. I come from a city called El Dinero. It is many miles from here. I am from the future. I will not be born for another 3,000 years, Your Majesty." The King's court roared. Solomon got mad. "You are either the basest of fools or a total madman. If you knew what the penalty is for lying to your king, you would not play the jester before me. But I will put you to the test to see whether you are a liar or a fool. If you truly are from the future, then surely you would know what shall befall me and my house in the coming years. Will my dynasty continue?" Talk about a no-win situation. "It will, Your Majesty." Ben swallowed hard. "And who shall succeed me as king?"
"A son called Rehoboam, sire." "Will he be a wise man, or a fool?" Ben blinked. If he told Solomon that ten out of twelve tribes of Israel would end up rebellin' against his son Rehoboam, and Rehoboam would lose most of Solomon's Kingdom to a persnickety upstart name'o Jeroboam, a spear between the ribs might end Ben's preachin' career for good. But doubletalk was a trick of the trade that TV preacher could use to save his own hide. "Ah…sire, we are all mortal men. It is not for one so lowly as myself to sit in judgment on a fellow man as being a wise man or a fool. Even the wisest of men do foolish things, and even a fool can redeem himself and become wise. Your son Rehoboam will show himself to be a decisive man of firm leadership who does not cave in to the whims of weaker men. Rehoboam will be a man of iron will who will make solid decisions and carry them out. Others will try to change him, but he will not bend like a reed in the wind. He will set his face as a flint and what he starts he will finish. Such an admirable trait in a man. You really should be proud of him, sir." The king nodded. "Have you any other words of wisdom for me, Ben Balaam?" "Your Majesty, I just happened to overhear your lamentation about how your wives want some new idols constructed. Perhaps I can be of some service. Where I come from, I excelled in gaining much wealth for myself by my inventiveness and cleverness in matters pertaining to religion." The king raised his bushy eyebrows. "You are not of my nation Israel, I presume? Your beardlessness and strange apparel testify of foreign origin." Ben rubbed his face, riddled with nicks from the flint razor he’d shaved with in the past few weeks. "I am from America, a land which will not even come into existence for 2700 more years. If it please the King, I shall show you evidence for that." Ben reached into his jacket pocket and took out a laminated card. "This is my state driver’s license, with my name and picture on it, and the date of issue." A servant handed it to Solomon. "I cannot decipher that strange script," Solomon said. "Care to explain it to me?" Ben did so. He explained that the date on the card meant how many years had passed since the the birth of Christ. "He is the One I preach about," Ben said with a shrug. "He is My heavenly King. I serve Him well, and the rewards are great. See the ruby ring on my finger, and the watch on my wrist? It tells me the time of day, and in my country, only men of means wear these elegant adornments."
"I am not so sure about the purity of your heart, only that you are a shrewd man of ambition.” Solomon turned Ben’s hands over and looked real close at 'em. He touched Ben's soft palms. “Hm-m-m...your hands are smooth except for a bit of a callus where the left thumb meets the forefinger, and calluses at the joints of the right fingers. You are quite unused to heavy toil, but I surmise that you might have been an archer at some stage in your life. Am I correct?” “Yes, your Majesty, but a third-rate one. I did not get this beautiful watch or this ruby ring through the wages of manual labor.” Ben swallowed hard. If he didn’t grease some influential palm fast, he might be shipped off to the salt mines. “Sire, my fingers are pudgier than yours, so my rings wouldn’t fit you, but the watch ought to adjust nicely to your wrist. Would you like to try it on, sire?” The King slid it on his left wrist. He was fascinated by the platinum gold band and all the futuristic doo-hickeys on the timepiece. “It is magic!" the King said with wonder. "See how the little arrow circles round its tiny face!” Ben grinned. “Oh, yes, your Majesty. And notice the little crown logo. This watch was made specially for men of distinction like you! I came back in time just to present it to you and to learn all about your great wisdom, and how you got so rich! But as you know, I got waylaid by brigands on my way here. That is why my clothing is rumpled and dirty.” “It is clothing such as I have never seen,” Solomon said. “Coarse in texture compared to mine. It reminds me of a gray owl with a ribbon of scarlet down its front, and it is sober compared to my own attire.” “A gray owl, you said?” Ben smiled wide. “In my land, sire, owls are reputed to be birds of wisdom. So I wear the garments of wisdom when I cater to my people’s religious needs.” “Whatever,” Solomon said. “But wolves can appear in sheep’s clothing, and a jackass can feign himself to be an owl. You say your name is Ben Baalam. That means “son of Balaam. Balaam was a wizard who got the children of Israel into hot water with God.” Ben looked scared. “Oh, no, your Majesty, that Balaam’s not MY dad! You’re talking about some other Balaam. I come from a different country than that crumb did. I don’t lead people into hot water with God, I lead them to still waters in green pastures!” “Your attire IS dirty from your travels.” Solomon said. “We shall remedy that. We have plenty of clothing in your size, and your raiment shall
be appointed unto you, since you will remain here in my service indefinitely. You’re a bit unpolished around the edges, but I like you, Ben Balaam.” “And I have so much talent to offer your Majesty,” Ben said. “My skill in marketing religious paraphernalia made me rich enough to buy Rolexes and ruby rings. I also had a horseless chariot which moved faster than a bowshot!” “That is remarkable," Solomon said. "I cannot yet dispense with my horses, but my fleet of chariots are on the cutting edge of technology and they’re the envy of every other king on earth. What else did you possess, Ben Balaam?” “I had an elegant mansion loaded with hi-tech mod cons...but, of course, it was a tar paper shack compared to your pad. But it was a happy home. And a happy home is a beautiful home. Speaking of keeping your home happy, I would remind your Majesty of my expertise in all things religious. If your wives need me to design a few religious icons for them, I’m at their...ah...your service, sire.” It was hard for the King to keep a straight face. “You certainly are a heathen rogue, aren’t you, Ben Balaam, wanting to be of service to my harem? You’re really offbeat, too. When my father was in the wilderness recruiting men of war, they came from all walks of life. Some were fools, yet only a few were wise. Others were barking mad. One madman in particular incurred my father’s displeasure because he kept saying things which lowered the other men’s morale. That man had the easiest MOS in the army. All he had to do was watch the baggage while the others fought. That, in itself, was no disgrace, since my father considered it an honorable calling to guard the baggage if you were too weak to fight. But this particular chap was so cowardly he would hide under the camel furniture whenever he heard the approach of distant hoofbeats. One day he laid low while a few foxes invaded the chuckwagon and made off with a few legs of mutton. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he let his comrades know they had fallen out favor with the Almighty because why would they always be broke and on the run, unless their ways were not pleasing to the Lord? The other men got tired of giving that babbling fool the benefit of the doubt, so they chased that jackal out of the camp in nothing flat.” Ben’s heart was in his mouth. “If I may inquire, Majesty, what was his name?” “Ben Buck. My father told me that man’s vain babblings were so foolish they were unworthy of being repeated to me. I believe he was an itinerant
sorcerer with a bagful of magic tricks trying to con an easy living out of others because he was too slothful to hold down a real job. But all my father cared to tell me was what an ungrateful, arrogant jackass the fellow was, the way he cast aspersions on my father’s relationship with God. But what do you expect?” Solomon sighed. “Envy is the rottenness of the bones and that rotten rogue envied those brave enough to go into battle. But don’t you think it’s a bit fishy that both of you are ‘Bens’ and both of you claimed to come from the future? I hope you aren’t lying about your true identity.” Ben heard a sword being drawn. “Oh, no, sire! There’s a multitude of time travelers tripping on the highways and byways, and I definitely am not Ben Buck! I swear it on a stack of Strong’s Concordances!” “I am a king of judgment and justice and I do not condemn a man until his guilt is firmly established,” Solomon said. “Besides, our country teems with colorful characters with odd monickers. There’s no end of Mahalaleels, Mephibosheths and Maher-shalal-hash-bazes running about. And our land abounds with Bens. Ben Judah, Ben Ammon, Ben Hadad, and countless Bens of Belial. But there’s only one Ben Buck, and you’re much too prudent and intelligent to have been the babbling brook of idiocy my father’s men drove into the wilderness.” Ben breathed easy. “That is true, Majesty. Others always underestimate me, and had I been such an idiot, I would never have been so clever at money-making in my own land. Where it concerns prying money out of tight fists, I have few equals. And religion is my specialty, sire.” “Your religion, such as it is, has served your own purposes well,” Solomon answered. “Even heathens from far-off lands need to get their daily dose of religion. Just ask the Queen of Sheba. But I will let some other heathen carve a few idols for my wives. You say you are not that same coward my father’s men drove from the camp. Well, I shall prove you to make certain you are not lying to me. You shall be put to work collecting my tribute from the disgruntled populace. If you survive the ordeal it will prove you are a prudent man with a persuasive tongue. If you are killed in the line of duty you will prove you are no coward. But if you tuck tail and run, you will show yourself to be that same infamous scoundrel who called into question my father’s friendship with God. No other assignment I could give you demands so much courage as the post of royal revenue agent. Daily my tax agents face hostility and stones. Are you prepared to prove yourself to your king, Ben Balaam?”
Ben felt his neck in the noose again, but he had no choice. "I can charm money out of a Scottish Scrooge, Majesty.” “Very well, then. You shall be shown to your quarters, fed your dinner, and shown the hospitality of my palace. Tomorrow you shall be briefed on the minutiae of your mission. Dismissed, Ben.” Livieried servants led Ben away. And so it came to pass that Ben Buck lived off the fat of the land. His digs in the palace were second to none. Whenever it got hot pretty slave girls fanned him. Miranda could wait. What more could a man want? Ben sure didn't go hungry. He dined on the ritziest kosher cuisine. He dressed in the softest silks. Every day except the Sabbath Ben would be chauffeured around in a royal chariot to pay a visit to any towns and villages where the King's tribute was due . He stopped off at one farm where some woman was haulin' a bale of hay on her back. She looked tired and cranky. Ben didn't get the welcome mat thrown out for him, though she had to show him respect. "I suppose you're here to collect straw for the king to feed all his fancy horses!" she grumbled. "No matter that ours will have to starve this winter!" Her husband was with her at the time. He looked scandalized by her boldness, and he grabbed her by the shoulders to talk sense into her. "Bridle your tongue, Miriam! Show respect to the King's ambassador!" Fire flashed in her eyes. "I will not! Our animals are wasting away for want of what is taken from us! I'm sick of slaving all day under a hot sun while Solomon's heathen wives prance around in luxury at our expense!" By now dozens of hired hands gathered round, ears wide open. Ben tried to make peace. "Sister Miriam, I'm not here to hurt you, only to teach you the principles of sowing and reaping to make you richer. Cast your hay upon the wagon and it will come back to you on every amber wave of grain. " "You lie! Just like all the other money-grubbing bureaucrats who plague the Lord's land! We were liberated from Pharoah only to become slaves of Big Government!" Ben got mad. "If you guys would learn how to confess prosperity and dress prosperity, it wouldn't be long before YOU sat on the throne too! Lady, if your husband would shave that fur off his face, he’d see a new man staring back at him from the still waters! Get yourself a wardrobe consultant! You won’t get far looking like a skid row bum! It's a sin to be poor and hungry, so repent of your poverty right NOW!"
Miriam yelled that she made her own garments, real men wore beards, and it was the rich who’d kept her family poor. “You know I’m right, lady! And if you’d take that bed sheet off your head that you threw on it to hide your bad hair day and go get an image makeover, you could climb up the social ladder a little! Solomon's dad David was poor as a church mouse but he got up off his duff and got rich! And now his son Solomon is the richest go-getter in all human history! You're all poor because you've got no faith and can't see past your next bowl of porridge! Serves you right!" Miriam spat at Ben. Immediately she was seized by Ben's attendants. The bravest of the hired hands picked up a pitchfork and yelled: "Save our mistress! We are free men, not slaves!" A bunch of men stampeded toward the chariot. One of them got nicked by a spear. He retreated to doctor himself, but the other farm workers capsized the chariot, which made the poor horses stumble and squeal. The peasants pelted the king's publicans with pomegranates they owed as tribute. In the wild confusion, Miriam broke free and ran to safety. The farm hands didn't have any swords or spears but there were a whole lot more of them than Ben had with him. They picked up shepherd's staffs and farmin' tools and surrounded all the King's men, who knew they were licked. What a scare they got when, over the horizon, they saw a big herd of angry country folk comin' to join in the battle for freedom. Someone set fire to the King's hay wagon. Stones flew. Ben got hit in the head. He hobbled away, followed by his guards, who deserted the tribute wagon. Ben thought it was awesome that a common garden-variety TV preacher like himself really did spark off the mother of all civil wars. One that would cost David’s offspring ten of the nation’s twelve tribes and end the Golden Age of Israel. Oh well, leave it to Ben Buck to save King Rehoboam the bother of doin' that himself. Ben woke up in the observation unit…again. A nurse stood over him, adjustin' an IV drip. "Man, I got stoned big time," Ben moaned. "You sure did," the nurse said, lookin' at him like a naughty little boy. She tapped her head. "Nobody was home for six weeks. My word, you preachers sure do live dangerous lives. But it's true what they say. Still waters run deep." $$$$$$
Jesus was born in a stable full of oxen and donkeys. He camped out a lot and slept under the stars. Not once did the King of Glory ever hit poor people up for tithe money to build Himself a palace. He never even took up tithes to buy Himself a pup tent. Trouble these days is, rich preachers blame it on the poor Galilean Carpenter when they keep the cost of followin' Him high. Their yoke is hard and their burden is heavy. These particular sheep of God's pasture are startin' to wonder if they're bein' skint as well as fleeced. All Tithed Up In Knots Wearin' their best duds in honor of the occasion, the worshippers were quiet as a sepulchre as they filed into their brand new sanctuary. Some of 'em thought that surely a sheep shed as fancy as this one must be the abode of the Most High, and He wouldn't mind stayin' here all by His lonesome in between their short services. The place still smelt of fresh paint and varnish. Folks couldn't get enough of starin' at the stained glass windows, which peaked way up into pointy arches. The speaker's platform was a wideopen space full of flower garlands. The pulpit was massive, carved of solid oak. It was almost as wide as it was high. The platform was all decked out with VIP chairs for the top brass of the church. Those thrones must'a cost the Federal Mint. They were good heavy oak furniture, carved in fancy curlicues to match the pulpit. They were padded with red velvet cushions and had built-in footrests. And to remind everybody who was boss, those ritzy thrones had tapered pine cone projectiles stickin' high from both sides of the chair back. Behind the platform there was a stained glass mural of the Sower sowin' his seed. Blonde-headed angels smiled down on that sower, even though the seed he was sowin' wasn't made of green paper. And anytime a baptismal service needed to be held, friends and family could gather in a vestibule behind that stained glass partition and witness their neighbor bein' dunked or sprinkled, it was their choice. That dreamy sanctuary was built in a sort of semi-circle, with many aisles of red velvet pews slopin' down to face the front. The whole church was topped with a turquoise glass dome. You could look down from Bald Eagle Mountain and it would look like a pretty gemstone on the face of the brown, barren desert. The dome let in light but filtered out the worst of the glare.
No other church within a 50-mile radius could lay claim to a fancier choir loft than the one which overhung the altar. "The pastor should be very happy today," one lady whispered to her friend. "Amen," the other lady said. "The building's all finished. How relieved he must feel." The invocation prayer was intoned by the stony-faced deacon. The visitors were cordially welcomed and the convocation hymn was sung. Announcements were made by the committee chairman. Then, as expected, the offering was taken up, but still no sign of the pastor. Finally someone popped out of the vestibule. Not the pastor, but Brother Headley, a lay elder who was studyin' at Bible College to earn his ordination papers. "Sorry I'm late, folks," he said, like he was runnin' outa breath. "Something came up. Pastor Parker was taken ill late last night. His ulcer's acting up, I'm afraid. As you all know, Pastor's been under an awful lot of strain lately. It was short notice, but he asked me to deliver the message this morning, because, to be quite frank, I need the preaching practice, and I already had a paper prepared for my doctrinal thesis. My message draws its inspiration from that paper, and it touches on possible contributing factors to our pastor's health problems. If you'll all bear with me, here goes.” Time to make his pitch, and judgin' from what transpired he'd learned the ropes real good. Brother Headley coughed. Then he shuffled his papers, eyein' them more closely. And suddenly he said: "Look around you, everybody! See all the fine fixtures we've waited so long to enjoy! Instead of meeting in a secular high school gym, we're enjoying padded pew luxury overlooking the Bald Eagle Mountain Range. We've got manicured gardens, spacious conference rooms, the most elegant architecture imaginable. And all of you are here to enjoy these wondrous things. But ultimately, who bears the cost of all this luxury? The pastor. No wonder his stomach's all tied up in knots! If we don't meet our mortgage payments, folks, this property gets put on the auction block and it's back to Jack Sprat High School, enduring hardness as good soldiers sitting on folding chairs in a stuffy gym. "What kind of a testimony do we want to give the world around us?" Brother Headley said, with tears in his voice. "That of the foolish man who began to build but wasn't able to finish? No, this project is NOT finished yet! We still owe monthy mortage payments of $50,000, and we will owe that sum for the foreseeable future. Pastor knows that if we miss even one
payment, we're out on our ear. You think it's easy being a pastor? Think again. One month is just four measly little weeks. Every four weeks Pastor must cough up big bucks to the loan sharks. I know sermons on tithing aren't your cup of tea, and I know he seems to preach on that subject more and more often these days, but ultimately, Pastor preaches what he does out of love for you. Pastor doesn't want you guys to flunk in God's School of Faith. If you had even a mustard seed of faith you'd be willing to tighten your belts and give much more than the tithe. I know it's kinda hot in this state, but if you truly loved Jesus you'd even be willing to cut out your trips to the ice cream parlor to help bear Pastor's burden. I know some of you quit tithing because you say it's unscriptural to tithe on filthy lucre. But if you're willing to keep the spirit of the Law, it's just as good as if you kept the letter of it. "Just the other day some reprobate asked me why you all should help pay off debts you didn't personally incur. When Pastor Parker took out the mortgage on this property, he didn't ask your permission before putting this debt on the church. Well, tough beans! When you all were children, did your own mother and father consult you about how to finance the family homestead? Even if you weren't consulted, didn't you enjoy the airconditioned comfort of that home? Pastor Parker is your spiritual dad, and you guys wouldn't let your own parents go under, now would you? "I could harangue you guys till the cows come home about the need to pay your tithe on time. And on second thought, I won't bother to preach from my doctrinal thesis, it's a bit too dry for you. Instead, I'm going to hold a simple question and answer session. Our topic will be on tithing and Christian financial responsibility. So who wants to ask an INTELLIGENT question first? Yes, brother?" he pointed at a man in the second row. "Brother Headley," the man said, "you just compared us to kids growin' up and havin' no say as to what debts our parents got themselves into. Now, didn't Paul say somewhere that the children shouldn't lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children?" Brother Headley made a face. "Are you saying Pastor Parker hasn't laid up countless spiritual treasures for this flock, brother?" "I'm not sayin' that a'tall, Brother Headley. All I know is when I was ten years old, I didn't have to help my parents pay no mortgage. And they didn't dun me a dime for every dollar of my allowance, neither."
"I'll go on to someone else now," Brother Headley said, with a disgusted look on his face. "Yes, Sister Shelly?" He looked over at an elderly lady in a yellow dress. "Brother Headley, doesn't Paul say that we're no longer under the Law?" "Yes, sister, Paul meant we no longer serve in the letter of the law. But we keep spiritualized laws now, so we should give much more than the old Law required. We can spiritually keep that law by giving much more than the ten percent minimum standard of the Old Law." Just then a smartie in a pink dress said a mouthful: "But if you're gonna spiritualize the law, why not spiritualize the act of spiritually keeping the Law and just pay spiritual dollars instead of real ones?" Lots of laughter rang out. She might have a point here…. Brother Headley resorted to guilt, 'cause he knew he couldn't bury that argument any other way. "Listen Sister Soames, it won't be spiritual dollars the finance company comes after in a couple of weeks. If you really loved Pastor, you wouldn't be such a hair-splitting Scrooge with your pick-and-mix theology and you'd give far more than the written Law demands." "But, Brother Headley, if Pastor believes in spiritualizing the Old Law and spiritually keeping it, then why did he go to a literal loan shark and borrow literal money that we literally have to pay back? Why didn't he just spiritualize his act of borrowing?" At first Brother Headley was steamed, then he winked. "I've got you now, sister. Paul says something like this in I Corinthians 9:11: If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it such a big deal if we reap your carnal things?" "But couldn't Pastor Parker pay back spiritual money to the loan company instead of hitting us up for compounded interest payments on literal money he borrowed without our permission?" a man in the third row asked. Before Brother Headley could reply to that, another man said: "It says somewhere in Proverbs that the borrower is servant unto the lender. Now, who borrowed that money, Brother Headley? Did Pastor borrow it, or did we borrow it?" "Pastor did!" Brother Headley snapped. "Brother, you're out of order here!" "No I'm not!" the big man said, loud and clear. "Pastor has made himself sick worrying because he's just made himself a slave to that loan shark, and he's worried that his tithes won't tide him over till next month. And now you're trying to make US slaves to the loan shark too!"
"Well, if you don't like the way we do things here, that door swings both ways!" Brother Headley barked. "If you can't afford to dine at the Ritz, go to a soup kitchen and eat free of charge. You've got to PAY the waiter when you go out to eat, and you don't get a free lunch here." "What about the Gospel being free of charge?" a woman asked. "Didn't Paul say that?" "He also said that if you don't work you don't eat. If you don't go out to work a job so you have tithes and offerings to pay Pastor's debt, you don't deserve to eat the rich spiritual food he serves up from his pulpit." "What if we get a spiritual tummy ache from his spiritual food?" a sharptongued lady asked. "Do we get our money back?" "Ha ha, very funny," Brother Headley answered. "Even if Pastor hands you a lemon, you can make lemonade out of it." "But what do you do if the lemon is rotten?" one man called. "Use it for fertilizer," Brother Headley shrugged. "Hey, Brother Headley," a teenager said, "let's hold church out in some park so we don't have to pay loan sharks for expensive buildings." "Too hot," some man groaned. "And the cops would give us a ticket for loitering." "So let's work with what we have," Brother Headly said. "The floor is open for suggestions on raising funds to help pay off the mortgage. The Bible says: God helps those who help themselves." "Where is that scripture written?" Sister Soames demanded. "Well…it's not exactly written in the Bible in that way, sister, but God WILL help you if you step out in faith and attempt things that are too hard for you to do. Paying off this mortgage ought to be seen as a challenge to strengthen our faith." "So how do we know the Pastor won't turn around and borrow more money without consulting us?" one man called out. "That's Pastor's business," Brother Headley said, with a look that could wither a prune. "If you would submit to authority like you should, you would have the heart of a servant and you would do anything to show your love for Pastor." "Even being slaves to a loan shark?" the man shot back. "Yeah!" "Well, what about this Scripture in Romans 13:8?" an elderly man said, when he was given the floor. "It says to 'owe no man anything, but to love
one another.' Why, then, did Pastor Parker break that scripture by owing some loan shark millions of dollars for this fancy sheep shed?" Brother Headley rolled up his eyes. "All I know is, brother, if you really loved Pastor you'd be content to pray, pay and obey, and you'd stop trying to usurp Pastor's position by formulating your own opinions on scripture. It's Pastor's job to do the thinking, and the borrowing, around here. It's your job to pay him to do it." $$$$$$ Grown-ups have had a whole lifetime to get brainwashed so it's easy to feed 'em a line of bull, but you just can't fool a kid. Prosperity Pandemonium One day a prosperity preacher had to take over a boys’ Sunday School class when the regular teacher was home sick with a migraine. Here’s how it went: "What did you mean, Pastor, when you told everybody in church they could bring forth money by travelling in birth with it?" little Billy asked. "The word is ‘travailing’, Billy. When you want wealth you just imagine it’s inside of you before it comes out where you can see it," said the pastor, pointing at his midsection. "Just like before a baby is born." "Well, maybe my mom didn’t imagine hard enough," Billy said, "or I’d be made of paper and she could’a gone shopping with me." "Well, maybe next time, Billy. But let me tell you. The power of faith is so great it can bring great blessings into your life. I drive a brand new BMW." "Does your wife drive too?" yellow-headed Tad asked. "Yeah, she drives me crazy till I let her take the wheel." They all laughed. "Even my clothes closet is bigger than some people’s homes," the pastor bragged. "The Bible says: ‘God has set my feet in a large room." "With a little help from that scarecrow you talked about in church?" Billy piped up. He was the peskiest in the bunch. "That’s ‘escrow’, Billy. We went into escrow with the mortgage company to finance all our church building programs, including the new parsonage." "Then why not skip the praying part and just go to them?" Tad ventured.
"Because it takes a bit of prayer to prime the pump to get the givers to give in church. Otherwise the well would run dry. I’d end up so poor I’d have to buy all my family’s clothes at the church thrift shop." "That would be weird," Hank, a skinny boy with big brown eyes said. "It would be tragic, Hank, and it would be a poor testimony to my faith in God," the pastor said, "but how would it be weird?" "I mean….your kids havin’ to buy back their own stuff." The pastor looked more closely at Hank’s threadbare jacket and faded jeans. "If I weren’t so prosperous, Hank, I wouldn’t be in a position to be a blessing to others. Hey, my son’s about your size, and he’s just cleaned out his closet. Why don’t I bring you a sackful of designer duds next week?" Hank looked round at the other boys. Some of 'em grinned like a snake. Hank sat up straight and said, "Don’t need ‘em, pastor. We ain’t so poor." "Well, just look at your clothes, Hank. What kind of wealth does your family possess?" "I bet you don’t have as many cars as we’ve got jacked up in our front yard," Hank said. "My Uncle Gus is always layin’ underneath ‘em fixin’ ‘em up to sell to the neighbors." "At least he’s putting a little elbow grease to his faith," the pastor said. "And the day just might come when your uncle’s faith grows up to my level and he can enter into the ‘rest of faith’ and cease from his own works. All I have to do is confess what I see through the eye of faith and it comes to pass." The pastor pointed at his forehead. "Remember what I told you about how faith brings the object of your desire into the realm of sight. That’s very similar to giving birth. That’s called ‘faithing your desire into manifestation’. " "I’ll try and do that till church is over," Billy said. "And if I ‘faith’ hard enough, maybe it’ll give birth to a new Play Station before I get home, but I sure do hope I don’t have to go to the hospital like my mom did when she had me." The pastor smiled. "Well, If her faith had been more focused, your poor mother would have been at the mall instead of the maternity ward with you. Let’s discuss a prime example of Biblical prosperity, class, someone whose faith took him all the way to the palace. David was a very rich man, and he got that way by faith." "Didn’t David hang out in a cave, Pastor?" little Joshua asked. "Well, yes, Joshua, but only for a little while. David was only camping out on his vacation, taking a break from the rat race like any tired businessman
would do. Poor people can’t afford to go camping. David said: ‘He maketh me to lie down in green pastures’. So green is the color of prosperity." "Well, what about that wino I saw in the park, Pastor?" a red-headed kid asked. "Is he rich? He’s always layin' around in a green park. Is a park a pasture?" "In a manner of speaking, Rufus. But generally you have to have lots of greenery in your pocket to put a little color in your pastures. One of the biggest lies of history is this notion that Jesus was poor while He was on earth. My, Jesus was so rich he fed 5000 people out of His own pocket. Billy, what did Simon Peter do when he saw that 5000 people were hungry and needed to be fed?" "Maybe Peter pulled out his Master’s Card and took them all out to McDonald’s," Billy answered, with a proud look on his face. "You kids are really enjoying this lesson," the pastor said. "King Solomon was rich too. What sort of blessings did he have? Yes, Joshua?" "He had 300 wives and 700 porcupines!" "That’s concubines, Joshua. Now what else did Solomon have?" "A kid named Rebox." another kid answered. "That’s Rehoboam, Troy. Now somebody tell me why Solomon was so smart." "He had lots of wisdom teeth!" Rufus said, mighty proud of his smarts. The pastor grinned and shook his head. "Time to get serious, boys. Now I’m going to teach you all about giving. The more you give, the more you get back. That’s one of the laws the Lord set in motion and it always works for me." "You wanna make yourself even richer by whipping out a twenty so I can get a new CD, pastor?" Billy asked, with his eyes all aglow. "Well, why don’t you guys give first, and then I’ll think about it. It’s time for the Sunday School offering. Time to put what we learned into practice. You can learn and learn until the cows come home, kids, but faith without works is dead." The boys fished around in their pockets. They pulled out dimes and quarters with all the enthusaism of goin' to the doctor to get a shot. They plonked their spare change in the offering plate. "Come on," the pastor said, when the plate got back to him and he saw only one piece of paper in it: a single dollar bill. "Dimes and quarters are kid stuff. Give like a grownup man or you won’t get a decent return on your investment. I’ll pass the plate around one more time."
Like most of the other boys, Billy was dressed for success. He pulled somethin' off his neck and put it in the plate. "Quit clowning around, Billy. What’s the idea?" The pastor looked peeved. "I gave what you always ask my dad for, Pastor. Ties and offerings."
$$$$$$ No shepherd ever kept on the straight and narrow trail to heaven by steerin' his sheep into a Grand Canyon of guilt. Barred At The Pearly Gates "Another migraine, dear?" Pastor Pete’s wife asked, hoverin' over him like a mother hen. She went to get him his two Advils and glass of water. It was the same every night. Seems like Pastor Pete just couldn't get no shut-eye without 'em. "I just can’t hack this job anymore," Pastor Pete moaned, with an aggravated look on his face. "Mary, those people are getting stupider and stupider all the time." "Just give them time, Peter," Mary said. "They’ll learn." "I just can’t believe it." He rolled up his eyes. "Those people are as dense as pea soup. I just dread tomorrow. Last week some kid put Monopoly money in the offering bag. Another rug rat put three jaw breakers in. And some dotty old lady put a fudge brownie in it with an IOU. Don’t those people know the only food I want to see in that offering is crispy lettuce with big numbers on it? If we don’t get more of a cash flow, our whole church operation will fold like a house of cards." Mary tried to soothe Pete by massagin' his throbbin head. "Just do what you tell them to do, dear. Just confess prosperity. This trial will soon pass." "Why do we only attract down-and-outers?" Pastor Pete groused. "Why can’t I persuade more upwardly mobile people to transfer their membership from Upper Crust Cathedral? We live in the ritziest part of town and all we get are underpaid peons who can’t even pay a decent tithe." "Maybe they need the money to feed their families, Petey," Mary said. "So? Don’t we need it too? Why should I have to deduct money from my base salary to rob Peter to pay Paul, just because the church board can’t afford to pay me a decent travel allowance? After all, I represent them
whenever I go anywhere. If things get any worse, Mary, they won’t be able to keep up the premiums on our medical insurance. None of the other local pastors is going through this. That affects my standing in the eyes of the community, just the same as if I ran a five-star restaurant, then added cheap sloppy joes to the menu to attract the riffraff." "Aren’t you being a bit mean about it, Peter?" "Mary, don’t be naive. Jesus said that sometimes we have to take the Kingdom of God by force." The pastor grinned like a bobcat in a chicken coop. "It’s time to try the other approach, Mary. No more Mr. Nice Guy dangling the Prosperity Carrot. Time for the stick approach, seasoned with a little old-fashioned fire and brimstone. After I’m through with those people, they’ll rush their offering into the bags. Tithes too." Mary knitted her brow. "Me? Naive? I’m only thinking about those scriptures you discovered about what true tithes really consisted of: vegetables, grain, livestock, stuff like that. Remember, you were as shocked as I was that Biblical tithes never consisted of money, and you couldn’t find any Scripture where Paul commanded church members to pay 10% of their wages to preachers?" He put his hand on her lips. "Shhhh! Mustn’t let the cat out of the bag, Mary...or," he grinned..."the tithe money out of the bag. Their ignorance is the prosperity of our church. And our ticket to paradise if I play my cards right. Honey, tomorrow is Fleece the Flock Day at Green Pastures Church!" Mary felt uneasy. She had to toe the line. Nowadays plenty of pastors had no qualms about tradin' their old wives in for "a partner more compatible with their ministry", and if she crossed her precious Peter she might lose him one day, along with all the frills that went with bein' a prosperity pastor’s wife. Pastor Pete told Mary to just go on to bed without him, 'cause he was gonna stay up most of the night. He got out the notes for his old sermon, the one full of his usual prosperity propaganda. Now, he'd worked hard on those notes, but he tore 'em up. Pete spent the next two hours fine-tunin' a brand new sermon. Then for three more hours he stood in front of a fulllength mirror. Pete rehearsed that speech till it sounded just right. Some of the tricks of his trade were: makin' sure his voice projected outa his chest and not just the back of his throat, workin' his face muscles right, makin' awe-inspirin' gestures with his hands, standin' tall and straight, and usin' different tones of voice for different sections of his sermon.
It was 4 a.m. before Pastor Pete got done rehearsin'. He felt tired but happy when he plopped into bed for four hours' shut-eye before it was time to get spruced up for 10 a.m. services. Next mornin', Pastor Pete dragged his dead body outa bed after hittin' the snooze alarm three times. Mary tried to talk him out of it, but Pete chugged down four cups of strong black coffee with his Danish. He hadn't gotten much sleep, but he'd better look his sharpest in the pulpit this mornin', not all tuckered out and rundown. At church, the pastor was all nerves waitin' till the last hymn was sung: Give of Your Best to the Master. His heart raced from all that caffeine he wasn’t used to drinkin'...or was he just on Cloud Nine from feelin' like he'd finally laid an old problem to rest? Pastor Pete spoke a short, sweet prayer. Then he asked the congregation to crack open their Bibles to Malachi Chapter 3, the first of many "sticks" he was gonna use in this make-or-break sermon on givin'. He said, "The title of this sermon is taken from verse 8: Will A Man Rob God?" The words came out like a thunderclap. Then he spoke more softly, with a hurt cry in his voice: "Yet ye have robbed me." "Who…on…earth…dares…to…rob…Almighty God!" Pastor Pete said, in a slow, raggedy voice. He shook his head, then bowed his head, as if he was grievin'. He raised his eyes toward heaven and cupped his hands like a religious statue. He took a deep breath, then sipped some water. He looked mad and his face was hard as a burnt biscuit. "Turn with me now to Deuteronomy 16:16. Why isn’t God pouring out His blessing upon His people at Green Pastures Church? Notice here it says: Three times a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God...AND THEY SHALL NOT APPEAR BEFORE THE LORD EMPTY! That’s exactly what so many of you have been doing. Coming to this hallowed place to take, take, take, but whenever the offering bag comes within fifty feet of you you shrink away from it like it has leprosy!" An elderly lady in the second row raised her hand. "Yes, Sister Dora!" the pastor barked. Why couldn't that old bat just sit there real quiet and soak up his teachin'? "Pastor, that verse you read from just told the males to come to the House of God to give donations, and only three times a year. Right?" That got her a few smiles and laughs, but it irked the pastor. "Yes, sister, but this is the Age of Grace. We’re under a far better covenant, and so you should do much more than what that verse requires,
just out of gratitude for all Jesus has done for you. That means you should give your best offerings and tithes all year round and even if you’re a woman." "But I DID do more than that verse said," Dora answered. "I stuck that brownie in the offering bag last week because my Social Security hadn’t arrived in the mail yet, and I wanted to show how much I appreciated you. Did you enjoy it, Pastor?" He scrunched up his nose. "You’re here to give to the Lord, sister, and I very much doubt He likes brownies. That doesn’t do much to pay the church mortgage, now, does it?" Dora rushed out of the sanctuary, cryin'. The congregation was a-buzzin' by now. This wasn’t the good o' boy "God’s Gonna Make You Rich" pastor everyone was used to. He was as just as outspoken as ever, but somehow he'd changed. Pastor Pete kept on quotin' verses on givin' and sacrifice. He wrenched 'em outa context. He used 'em to lay a heavy guilt trip on his financially strugglin' flock. They weren't allowed to be gently led by the Good Shepherd as that religious cowboy lashed at 'em from the pulpit to drive 'em down a trail of his own makin'. "You are cursed with a curse!" Pastor Pete shouted at the peak of his message. His face got red as a beet. You could hear his bile bounce off the mahogany walls. "That’s what my Bible says in Malachi 3, verse 9, so it’s not open to debate! For these past few weeks the vast majority of you have committed highway robbery against God!" He pointed at a few members in particular who didn't have much posted in the church financial accounts. "And your lame excuse for being stingy is you’ve gotta put food on the table! Yeah, right! Some of you butterballs could stand to shed a few pounds by fasting a day or two!" He made a face and pinched his middle. "See? I can’t pinch an inch! That poor widow who gave her last two mites to the Temple puts all of you to shame. At least she had an excuse for being stingy! You Twinkie junkies don’t even trust God to repay two dollars saved out of your grocery budget, so our missions fund is drying up! What a sorry excuse for Christians you are! You just don’t care that millions are going to hell without Christ! No wonder God can’t afford to bless you. Just think Who you’re being stingy with, the God who gives you every breath you breathe....." Pastor Pete’s face went white as a sheet. His eyes rolled back and he slumped to the floor.
Two deacons rushed over. One dug out his cell phone to call an ambulance. "Peter, Peter!" his wife cried. She ran up to the podium. She looked petrified. One of the deacons gave the pastor mouth-to-mouth while the other said, "Sister Mary, this looks like a heart attack. Did he seem sick last night?" Mary broke down and cried. "He’s had a lot of migraines. Especially the past couple weeks. His blood pressure’s been sky high. Oh, no! Oh, Peter, Peter..." At the Pearly Gates Pete saw a man in a shiny white robe, and he had the peaceful face of an angel. . A golden key ring hung from a belt he wore around his waist. This individual had a rare honor: He had his name written in the foundation of the heavenly City, as the Book of Revelation says. Heaven was a place of peace and joy, but this departed saint looked like somethin' heavy was on his mind. The Apostle Peter loved to meet newcomers at the Pearly Gates. But how sad, to think he’d have to turn anybody away, especially somebody who'd once had a taste of the life of Christ and then strayed off the Path of Life into trails of moneylust. Moneylust could ruin a man's soul for good. How sad, to be oh, so close, and yet so far! Pastor Pete felt feather-light as an angel carried him way, way, way up in the skies. They went way out through the farthest reaches of outer space, till they saw what looked like a prism in a pyramid shape. As Pete and the angel got closer, they could see it was God's Holy City, awesome beyond anything on earth. It hung in the Highest Heavens like God’s crown jewel. Pastor Pete's tongue, so full of fury just a moment ago, had no power to tell how beautiful it all was. Best of all, Pete thought, he'd never again have to badger anybody for money. Why, you wouldn't need any up here! Surely heaven was his now, and money worries were a thing of the past. Somehow the pastor recognized who was waitin' for him at the Pearly Gates. The angel set him on his feet. "Oh, I know you!" Pete said. "You’re the Apostle Peter, and I see your keys! Jesus gave you the keys to the Kingdom, didn’t He?" "All those who abide in Christ their Living Vine have the right to enter here," St. Peter said. "I am only His humble servant. Tell me the truth, now, Pastor Pete. Did you abide in Christ your Living Vine, or did you fall away from Christ as a dead branch fit only for the fire?"
"I died doing my duty," Peter told him. "I wasn’t sitting in front of my computer downloading porn. I wasn’t running around with other women. I wasn’t even watching a ball game on TV. The Lord was the last thing on my mind before I dropped dead." "Really and truly?" St. Peter raised his eyebrows. "Yes, St. Peter. I was speaking out in defense of God’s holy offering in the church. What nobler way could I have died, than while taking a stand in the pulpit against defrauding the Lord of what is rightfully His?" "You were the one who defrauded the Lord, Peter," St. Peter said. "You robbed His people of peace. You despised the poor saints. You robbed the Christ within them of dignity. You peddled a deceitful doctrine to pry money out of God’s people, and you hoped they wouldn’t discover the real truth about tithing. Is that not so?" "Not exactly, St. Peter. I was planning to tell them sooner or later. But my congregation wasn’t mature enough to receive the entire truth just yet. Just like you can’t tell a tiny child the whole story about how babies are made." "But you thought your brethren were mature enough to have their pockets picked by a worker of iniquity posing as a minister of righteousness," St. Peter frowned. "Why do you think you’re standing here now?" "Well, St. Peter, those stingy people got on my nerves so bad it gave me migraine headaches, and my high blood pressure finished me off." "I believe you know why you died prematurely," St. Peter said. "Was it all that caffeine I chugged down before church?" St. Peter shook his head. "But now that I’m here, St. Peter, I just can’t wait to see my mansion!" "What about Jesus?" St. Peter looked very sad. "Where is He on your list of priorities?" "Oh, I want to see Him too, St. Peter, but what a blessing, that I’ll never have to worry about money ever again!" "That part is true, Peter. But there will be no mansion. You have no inheritance in the Kingdom of God." "What!" Pastor Pete's mouth hung open. "I preached my heart out! I supported overseas missions. In the name of all decency, I demand that you tell me why I can’t go to heaven!" St. Peter spoke to an angel who stood by his side. The angel rushed off to do some chore. “I’ll show you just a few of the reasons why you can’t come into this Holy City,” the apostle told Pastor Pete. But while I wait for
my attendant to return, I’ll say this: “Only eternity will tell the harm that has been done by greedy wolves like yourself. Look below you.” The heavens below them opened up, and they saw a panoramic vision. People who could no longer stomach the robbery goin' on in the House of the Lord were runnin' away from fancy churches which looked like they were on fire. But the preacher in the pulpit stayed there, holdin' his money bag, still as a stone statue. “They are fleeing the Babylonian Church system which is appointed to destruction by God,” St. Peter said. “Down below you’ll see just one of God’s many sheep driven out into the wilderness by ravening wolves seeking whom they may devour. That saint is recording the sad spiritual state of apostates who have sold their own Lord for money, as Judas did. The vision spanned time and space, till it finally zeroed in on a desk where someone was sittin' at a desk writin'. The message was beamed up into space and magnified on a big background that looked like a scroll. Sins that had been hidden under a bushel basket for ages were bein' shouted from the rooftop of the universe. Pastor Pete saw all his life's longings wrapped up in the poem, “Preying Preachers”:
Oh, those preying TV preachers Who milk the mail for cash Blood-sucking Bible teachers Who blow funds on a beer bash After pitching your prayers in the trash. Plant a seed for prosperity I see a Rolex out there So hurry to my meet my needs Just open your wallet and share. Golden swans in my shower stalls A trip to the Holy Land Costly paintings on my walls Nothing’s too grand for God’s man. Adorn my fingers with diamond rings No off-the-rack suits for me!
Pay your taxes to the king Give, or you won’t receive! The Bible says sow liberally; Blessings don’t come for free! A vow of two thousand dollars; That’s God’s rock-bottom price. He’d rather not be bothered With a measly ten or a five! Send in that vow right now Or the Lord will pass you by; Don’t stop praying (and paying) Or the Fountain will run dry And you’ll never get pie-in-the-sky! This is YOUR day for a miracle; You’ll receive a hundred-fold; So mail your money to me If you want your cup to be full. This precious truth is worth more than gold (At least it is to me!).
“Hey, I never had golden swans in MY shower stalls!” Pastor Pete wailed. “But the Lord knows you wished you had attained to that level of wealth,” St. Peter said. “Isn’t that what you ministered to the flock of the Lord?” “All I taught was, we’re God’s children and we have a right to inherit the riches of the wicked, which are laid up for the righteous!” Pastor Pete objected, like a trial lawyer. “That's in Proverbs 13:22!” “Perhaps,” the apostle said. “But the other part of that verse speaks of leaving an inheritance to your children’s children. You know your goal was not to go out into the harvest field to seek and save the wicked to make them sons of God with an eternal inheritance in heavenly places. Nor did you teach sound Scriptural doctrine to your flock, to persuade them to set their affections on incorruptible things above. You taught them to covet corruptible, earthly blessings instead of the riches they could carry with them into this blessed world. Your goal was to sow seeds of deceit into their
hearts so you could reap a harvest of filthy lucre. You would have been perfectly content to allow the wicked to remain wicked, as an excuse to lay claim on their money. Is that not so?” St. Peter's look send a shiver down Pastor's Pete's spine, 'cause he already knew the truth. “But we ran evangelistic programs!” Pastor Pete cried. “Only so you could take regular tithes of their money once they came into your church; not to mention the special ‘Prove God’ offerings you collected to build that resort for visiting church officials...after lying to the congregation about that money being used for missions.” Pastor Pete scratched his head. “But St. Peter, if our visiting pastors feel refreshed from coming to our conferences, they can go back out to their mission fields and do a better job where things aren’t so nice.” “The Hawaii Hilton, perhaps?” St. Peter felt like Simon the Sorcerer was back to haunt him. A huge hunk of an angel emerged from the City gate. He handed St. Peter a scroll. "I’ll cite just a few more of your unrepented-of sins," said the apostle. "Any one of them would keep you out of this Holy City. Some of the sins listed here are: refusing to renounce profitable heresies, envy of other churches, pride, deceit, greed, covetousness..." "But Scripture says ‘covet the best gifts!’" the pastor pleaded. "All I ever wanted was to have the best church possible! Doesn’t God want us to strive for excellence in our daily lives? And I didn’t envy other churches, I admired them and wanted to be more like them!" The apostle shook his head. "That’s the sin of emulation. Peter, wanting to copy someone else’s sins of pride. This blessed realm is so filled with the Light of God’s Holiness that it is useless to try to whitewash your dirty deeds here. Nothing is hidden from God’s sight. This whole city is as clear as crystal because of the Blessed Presence of the One Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and in Him is no darkness at all. See, Peter?" Pastor Pete was given a look through the city walls, which were clear as crystal. How pure and clean everything looked inside those Pearly Gates! People walked the streets of gold, surrounded by beautiful fruit trees and flowers. They laughed from the sheer joy of bein' home with Jesus, not the way Pastor Pete once laughed about how to squeeze all the cows in the congregation dry. The buildings of the City shone like polished gold. But Peter couldn't see beyond the pearly beauty of that part of Paradise, 'cause he had spiritual blinders on. Way beyond his sight was the awesome Glory of the Throne of God. The Light around that Throne was brighter than a
billion suns. Actually, it was the Rainbow of Light, made up of the basic seven shades of the rainbow. It spoke of God's promise to Noah never to flood the entire earth with water again. The Son of God stood at the Right Hand of God the Father, and His job was to plead with the Father on behalf of saints on earth who were bein' spooked by that old sheep rustler, satan, who headed his own band of religious outlaws. But Pastor Pete was not purehearted enough to see Jesus at the right hand of the Father. All he could see was he was in a big jam he couldn't get out of. And St. Peter wasn't makin' the pastor feel any better. "Besides all your other heinous sins, didn’t you filch money out of the missions fund to finance that first-class cruise to Hawaii, just so your base salary would remain untouched and available for other luxuries?" St. Peter looked disgusted. "So? I was going to pay it back, St. Peter, I swear I would have paid it back! I needed that vacation, to rest from all my pastoral work!" "But you deceived your brethren about the missions fund and many other matters as well. Ananias and Sapphira fell dead at my feet for lying to the Holy Spirit about what they did with money allegedly dedicated to God." "I didn’t exactly lie, St. Peter. I just didn’t tell them the whole truth, and I was going to tell them later!" Pastor Pete was sweatin' bullets by now. "Your Great Judge has already weighed you in the balance and found you wanting," St. Peter said. "If that’s the case, St. Peter, can’t I at least be sent to some intermediate place to grow out of all my sins and faults so I could someday be found worthy to go to heaven?" St. Peter shook his head. "I’m sorry, Peter, it’s impossible. If only you had not lived your life to please men rather than God. If only you had confessed your sins before the congregation as a fellow brother in Christ and asked God's forgiveness for deceiving them in order that you might rob them. God gives grace to the humble, but you shut your ears to the Voice of His Spirit. Therefore, He has shut His ears to your cry of despair." Pastor Pete knew the jig was up, and he'd blown it big-time. He bellowed out loud lamentations. "Oh, nameless horror! Eternity lies before me, and there is no turning back! The only time I ever taught my congregation about hell was the day I used it as a weapon to extort money out of them! And though I am at the very Gates of Paradise, I stand already condemned in my sins at the Gates of Hell! Woe unto me! If only I had lived up to the meaning of my name! If only I had remained true to the Rock of my Salvation instead
of forsaking Him for filthy lucre and building my life on sinking sand! If only I had followed in the steps of the poor fisherman who said: "Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee.’ If only I had laid up treasure in this blessed Paradise, I would not be so poor now!" "Pastor Pete," the apostle said, "you became a poor man the day Christ ceased to be your dearest Treasure."
$$$$$$ In their mad rush to strike it rich on earth, Christians tend to forget that God's best gifts come in plain packaging. Cowboy Cody talks all the time about the Rapture, and how folks had better get ready for it. Could the Rapture happen while folks hold church in a place where God and Jesus don't feel all that welcome?
Tie-dyed Angel Sister Mary could barely feel her grief, she was so stunned by it all. Why Pete? He'd had such a bright future to live for. He had a growin' church, and a growin' reputation as one of the best Bible teachers around. Why should the Lord take her Pete home just now? Mary wiped her eyes, She felt far away as she listened to Assistant Pastor Frisk speak the eulogy at her husband's graveside: "A good and decent brother in the Lord, kind and generous of heart..." Sister Dora, a poor widow, slipped away, unnoticed. At her age, she had to face reality. This whole sad affair was turnin' into a slick sideshow. Only truth, not flowery flattery, would pass muster at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Now Dora was not one to judge others, but had Pastor Pete ever been generous with anybody too poor to pay him back? Even if Brother Frisk had been Pastor Pete’s closest pal and had graduated from Seed Faith Seminary with flyin' colors, he didn’t know everything. Dora remembered bein' lynched from the pulpit for that IOU she’d stuck in the offering bag, wrapped around one of her homemade brownies. Even before he’d died, the departed pastor had been in another world, high above the hardscrabble life of everyday folks like her. But at least Brother Pete had left this world, Dora thought, before ever havin' to suffer the trials and tribulations she'd had
in her 77 years. But it was just as well Sister Dora couldn't see the whole picture. One month later, Brother Frisk opened the morning service with exhortations to keep on prayin' for all Pastor Pete’s survivin' relatives and close friends. Pastor Frisk watched his words as he repeated his promise that the church would always be there for Pastor Pete’s bereaved family. Mary and her two teenage sons could stay on in the church parsonage, at least for the time bein'. Brother Frisk was proud that he owned his own home and his family didn’t need to go live in the parsonage, which was across the street from the "hippie house", a rundown Victorian mansion. That place swarmed with what Brother Frisk called "neighbors from hell": dreadlocked hippies who came and went as they pleased. Most of 'em would come totin' bedrolls and backpacks, which is what drifters do. What a scandalous testimony that place was to that upper-class neighborhood! And the reason they could live there in the first place was a well-to-do, but lonesome old woman owned the property. She'd opened up her home to a band of homeless young people, and most folks think she let 'em stay there in exchange for their companionship for any help they could give her around the place. But when they had nothin' better to do, those hippies could be heard singin' at odd hours of the day or night, usually in strange-soundin' foreign lingo. The songs sounded happy, but neighbors suspected that judgin' from their offbeat clothes, the hippies must be up to no good. The elderly lady seemed to enjoy their company, though. At least that's what folks who got a glimpse of them said. Church folks would see some of the hippies sittin' out in the grass, strummin' guitars or stringin' beads. The front porch was stacked high with bedrolls which belonged to those "just passin' through". Nobody had actually seen the hippies do anything more sinful out on the grass than talk and sing, or do beadwork together. But they had a happy, childlike way about 'em that raised the eyebrows of well-to-do, sour-faced churchgoers, who said those weirdos oughta grow up and shoulder responsibility like everybody else. Not many at Green Pastures Church had the guts to walk up to those beaded, bandana-wearin' freaks and hand 'em a tract to let 'em know that Jesus loved 'em. Why bother? All they asked out of life was a bowl of granola and a place to stay in out of the rain. That was their idea of heaven. Once Green Pastures Church climbed another notch up the Prosperity Ladder, they could do more to get the church out of debt. The homey old parsonage would be done up into a charming Bed and Breakfast Inn. It would
sell Christian books and music on the side. To top it off, a beautiful new parsonage would be built in an even fancier part of town, away from the riffraff. The church needed to grow in numbers. Pastor Pete’s family would have to find somewhere else to live. Brother Frisk cleared his throat. He told everyone that after weeks of thinkin' it over, the church board’s decision was unanimous: Pastor Pete’s mantle, and pulpit, had been passed on to him, God’s humble servant. Hearty "amen’s" from the congregation seconded that. Pastor-elect Frisk tried not to gloat. "I’m not one to beat around the bush," the new pastor began. "I’m going to lay my cards on the table, straight. You all need to know what to expect from me, as the newly appointed pastor of Green Pastures Church. Our dearly departed pastor, God rest his soul, left us with a very worthy legacy: "Pastor Pete taught us how to operate the principles of mountain-moving faith. Toward the end, he’d begun the process of undergirding our gold with foundations of steel. I intend to pick up where he left off. It’s a glorious privilege to worship here, but it also entails individual responsibility, and I will be firm and unequivocal about it." He focused on a long-haired man in the back row who stuck out like a sore thumb because he wore a tie-dyed shirt instead of a tie. "Blessing and responsibility go hand in hand," Pastor Frisk intoned. "If you don’t first give of your best, God will pass you over for promotion in His Kingdom. And if you don’t shine for Jesus outwardly as well as inwardly, you might as well go elsewhere, because we’re in the business of conveying a great glad message to the community: "God prospers those who serve Him. We are not second-class citizens. We are children of the great King, so let us act like it and look like it. But if you go around looking like you slept in some doorway, that will convey the opposite message and ruin the testimony of this entire church. Let me make this quite clear from the outset: I’m going to continue the program and the theme of this church instituted by Pastor Peter and if any of you don’t like it, that door swings both ways!" The pastor raised his eyebrows. A hand was raised in the back, and though he tried to ignore it, it wouldn't go back down. Everyone’s looking, the pastor thought. Better see what he wants. This is going to be fun. Free sermon material. "Yes, you in the back row? Did you care to comment on something I just said? Don’t shout, now. You’ll have to come up here, so we can all hear you better."
The young fellow didn’t look self-conscious about all those suits and ties and fine jewelry in church, and he didn't look like he was ashamed to go up to the blue velvet speaker’s podium with its gorgeous flower displays. He looked like a lion, with his wild mane of reddish curls, and his burnin' blue eyes. For a kid who had to panhandle for a livin', he was a fine-lookin' fellow, many thought. No sign of wear or windburn on his fine-chiseled face. Why, he didn’t even look dirty. Without a word to the pastor the young man took the mike. "What kind of testimony was left by the man you just buried?" he asked. That woke everyone up. "Who are you to judge!" Pastor Frisk said, as if it was none of his beeswax. "You knew nothing of Pastor Peter!" "Oh, I knew quite a lot about him," the visitor said. "God and I are very close, and He shares his secrets with me, to better equip me to fulfill my mission here on earth." "But you’re just a loser from the hippie house!" the pastor said, with a snooty look. "What use could possibly God have for you, unless you repent of your disorderly lifestyle and walk in dignity as a child of God?" "There you go, pastor, jumping to conclusions," the visitor answered. "You know everything about me just because I don’t wear a strip of silk around my neck or cut off most of my hair? John 7:24 says: Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. Pastor Peter spent most of his life worrying about his standing in the community instead of being concerned about doing the true will of the Heavenly Father. He laid up treasures here on this earth instead of accumulating them in heaven, and you are about to deceive these people into carrying on this same vain tradition of man. I came to set these sheep free before more of them get hurt and bear the scars for eternity." "How dare you!" Pastor Frisk pointed at him. "Ushers, escort this bum out immediately. What blasphemous words! After he leaves, I’ll have to fumigate the sanctuary! And," he added imperiously, "I intend to call the law down on that old eyesore of a house to rid it of squatters and vagrants." But no one was able to touch the young fellow. The ushers fell back like they'd been hit with lightnin' when they got closer. A blue-white fog was seen, then the visitor was gone. "An angel!" lots of folks cried out. "God has visited us with a sign! We saw a blue cloud!" one elderly guy shouted. "Hallelujah!" “Maybe it’s a gas line leaking?” some wiseacre said.
Sister Dora didn't feel her years anymore. She did a jig in the aisle. "I’m so happy I could sing and shout!" "Stop that!" a woman next to her said. "We don’t believe in that sort of thing here! My word, let’s preserve a little of our dignity! What would Pastor Peter have said about that!" "Pastor Peter’s opinion no longer matters, nor does it carry any weight with God!" a voice called from the vestibule. "God wants you to all to repent of your idolatry, self-centeredness, and covetousness! Return to Jesus, your First Love! Those of you who are willing to forsake all lying vanities, come out of this place! Those who would be immersed anew in the Love of Jesus, forsake this stronghold of satan, who appears as a fair angel of light to deceive many! Those who would be swept upward into Higher Realms of the Spirit, follow me out!" That pesky hippie was back again, makin' motions with his hands for them to come out. Dora was the first to reach the door. Lightness and brightness and joy unspeakable filled the sanctuary. That sort of glorious gladness hadn't been felt in Green Pastures Church since before Pastor Pete got carried away by the Prosperity Doctrine. Now there were others were skippin' and dancin', they were so overjoyed to finally hear the real Voice of the Lord in that dead church. Less than half the congregation walked out, while the others felt frozen in place, worryin' about what their neighbors would think if they left too. They waited, hopin' that heavenly feelin' inside their hearts would stop. This might be the house of the Lord, but for Him to actually come inside of it made 'em edgy, 'cause they weren't exactly on the same wavelength as Him. The church folks wanted the service to get back to normal. They just had to hear their new pastor's program for church growth and financial success. Finally the last deserter was gone. Some of those who stayed would later testify to seein' a brilliant flash of light go right through the church door after the last person got out, while others would speak of a dead weight of sadness suddenly sinkin' on 'em, and why that happened was open to speculation. Two women seated near the door got up to go find out where the deserters might have gone. When they came back in they were cryin'. "Clothes! Clothes, shoes and purses all over the church lawn!" they hollered. A big commotion spread through the sanctuary. "The Rapture has come, and we’ve been left behind! They all went up to heaven and we’re still here!"
"Pastor!" one high-strung woman screamed. "Help us! You’ve got all the answers! Save us!" "Stuff and nonsense!" Pastor Frisk said. "Quit acting like crybabies!" "But you saw him disappear in a cloud of smoke, Pastor, same as we did!" one man called. "That was just some kiddie smoke trick," the Pastor said. "Probably went to the mall and got it at the joke shop. As for his alleged disappearance from view…’ahem!’…he used one of the oldest magic tricks in the book: He diverted your focus from himself to the wonder of the surrounding smoke. Then while the ushers were running around like headless chickens and covering him from view, he skittered down the aisle and sneaked out the sanctuary door while no one was looking that way." "But what about the clothes out on the lawn, Pastor?" one of the deacons demanded. "You can’t explain them away if they’re still out there!" Pastor Frisk played it cool. He was ready for that one: "It’s been awfully windy today, and our portable dumpsters might have been overturned. Sister Summers, what did you do with all those leftover clothes from yesterday’s rummage sale?" he asked a church deaconess in the second row. "We didn’t dispose of them that way, Pastor," she said. "We donated all leftover items to the hippie house, because they were too good to go in the trash. I’m sorry, it was a bad idea." "Hey, that was my shirt that walked in here on that hippie!" one tonguetied teenage boy yelled. "Mom threw it in a bag for the rubbish sale ‘cause it had an ink stain on it she couldn’t get out!" "But most of the clothes we saw on the lawn were so much finer than what we sold yesterday!" one woman claimed. "You’re imagining things!" Pastor Frisk said. "Those were the leftovers from the rummage sale! You’re so overwrought you’re seeing the wrong things! The door to the vestibule was shut at the time, and you can’t see much through these stained glass windows! Who knows what went on out there while we started today’s service! So you gave the sale leftovers to the hippies! That’s a fine way for them to show gratitude for our benevolence! Jesus said we shouldn’t cast our pearls before swine, and you should have known they wouldn’t know what to do with decent apparel! Talk about spite! Uh…I’ve got my suspicions…did any of you ever tell those bums about the Rapture?"
"Don did, Pastor!" a teenage boy in the third row called. "He gave them cartoon tracts about the Rapture just the other day, and invited them to next week’s concert! And I think I saw Don go out to that guy." Pastor Frisk fumed. "A fine Christian Don is, deserting us the way he did! All that did was give them an idea for a prank to pull on us to show their contempt toward us! Now, if you check the purses lying on the ground and find there’s no money in them, that would be proof conclusive there was no rapture! No wonder that bum came in here, to get us all upset! Any idiot with half a brain knows the Rapture absolutely cannot happen until the Church is ready, and God’s people have not yet fully entered into all the profound truths He’s trying to teach them, so why would He hold the Rapture now?" Some cried, others moaned, either to themselves, or out loud, to the Lord. One woman screamed: "Woe be unto us! The Bridegroom has come and we’ve been left behind!" "Nobody’s left you behind, Sister Mayfield!" The pastor rolled up his eyes. "Why, you’re our best soloist and the heavenly choir would be lost without you! Get a grip on yourself! I don’t need anybody else to come unglued here!" "But I saw Sister Sue’s bifocals out on the grass!" one woman who'd gone out to check said. "And no, I didn’t bring them in, I nearly lost my mind when I saw them!" "So by your own admission you’re losing your mind, Sister Roberts. So why should we lose ours along with you?" the pastor said. "As you say yourself, you’re overreacting. Ah…did anybody notice eyeglasses on sale yesterday?" "There were three or four pairs of sunglasses, Pastor," the social deaconess said. "I don’t know about regular ones." "Okay, then, let’s not nitpick about this. The only thing to do is go out and examine the evidence before we lament about being in the midst of the Apocalypse. A fear confronted is a fear defeated! So let’s all go outside to go look for the others, and then I’ll call the cops on that hippie house for causing mayhem at a religious service!" The church members shook like jelly as they filed out the door, fearful of what they would or wouldn’t find. They stumbled over canes, eyeglasses, clothes and shoes as they roamed all over the church property, callin' out names of departed friends or relatives. Several checked some ownerless purses. Money and credit cards were still in all of 'em. But this was one time findin' filthy lucre didn't fill their hearts with joy.
Sister Mabel had known Dora well, but thought the old lady was just a dotty fanatic whose every word had to be taken with a grain of salt. Mabel looked down. Lo, and behold, a leather-bound Bible was in the grass, and its pages flapped around in the breeze. Mabel stooped to pick it up. Mabel shrieked when she spotted a highlighted verse: Mark 8:36. Now Mabel knew what Dora’s Bible looked like, but she just had to be sure. She marked the passage with her finger while she turned the Bible to the front to check for the name of the owner. Sure enough, Dora’s name was on the flyleaf. Melt-down time for Mabel. "Pastor! Pastor! I found Sister Dora’s Bible, and it was turned to this verse: ‘What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul’?" "What have we lost, except a few troublemakers who picked a hippie for their pastor?" Pastor Frisk called. "I say this is just a stunt perpetrated by lazy hippies persecuting us because they’re jealous of prosperity we earned by our own diligence and hard work! This was supposed to be my chance to shine at my church at my very first service, but unwashed riffraff ruined it for me!" He was almost crying. Well, it wasn’t long before they all had to face reality: They really had been left behind after the others responded to the Voice of the Good Shepherd, spoken through an angel who disguised himself as one of the most looked-down-on members of society. Loud lamentations of fear and regret rose up from the picture-perfect residential streets. Several church members got the fearful news on their cell phones. It was then that they knew they'd been sold a lie and that their late pastor had sold his own soul for a bag of fool's gold.
$$$$$$ Greedy, Ah Wanna SEE Yew! A Thievin’ Theologian Flunks Love 101 (The names are as fake as Greedy’s toothy smile, but , I hate to say, the story’s true)
This story's about a real mean mo-o-och. I was munchin' straw in the feed lot at the Cowpoke Rodeo when I overheard some old guy yakkin' with Cody about what happened at his church a long time ago. Anyhow, it was
testimony time at Sweetwater Church, and some big lug of a guy name'o Brother Duncan Greedy was tellin' everybody how Bible college had enriched his walk with Jesus. “Did y’all know there’s three different words for ‘love’ in Greek?” Duncan asked the congregation. “Phileo, agape, and eros. Now, phileo love is like brotherly love. That’s where they get the name ‘Philadelphia’ from, the City of Brotherly Love. Then there’s agape, spelled a-g-a-p-e and pronounced ahGAH-pay. That’s the most Christlike love of all, saints, the self-sacrificin’ kind Christians are supposed to have for one another. Finally,” he blushed in his country-boy way, “there’s ‘eros’ love, the kind husbands have for wives.” “What a blessin’ not to be limited to English in my daily study," Duncan said, proud as a peacock. So next he says: "Thank the Lord I know Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, and I can dig out the real meat of God’s Holy Word, instead of relyin’ on vague, all-purpose English jargon. Greek really does zero in on the exact meanin’ of what you’re tryin’ to say.” On that hot, sweltery Southern evening all the saints said "amen" like they were fallin' asleep. “Thank you, Brother Duncan,” the pastor told him. “Who’ll be next, now? We’ve got time for one more good one.” They say opposites attract. Well, that must be true. Duncan turned on the charm, and it wasn’t long before his proposed to a girl he had his eye on. It was well nigh miraculous. Up to now, Pearl hadn't taken much of a notion to date anybody. Her one love had always been to serve Jesus, and her dearest dream had always been to go to Africa as a missionary. But she ended up puttin' that dream on the back burner to say "yes" to Duncan's marriage proposal. Now Pearl was poor but Pearl was just like Jesus in all the ways that counted. Duncan didn't really appreciate the blessing he was about to receive. No one could figure out why Pearl fell for that guy. They were as different as Boston and Baton Rouge. Duncan was a mountain of a man who must’a weighed in the neighborhood of 420 pounds. He looked like he never missed a meal. His idea of heaven was a big pile of cookies washed down with a bathtub of buttermilk. Pearl was a tiny slip of a gal who preferred spiritual food, and she ate to live while Duncan lived to eat. Once Pearl made the last payment on her old van, wedding bells rang. Now she could quit her waitress job and start cookin' and cleanin' for Duncan. Everybody was glad to see her better off financially.
But what did prosperity cost? Duncan didn’t much care where that came from, in that recession year of ‘74. Now Duncan had it made. Not only had he gotten his girl, and all her house-keepin' skills, but a paint wagon for his new business: Splatter Brothers House Painters. The pastor gave his blessing. Some brothers in the church needed a job, but they didn't want to go work for some ornery ol' cuss of a sinner. Most people thought Duncan was a little weird, but, what the heck? That only made him more lovable. You never saw that guy without a goofy grin on his face, as if he was always sharin' a private joke with himself. That was some crew Duncan took on: a tamed hippie and his brainy buddy Flint Barker, along with an off-beat bachelor who’d just as soon change his job as his socks. Last but not least, Brother Wayne, a salt-of-the-earth church elder who had three kids and a fourth on the way. Those Christian guys would have a grand old time workin' for Duncan. My, it’d be the next best thing to heaven. Ol' Duncan laid it on the line with the men. Before any of them got paid, he'd have to skim the cream off the top to pay any expenses of runnin' Splatter Brothers House Painters. They all shook on it. Duncan's phone bill had to be paid, since it was used to land jobs for everybody. Fair enough. Gas had to be put in his tank, and his car had to be kept up. Can't argue with that either. Well, Duncan decided to milk their brotherly love to the max. Why not throw his house payment and utilities into the deal for good measure? And why not sweeten the pot even more with a regular supply of yuppie health food to keep meat on the big boss's bones? But his men were called on to endure hardness as good soldiers of the Cross. A cross that Duncan, not Jesus, put on them. They could get by just fine with just any ol' cheap scraps for lunch. But Duncan was allergic to cheap food. He thought he was too good to eat like poor working stiffs. He ate lunch, breakfast and dinner, and zillions of snacks like a millionaire. More about that later. What an education it was to work for Duncan Greedy. One day Duncan's men got ready to work on a great big ol' house. Flint had a question for him. “Duncan," he asked him, “aren’t you gonna scrape the old paint off first before using your spray gun?” “What on earth for?” “If you don’t, Duncan, it’ll look all lumpy and uneven.”
Now, Duncan didn't like to be argued with or shown up by anybody lower on the totem pole, even a guy with a genius I.Q. like Flint. Even laid-back Marvin, a messy bachelor said: “If I were you, Duncan, I’d think twice before cutting corners on this one.” Duncan scratched the back of his neck and grinned. “Well, I’d kind’a thought of scrapin’ it, but once we slather a good pile of paint on, nobody’ll notice anyway. No sense wearin' myself out before I start the real paint job." Flint’s cigarette almost fell out of his mouth. “You mean you’re gonna prime it without scraping it first? Look how weather-beaten this old house is. It must be fifty years since it saw a paint brush.” To prove how flaky the paint was, Flint peeled some off with his fingernail. Duncan looked at Flint like he was speakin' Chinese. “What’s primin’?” “It’s when you paint on the first coat, then let it dry before applying the second.” “Oh, I don’t know about that,” Duncan said, “It’d take way too long.” Flint didn't cotton to ignorance by so-called experts. “Now, Duncan, maybe I’m being a bit of an ignoramus, but don’t you think the paint job will last a lot longer if you apply two layers instead of only one?” “Not the way I do it, Flint. That’s why I got me this little baby,” he winked at his sprayer. “It blasts the paint on faster than ten men can in the same mtime usin’ brushes.” “But it’s gonna look like hell if you don’t scrape the old paint off first, then prime the house, give it a day or two to dry, then go over it again. Or didn’t you factor that in when you made your bid, Duncan?” Wayne stood up for Flint. “Listen to Flint,” Wayne said. “ He’s one sharp cookie. He’ll never steer you wrong, Duncan.” Duncan got a peculiar frown on his face. “Now y’all see here. I don’t need nobody to steer me nowhere. Look, y’all, there might just be one Way to get to heaven, but there’s lots of ways to solve a nit-pickin’ problem like a bump on a wall. If we see any, we’ll just slap on more paint to make ‘em less noticeable. And don’t worry, Flint, we’ll pile on enough paint for two coats, all at once. That’s bein’ a better steward of our time. The Bible says: ‘Redeem the time’. Not even Flint can argue with that. Remember, y’all, the slower we go, the quicker Christmas comes.” If those poor men got paid forty dollars a week apiece, they thought they were livin' high on the hog. Problem was, Duncan always underestimated the costs connected with the job, though he’d always buy less than half the paint
needed and thin it out with water. The customer would be amazed by Duncan’s bargain-basement bid, even more by how fast he could knock out a job on a two-story Victorian house. One starry-eyed lady said, “It’s nothing short of miraculous! Y’all finished in only three hours!” Duncan grinned and pointed with pride at his sprayer. He said, “That’s the miracle of modern technology.” He really thought, She’s dumb as mud. Good timin, too.’ Rain’s in tomorrow’s forecast. I did my part. I slapped new paint on for her. I never said how long it would last, and before it runs, I’ll run. That paint sprayer was Duncan’s favorite toy. That paint he slopped onto walls was thinner than buttermilk. Generally, the customer wouldn’t even bother to check to see if he’d scraped the old paint off first. So long as Duncan split before hard rains hit, he’d be home free. The first couple of paydays, the crew members chalked up their poor pay to start-up costs for Duncan's business. But as winter came on, poverty took its toll on patience and brotherly kindness. Every day Flint would take one mayonnaise sandwich to work, two if times were good. His three buddies would fidget and gnaw their knuckles after they ate their last bite of bread. They'd just sit there, watchin' the head honcho chow down on his big fat whole grain .sandwiches, full of fancy fillings. Never a day passed but ol' Duncan had a big pile of homemade cookies for dessert. He had to be mighty rich to have his wife bake cookies in a year when sugar prices shot up to $5.00 for a five-pound bag, which is about $10.00 in today's money. Flint's stomach was hollow as the Grand Canyon, and he was turnin' blue from the cold. Well, he moseys on over to Duncan, cool and calm, his leaky work boots leavin' big tracks in the crunchy snow. There's ol' Duncan, chewin' his pile of cookies like a juicy cud, or a better way to put it was, he made love to those cookies while his men went hungry. Well, anyway, Flint up and asked Duncan, “Would you mind sharing just one with the rest of us?” Duncan choked on his cookie and coughed. That really rattled his brain. “The very idea! Y’all have got some nerve! Can’t your wife bake, Flint?” That only riled ol' Flint up. “With what? You can’t make cookies out of hot air.” Flint looked at Duncan's face, but nobody was home in it. Flint figured he might just as well go on fastin' at lunchtime as ask him again." To this day nobody knows how Duncan got any sleep at night, the way he treated his brethren in Christ; the way his watered-down paint smeared his
Christian testimony. Worst of all, it never sank in how he grieved the Holy Spirit by robbin' others. Duncan always bid on jobs lower than anybody else, so his crew got picked to renovate the Grand Ol' Train Station. They say that depot got built before the Civil War. My, Duncan got to grinnin' about that plum job, just like a cat that caught the mouse. Wonder what went through his genius brain. It outlasted the blast of Yankee guns and lots of cannon balls, but would this relic of the South survive Duncan’s splatter gun, or would the mighty landmark fall? Over the years, great big chunks of plaster had fallen out of the walls, due to the muggy climate. But Duncan was gung-ho. “Piece of cake,” he said. "Fellers, this job’s a gift. We’ll knock it out in no time.” Flint asked Duncan how they'd manage to fix up that sorry mess of a train station. Duncan always got aggravated at Flint, 'cause Flint wouldn’t shut up and submit to authority like everybody else without sayin' his two cents’ worth. “Just go faster with the plaster,” Duncan told them. “Any idiot can figure that one out.” And go fast they did. But Flint kept after Duncan. “Hey, Duncan, I’m telling you right now, you’ve gotta give each layer of plaster time to set and dry before you apply the next coat. Otherwise the air can’t get through to harden it. Not in this kind of climate.” “Aw...it’ll look just fine.” “But what if it doesn’t set, Duncan, and rots away with mildew? What then?” Duncan kept a can-do attitude. “Aw, Flint, stop borrowin’ trouble. All they’re payin’ us for is to fill in the holes in this wall. Pure and simple. They never said we had to resurrect this old dump to everlastin’ life. For all we know, the Russians might nuke this place to kingdom come tomorrow, and even if they don’t, the sinners who hired us are all goin’ to hell anyhow. Trouble with you is, you worry too much.” Flint decided to submit. “Okay,” he said, “you’re the boss.” So Duncan says to him, “That’s better. Now let’s get that plaster mixed. Time we spent a-arguin’, we could’a had it done by now.” In no time all the Splatter Brothers got the gaps in the walls filled in and that dilapidated depot looked good as new. At least till the followin' week, when the walls collapsed like a California mudslide.
So who got blamed when it caved in? Poor, unlucky Flint, the rebellious guy who dared to doubt Duncan. Duncan cackled like a mother hen when he fondled his filthy lucre, pleased as punch he lived way out in the sticks and his hideout was hard to find. Throughout their trial of affliction, Brother Wayne kept the other men’s spirits up. He’d always tell his pals their hard trial was just another chance to test their mettle in the fiery furnace of affliction. And they ought to rejoice about that, he told them. If somebody does you wrong, it’s God’s business to set 'em straight. Still, ol' Duncan never did apologize to anybody he’d swindled. Not to his paintin' crew, or to those sinner customers who got their houses painted with cut-price slop he’d gotten for just $2.00 a can. Good ol' boy Duncan would sweeten the pot by tellin' customers his curdled, petrified old paint cost a whole lot more than it did. So he was a liar, not just a cheat. Sometimes a hypocrite needs to be treated with a little forbearance, but the "bear" in forbearance is what he needs to strike the fear of God in his crusty ol' heart. The Splatter Brothers got commissioned to fix up an old mansion with a fancy staircase. Once again Flint begged to differ with Duncan. “Duncan, the man specifically said: Paint the stairs and stain the walls. I heard him.” “Well, you need to clean out your ears, Flint. He said: ‘Stain the stairs and paint the walls’.” Flint knew ol' Duncan was a stubborn mule. “Okay, have it your way.” “All right, fellers,” Duncan said, “we gotta hustle now. I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve got Christmas shoppin’ to do before all them stores close.” The crew weren't too happy to start work on the place, 'cause they knew how it would pan out. Their customer wasn't around so they couldn't check with him. The men followed Duncan’s orders, just ‘cause he was boss. Always obey authority. Sorta like the excuse the Nazis gave after WWII. They were just followin' orders. That ol' mansion didn’t have a prayer, as Duncan aimed his slop sprayer. Once they got done, Duncan grinned like a polecat. Time to receive the reward of iniquity. Duncan had a hunch that nobody would bother to inspect the job before he got his windfall. Duncan stood around braggin' about that wild spendin' spree he’d go on to celebrate the birth of the One Who gave His all for others. Then the floorboards creaked as if a freight train from hell was comin' to take vengeance on Duncan for the fall of the old train depot. Duncan
froze in his tracks. The steps got louder and louder. He jumped like a scared jackrabbit. Before Duncan could duck out the rear door he heard one hellacious roar: “GREEDY, AH WANNA SEE YEW!” That was the maddest man Duncan had ever seen. His eyes blazed fire and his nose breathed steam. I'm too polite to repeat what was said. Duncan’s daddy had never given him such a tongue lashin' in all his life. His men ran in another room so Duncan couldn't hear those guys let it all out. It really cracked 'em all up. They all howled over the mess Duncan got himself in. They’d have to go back and strip Duncan's expertise off the stairs and walls, and do the job all over again. But laughter is good for a bruised soul. It seems Duncan must have heard 'em all laugh. Something turned him from a bunglin’ good ‘ol boy corner-cuttin’ crook into a mean ol’ crocodile. Sin is like that. Especially when it's a Bible expert that does the sinnin'. Once you peel the gold paint off a religious rat’s sin, only then do you see it for the stinky pasture pie it really is. “Christian” con artists grin so good you never notice they’re busy bilkin' you behind your back. A varmint like that can’t be let off with the excuse that he's not all there, 'cause it takes a real sly sidewinder to bamboozle folks the way ol' Duncan did. Some say God'll always look the other way when folks cheat His children, 'cause there's no end to the sugar pie love and mercy He showers on sidewinders. But I don't know about that. So how come God's got scads of Scriptures that warn of the big cloudburst of judgment that's comin' to hit the earth? Even Balaam's jackass had enough sense to want to steer clear of God when He got mad at sin. Pardners, if you wanna stand for God then you gotta stand against sin. He didn't put you here on this earth to be the devil's doormat. Flint finally had his showdown with Duncan one snowy-cold afternoon. Duncan was still on cloud nine from all his Christmas goodies, and the New Year could only get better. Duncan's hungry men would work hard to make sure this year was even more prosperous than the last. But how thankful was Duncan Greedy to the needy? It was almost time for Brother Wayne's wife to have her new baby. Wayne felt like he'd better call to see if she was okay. Since his job kept him broke, Wayne had to borrow a coin to go use a pay phone. He knew good buddy Duncan was the only one who had anything in his pocket. Wayne took a deep breath. He dragged himself over to Duncan to ask if he could borrow a whole quarter to phone home.
Wayne might as well have asked Duncan for a whole quart of blood. Duncan just about had a heart attack. Then he bellowed, “No time for that! Get back to work!” Well, ol' Flint, he got as mad as a bull with a red petticoat waved in front of it. He sashayed over to Duncan and said: “I don’t believe we heard you right. What did you just say to Wayne?” “All I said was, we’re way behind schedule, so what gives Wayne the notion he’s got time to call his wife?” “Well, wouldn’t you call yours if she was about to have a baby and needed reassurance?” “Well, that’s different.” The pot really boiled over now. I've had to wash a few words with some lye soap before I could give you some notion of what Flint really might'a said. “How’s it different? Doesn’t the Bible say to love your neighbor as yourself?” Duncan pulled out the only religious ace up his sleeve. “Now you see here, Barker, you’re in rebellion. You’re tryin’ to usurp my authority over these men...” “You don’t have authority over my cigarette butt!” Flint yelled back, and then he threw one on the ground. “For months and months all of us have put up with your bull, and the only reason we did it was out of respect for Brother Wayne, not for you! You’ve robbed us blind every single week! We oughta report you to the Labor Board for fraud! While we barely had a scrap of bread among us, you stuffed your fat face with big sandwiches and piles of cookies, and you had the gall to eat them right under our nose, you flea-brained flake! You skimmed off cash you could have paid us with and paid YOUR gas bill, YOUR electric bill, YOUR phone bill, YOUR car upkeep and gas, and packed YOUR refrigerator with fancy foods while we almost dropped dead from cold and hunger! Is that showing the love of Christ?” “Well...uh...we did have an agreement...” “It was like making a deal with satan! Every day when we got up and dragged our dead bodies to work, we kept our mouths shut, hoping against hope the Lord would make you see the light! But now you’ve pushed me too far!” Greedy wiggled and jiggled. He looked at his paint crew but they sure weren't rootin' for him. "Look," Duncan said, "if it’s about the money...”
“Well, I don’t need your grimy money!" ol' Flint said, holdin' his head high. "I wouldn’t wipe my nose on it! You make me sick, the garbagey way you just treated Brother Wayne’s wife, all over a stinking quarter! You don’t care two cents about her! All you love is yourself! You cheap chiseler! It would be bad enough if what you just said about wanting to get finished on time was the real reason! Now I may look dumb, but don’t take me for a fool, boy! I just ain’t that stupid! You were worried Wayne wouldn’t pay the quarter back, weren’t you?” “That’s none of your business, Barker! Some Christian you are! At least I don’t cuss!” But he couldn't outsmart Flint. “The way you live is one big cussword, the way you scam so-called sinners day after day after day and still have the gall to tell ‘em the grand old story of Jesus and His love! So who’s the sinner, Greedy? It’s you! You and your convoluted words for ‘love’, when you wouldn’t even recognize love if it hit you between the eyeballs! You say you feel sorry for us dumb hicks for only knowing English. Well, boy, if God can’t get through to you in plain English, all your Greek gobbledygook is just so much hot air! Now, what was that St. Paul said about a clanging cymbal?” Duncan got sassy with him. “It’s YOU who thinks you’re smarter’n everybody else, just ‘cause you believe in evolution!” “Well,” Flint let him know, “evolution is only a theory, but to say you evolved from a monkey insults the monkey. All of us here have treated you like a friend, but that doesn’t mean beans to you. What was that you said about the love of a friend? And how did you return it? You spat on our friendship, and you stole our livelihoods out from under our feet. I know your kind, Greedy. All you do is use people, then throw ‘em away like old trash you don’t need anymore. No animal on earth is that mean. And do you think it’s the love of Christ, to con your customers like you do each and every day? No, Duncan, you couldn’t have evolved from anything except a shark. So testify to the whole church and say: ‘God showed me this and this, and I’m superior to the rest of you yokels who barely graduated high school.’ But in the final analysis, God’s gonna bring you to book for what you did with all that fancy book-learnin’. You not only treated poor Wayne and his family like dirt, but Christ too. He said that what you do to your brother, you do to Him as well, or didn’t they expound on that superfluous point in seminary? By their fruits ye shall know them, the Lord said, and just being around you leaves a nasty taste in my mouth!” Flint spat on the ground, he felt so mad.
Duncan looked as mad as a pit bull stung by a bee. He lifted his nose at him like a king. “Barker, you’re fired! Get lost!” But Flint wasn’t gonna just slink away like a whipped puppy and let Duncan have the last word. He threw down his paint brush and yelled, “I’ve never been fired from any job before, you bloodsucker, and this won’t be the first time! You can’t fire me from this joke of a job! I quit!” When the night is darkest, that's when day's about to break. A couple of days later, God answered a prayer He must have listened to a hundred times, one prayed by Wayne's wife. Every day when Wayne would come in from work she’d ask him : “Have you quit your job yet?” Now Duncan had no crew left. He just scratched his head and said, “Why’s everybody mad at me, anyway? Why’d Flint bless me out like that? They’re the ones who were goofin’ off on the job, and slothfulness is a sin. Aw...to heck with ‘em all! I can do just fine without ‘em, and I won’t have to pay no wages, neither!” Duncan huffed and puffed when he tried to drag his big body up the paint ladder. Skinny Flint wasn't around to paint the upper floors anymore. Well, y’all can guess real quick how it all panned out. In short order Splatter Brothers Paint Company went belly up. At church, Pearl tried to apologize to different ones. She felt like nothin' was the same between her hubby and the church folks anymore, and when she tried to say somethin', her words got stuck in her throat. She was such a Christlike lady, it hurt her deep inside. But it wasn't Pearl's fault. It was Duncan’s duty to own up to his sins, but he was too proud to do it. Easy forgiveness can't always be handed out like popcorn, or at least forgiveness can't be a finished business so long as your brother refuses to repent. People who brag about knowin' God's Word should be held even more accountable than out-and-out sinners who never heard of Jesus. Jesus said that the more God gives you, the more God expects of you. If the backslidin' brother doesn't give a flip that he hurt you, a wall will always be between you and him. Jesus said in Luke 17:3: If he (and Jesus is talkin' about a brother in the Lord) repent, forgive him. Notice the little word "if". IF HE REPENT forgive him. But even if he doesn't, don't carry a grudge, just bring your beef to God and let Him handle it. In no case should you stop lovin' the other person, but it takes two to reconcile. If that religious rascal is one stubborn mule who won't ask for forgiveness and just waits for time to wash it under the bridge, the fellowship between y'all is still shot full of holes.
So what if your brother won't see the light? Remember, 'ol Duncan cheated a church elder too. Wayne was such a sweet, patient saint, and he practiced what he preached about the Love of Jesus. But Duncan didn’t care where his extra fat came from, even if it came out of somebody else's hide. Jesus taught His own crew of disciples that if some sleazy religious con won't own up to his dirty deeds when you have a private man-to-man talk, you're supposed to get one or two other brethren to try to make him see sense, and that's in Matthew 18:15-17. If he still won't listen, then you bring the problem to the whole church. But if the varmint thumbs his nose at what the church says about his ornery ways, then you might as well treat him like a thievin' tax collector. He's lost his right to be treated like a Godfearin' brother in Christ. From what I heard, folks thought that the pastor didn't call Duncan on the carpet 'cause Pearl had always been one of the saintliest pillars of that church, and he didn’t want her to get hurt from negative fallout. Pearl had her own cross to bear, just livin' with that man. Her trials were worse than when she was a poor single girl. Duncan wasn't satisfied with all the unrepented-of discord he sowed among the brethren. Several years down the road he came up with a great idea: quit workin' to support his big family and go back to college. Poor Pearl was up to her neck in diapers and dishes. She had four kids under the age of six. “So what do you think of goin’ back to work so I can go back to school for my doctorate in theology?” Duncan asked her. “ It’d only be temporary, of course; that is, unless you really enjoy the job and want to keep on workin’.” Pearl's heart felt heavy as lead. How, she asked Duncan, could they pay somebody to babysit four little kids? That alone would gobble up all her take-home pay. “Oh, you’ll think of somethin’,” Duncan told her, as if it was her problem, not his. “You’re a smart gal. But my dream will never come true without your help. If you truly love Jesus, you’ll submit. Remember how Brother Barry said a good wife would even jump off a cliff if her husband told her to.” Pearl knew that only God could deliver her from havin' to leave her family in day care they didn't have the money for. Her little babies needed her. She prayed her heart out for a miracle. The good Lord works in mysterious ways. Wasn't too long before Duncan’s uncle went to his eternal reward. Even before the body was cold
the will was read, and guess who got a big slab of the pie? Problem solved. Pearl could stay home with the kids, and 'ol Duncan could be a schoolboy again. As everybody stood by the grave, Duncan hid his face behind his sleeve. “He’s breaking down,” one lady whispered, “and he’s just too dignified to let us see him cry.” Once the minister got done with his long-winded eulogy and committed the departed’s soul to God, Duncan slipped away to go meditate in private. “This really hit him hard,” his elderly aunt said. I never realized Duncan and Lester were that close.” Pearl caught up with Duncan. Instead of tears, she saw a grin as wide as the state of Texas. “You look so peaceful, Duncan,” she said. “You must be happy for Uncle Lester, just knowing his sufferings are over, and he’s with Jesus now.” “Oh, it ain’t just that,” Duncan sniffed. “That ol’ guy taught me more about love in the cemetery than I learned in the seminary. Greater love hath no uncle than this, than that he lay down his life savings for dear ol’ Duncan.” $$$$$$
Cashin’ in on the Unpardonable Sin If Cowboy Cody was sittin’ on the fence before, he sure shot up off that fence after he felt the barbed wire on top of it. Now Cody’s on the right side of that fence and he’s a much happier man for it. One evening, when all the other guys were in town playin’ poker, Cody started on a chore his pastor gave him. Part of it was to watch a DVD of a big, scary preacher name’o Brother Whiplash. It's peaceful outside and I stick my head in the bunkhouse window to see Cody. He says to me, “Tex, you ain’t said nothin’ to me in the longest, and that’s okay, ‘cause it ain’t natural for animals to shoot the bull. But Tex, since you’re the guinea pig for my sermons, I’ll tell ya what’s on my mind. A good buddy once said to me, ‘Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. You can eat the meat and still throw the bone away.’ Now, Tex, you and I both know there’s good in everybody. Even a mean ol’ rattlesnake makes
mighty good eatin’ if you get hungry enough. So even if this preacher’s just another fisher-for-funds, I’ll find somethin’ good to say about him on Sunday. Brother Bullard wants me to base my sermon on this DVD. If I do a good job of it I get to stay on as lay pastor of his church.” Brother Whiplash was a big, beefy dude with a sour vinegar face. But he didn’t scare all the fish away by lettin’ ‘em have it outa both barrels all at once. He eased into his favorite topic: money. He started by touchin' on topics any decent Christian just had to agree with: God is good. God blesses those who love Him. He loves a cheerful giver (that’s in the Bible, by the way!). So far, so good. It takes faith to please God, and faith without works is dead. Can’t argue with that scripture. Take up your Cross and follow Christ, and if you don’t forsake all you don't deserve Jesus. True too. But here’s where it all starts to come unglued. “Your attitude is everything!” Brother Whiplash yelled, wavin’ his Bible in the air. “You might claim to love Jesus, but how much are you willing to SACRIFICE for Him? He poured out His lifeblood for you, for me, for every living human on earth. Yet so many of you won’t even give up your daily cup of coffee to save this ministry from buckling under the increasing cost of air time and other costs too numerous to mention. A measly cup of coffee! That’s just fifty cents a day. That’s the very LEAST you could do to prove your love for Jesus. “But fifty cents a day is peanuts in the eyes of God. Jesus demands EVERYTHING! Over and over again I’ve quoted Malachi 3:8-10 to all you out in my congregation, but old sluefoot’s sprinkled fairy dust in your eyes and the saints are asleep in Zion as usual. God’s Word is not bearing fruit in your lives. Will a man rob God? Bring ye ALL the tithes into the whore…cough! I mean, storehouse, God promises, and He will pour you out a blessing so big you won’t have room to receive it. The diametric opposite of a blessing, though, is a curse! Ye are cursed with a curse!” Brother Whiplash jabbed his finger at the camera for lettin’ Jesus down, then lumbered across the stage and punched the air. He bounced back across the stage like a mad dog principal swingin’ a paddle. It sounded like a gangster gospel, the way that preacher painted the Lord as someone who sent the devil to work over any believers who welsh on their protection payments. “God’s gonna turn the devil loose on your finances if you don’t render unto Him His percentage of your paycheck!” Brother Whiplash ranted. The veins in his neck stood out and his beady eyes
spit fire. He looked like a preacher who got to the church supper too late and had to settle for the neck of the fried chicken. “And Why does God lay a curse on you? Ye have robbed me, even this whole nation!” the preacher yelled. “If you love Jesus with your whole heart, you’ll love Him with your paycheck, too.” Now, Brother Whiplash is one of the orneriest wolves ever to sneak into the sheepfold. If ever there was a dirty ace up the sleeve of a preacher bent on snaggin' his share of the pie, he was fixin' to pull it out. If you take this type of poison preachin’ to heart, it’ll make you too scared to turn out your lights at night. You’ll worry yourself sick night and day that if you don’t dance when the preacher fires at your feet, you’ve used up your fair share of God's grace and God can't forgive you no more. For any fisherfor-funds who wants to poleaxe his cattle into dumb submission, this is the Jezebel mother of all religious voodoo. “Turn with me now to Acts chapter 5, verses 1 to 11.” Brother Whiplash said. He looked at his watch. “We’re running short of time, so instead of quoting the whole passage I’ll just tell you the gist of what it says. It’s a tragedy, saints, written about a certain man named Ananias and his wife, Sapphira. They loved money more than Jesus. This couple held back tithe money they were supposed to pay the church. They lusted after that tiny portion of their finances which was God’s rightful due. When Simon Peter came by to balance the church books, he asked Ananias why he has sinned against the Holy Ghost by holding back God’s tithe money. And before Ananias could make any lame excuses....bam!" Brother Whiplash twirled his big body, punchin' and kickin' at the air. "Ananias dropped dead for being stingy with money which should have gone to the work of the Lord.” “Well, after the deacons carried Ananias’ carcass away, his wife came in to see Peter. He asked her why she plotted with Ananias to rob God of money which was rightfully His. Why did she commit this terrible sin against the Holy Ghost? Before Sapphira could give Peter a smelly fish story...bam! ...she hit the floor too, and the deacons came back in and carried her out on a stretcher." Once again the big guy did his dance routine. Then he put on his undertaker face. “Up until then, the church had been caught up in the joy of the Lord and spreading the great glad tidings of Jesus’ love. But now it was a very sad day for the early church. Two funerals were scheduled for that day. All because there were two Judases
among them who loved a Gucci bag full of silver more than they loved their Savior.” Brother Whiplash was a grim ol’ grouse, but he looked like a cat that caught the mouse. The Name of the dear Savior was bein’ used by this mean pulpit bully to pry money outa poor churchmice with littler churchmice to feed. But now Brother Whiplash was blowin' up the biggest H-Bomb on the gunrack of churchianity to blast open all the piggy banks out in the pews: the unforgiveable sin. The preacher bowed his head and folded his hands. “The Bible says that whoever commits the unpardonable sin can never be forgiven for it, but is in danger of roasting eternally in a devil's hell. Friends, have YOU been withholding God’s tithes and shutting your ears to His plea to pay it? If so, you could be reserving your place in hell, the cheapest heartbreak hotel in the universe. You’re on the verge of commiting that awful sin which can never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come. Now, I’m gonna have Flora Belle come up and sing for us. And I’d like every soul within the sound of my voice to search their hearts to see if covetousness lurks within. Are YOU skating on the edge of the pit of hell, brothers and sisters? Are you willing to deny yourself, take up your cross daily and lay your all on the altar of sacrifice? Everyone who sees themselves in the message I just preached, please get up out of your seats and come up front to pray. If any of you need to clear up some debt with God, He is more than willing to forgive you once you’ve shown your faith through obeying His command to keep current with your tithe. "If you’re at home, come up to your TV screen and touch it as a sign before God of your renewed commitment to Him. It STINKS to rob God so you’d better write out a check for your tithing arrears and send it in to this ministry. Or, you can pay by credit or debit card. Better still, you can use your debit card to have your tithe deducted monthly by this ministry." Brother Whiplash scrunched his nose. "Or, rather, it might be more appropriate for you to render this service unto the church where you regularly attend. But if you have no settled church home to tithe to, please prayerfully consider whether the Lord would have you to sow your tithe into the fertile soil of Whiplash Ministries. Cough!…excuse me!…This especially holds true if you've been receiving most of your spiritual food through this telecast. You would never go into a restaurant and enjoy a fine meal without paying, so don't do that to the Lord, either. Simply estimate the total of your monthly tithe, plus a little extra for a love offering, and tell one of our
phone operators who is waiting to take your call. Our number is on the screen. They will get your account numbers over the phone, and each and every month thereafter your tithe will automatically be deducted from your bank account. It's as simple as that. You needn't give your tithe another thought, and every night you can go to bed with a clear conscience, knowing that you aren't robbing God. All of a sudden Brother Whiplash looked friendly. "Right now I'm gonna ask Flora Belle to sing the lovely hymn 'Is Your All on the Altar of Sacrifice Laid?'. Everyone bow your head and close your eyes. Flora Belle will sing softly as I speak." She did a good job. Her angel voice would make a robin sound like a crow. Talk about puttin' icing on a cow patty! That sweet song would make a holdout feel like a horse thief. As Flora Belle reached the tear-jerkin' climax of the chorus, Brother Whiplash earnestly said, "God is a merciful God. But the day will come when the door of mercy will forever be shut. At the judgment, those tithes you owed God and failed to pay will testify against you as a thief and a robber. Oh, come up front now and confess this terrible sin before it's everlastingly too late. Once I’ve prayed with those members of my congregation who have fallen behind in tithes or offerings, just lay whatever you owe God in these offering plates on the altar.” Six big gold plates were spread out on the long offerin’ table, waitin’ to be piled high with checks and cash. The ones used durin' the offertory part of the service had already been whisked away. All this time Cody had his Bible open, and he took plenty of notes. After watchin’ herds of snifflin’ people rushin' up front to part with their hardearned cash, he just couldn’t stomach no more of it. Cody turned off the TV, then looked at me and said, “I just can’t believe it, Tex, the way all those folks went forward, boo-hooin' and puttin’ checks and money in them plates. No wonder that preacher didn’t want to take time to read that Scripture out loud. He just had too much wool to pull over the eyes of them sheep out in the pews. Know what else, Tex? That Ananias and Sapphira story really starts in the last six verses of Acts Chapter 4. All the believers shared what they had in common, and some of ‘em would even sell their homesteads to raise money to feed other Christians that were poor. Up to now, I’ve never preached on finances, but Brother Bullard wants me to, just to prove I’m no longer in rebellion against his authority. But I have to answer to God in the end, not him. Now, it just might get me thrown outa church, but no preacher worth his salt will hold back the truth. That’s a worse sin than
holdin’ back money. Brother Bullard’s just gotta be warned that the road to hell is paved with grimy gold.” I mo-o-oed “amen”. Cowboy Cody was on probation with Brother Bullard, but he was still man enough to show Brother Bullard the truth. Cody was puttin’ his lay pastorate on the line. And if worst came to worst, he'd even be willin’ to go look for another church. Cody had a tall, narrow bookshelf which he shoved closer to the window. He set his notes on top of it. “Okay, Tex. Pay attention now. I'll practice the punchline of my message first, as that’ll be the hardest part for Brother Bullard to swallow: There you have it, brothers and sisters. Acts 4: 32 to 37 is the contextual setting of Ananias and Sapphira's terrible sin, the one they committed in Chapter 5. The first word you’ll see in the first verse of Chapter 5 is ‘but’. That means there’s a continuation from what was said in the last verses of Chapter 4, which we just read. So let’s read some more, beginnin' with Acts 5:1: BUT a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? “Now, brothers and sisters, here’s the part preachers skip over when they analyze Ananias and Sapphira's sin: The very next thing Peter says is: Whiles it remained, WAS IT NOT THINE OWN? AND AFTER IT WAS SOLD, WAS IT NOT IN THINE OWN POWER? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. “Now, here's the key to clearin' out a hornet's nest of confusion about the meanin' of this story: Peter tells Ananias that the land was HIS OWN, not the church’s. That means that after Ananias sold this property, he could'a kept all the money for himself if he wanted to. Ananias was under no obligation whatsoever to devote any of that money to the Lord’s work. But no, you never hear any preacher bring that minor point up. So where did Ananias’ sin lie? It lay in LYIN’ to God, nothin’ more and nothin’ less. “In the precedin’ chapter we saw how the early church ‘had all things in common’. Now, if Ananias and Sapphira had donated ALL the proceeds from the sale of their land to the church, they would'a been poor enough to live off the common church fund. But those two wanted to have their pie and eat it too. What it boiled down to was this: they were welfare chiselers out to milk the church. They wanted to live off of church welfare so they could
put their own money away for a rainy day. Problem for them was, that rainy day came a whole lot sooner than they wanted it to. “When a person is born again by trustin’ Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within the heart of that individual by faith. The Holy Ghost dwelt inside Simon Peter and all the other apostles. So when Ananias and Sapphira lied to the apostles who were doin’ the work of the Lord, they were also lyin’ to the Holy Spirit within them. They lied by sayin’ they were givin’ the church all the money they’d gotten for their land, which was the baldfaced lie God judged them for. Now, if those two had simply said, ‘We’re only givin’ some of what we got for the land,’ at least they would’a been honest about it, even if it meant they couldn’t take support from the common church fund. But at least they would’a lived and not been guilty of lyin’ to the Holy Ghost, which is what cost ‘em their lives. "But that sin which is beyond forgiveness entails much more than lyin' to God. It's got everything to do with lyin' to yourself about the Spirit within Christ, that One Who motivates His works. Want to know what Jesus says about the REAL sin against the Holy Ghost, that sin which the meanest of preachers will resort to to clean out your pockets? That text is found in Matthew Chapter 12, if y'all will turn there with me, please. The religious experts, the Pharisees, weren't too thrilled about the wonderful miracles Jesus was doin' to heal folks and cast out devils. Know why? 'Cause they were jealous, and it aggravated 'em real bad when they watched big crowds followin' after Jesus to hear His peachin'.” Cowboy Cody read the sad, sad story of how the Pharisees, who claimed to be Israel's religious pros from Dover, insulted the God Who appeared among men in the form of a humble Carpenter. Christ's wonderful miracles proved His divinity, but the Pharisees didn't want God to make waves and sink the boatload of blessings which came with bein' a blind leader of the blind. Cody said the Pharisees reminded him of rascally politicians who knew the truth wasn't on their side, so why not beat the good guy with a mudslingin' campaign? "So Who did they throw their mud at?" Cody said. "That sweet Spirit within Jesus Who empowered Him to do His mighty works of deliverance! They had the gall to say those miracles were done through the power of satan! And I can guarantee ya, brothers and sisters, after that, the wonderful Spirit of Grace never drew those low-down liars to Christ, the Fountain of Salvation. Some folks act like they got a hundred years to get right with God. But they forget that in order to get saved and enter the
Kingdom of God, the Holy Spirit must first draw them to Christ. Jesus said in John 6:44: No man can come to Me except the Father that sent Me draw him. And God the Father speaks to our hearts through the Holy Spirit. In John 16: 14 Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will take the things of Christ and show them to us. It is the Holy Spirit Who takes souls by the hand and leads 'em to Christ. And woe, woe, woe unto that person who drives this sweet Spirit of Grace away by blasphemin' Him and hardenin' their heart against Him! "So what exactly does Jesus say to those wicked Pharisees in Matthew 12? Let's read the everlastin' fate of those who deliberately insult God's Holy Spirit and attribute Jesus' wondrous works to satan: Verse 31 and 32 says: Wherefore I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come. "You'll find parallel passages about the unforgiveable sin in the books of Mark and Luke, but interestingly enough, folks, not one single mention of money or tithin' in conjunction with the unpardonable sin. God did NOT put that stuff about the unpardonable sin in the Bible to make rich preachers richer! Did ya hear that, Tex! Don't let some mean man in a pulpit threaten ya with hellfire and damnation for not givin' him the numbers on your credit card." I swung my horns and moo-o-oed. Cody stood up even straighter. “Now let's re-examine the story of Ananias and Sapphira, turnin' back to Acts Chapter 5. Contrary to what certain preachers would have y’all believe, Simon Peter did not zap Ananias and Sapphira for failure to tithe on their paychecks. Just like the word "tithe" is never mentioned in texts about the unpardonable sin, you won't find it in the story of Ananias and Sapphira either. Those two were not lyin' about ten percent of their paychecks which modern preachers say they automatically owed the church, they were lyin' about how much OF THEIR OWN MONEY they'd given to the church of their own free will!" Cody looked madder'n I'd ever seen him. "What gives preachers the right to change the meanin' of the unpardonable sin? They milk that sin like a cow so they can squeeze more filthy lucre into their big offering buckets! Not only do they misquote Malachi to make moolah, the worst of 'em teach it's an unforgivable sin to say 'no' to a tradition of men nowhere taught in the
Bible. I tend to suspect, brothers and sisters, that if anybody's in danger of reservin' their room at the Hellfire Hilton, it's those varmints who paint our lovin' Heavenly Father as a Mafia hitman who sicks the boogerman on you for not coughin' up the cash! "Well, I've got news for those money moochers. I've spent the last couple weeks diggin' through my study Bible and my big concordance, and NOWHERE in either the Old or New Testaments are God's people ever commanded to pay tithes on cash money earnings. These cemeterians know their Bible inside out and they KNOW it's a false tradition of men! If you'll study the epistles closely, Paul the apostle rebukes church people for all manner of sins. He mentions adultery. He cracks down on covetousness and not keepin' the Lord's supper properly. But NOT ONCE does Paul ever remind anybody to pay their tithe, or dress anybody down for failure to do so! "I've heard of good, lovin' Christian people who've gone crazy worryin' that they're guilty of commitin' the unpardonable sin. But I've got good news for those people. The very fact you're concerned about steerin' clear of such a sin proves you HAVEN'T committed it! Those Pharisees couldn't care less if they'd done it or not. They sure didn't lose any sleep over it, either. Not too long after Jesus rebuked those guys for insultin' His sweet Spirit, His enemies stirred up a lynch mob to haul Jesus to a kangaroo court that railroaded Him to the Cross. Today's religious pharaohs ain't any better than the Pharisees who tried to stamp out the truth with false accusations against Christ. And now they're falsely accusin' God's own children of the worst sin possible. Just to clean out their pockets. Any preacher, big or small, who dares to hang such a guilt trip on one of God's precious redeemed children deserves to go to hell himself, and such a preacher oughta RUN to God before it's forever too late and beg His forgiveness. As Peter said to the sorcerer Simon Magus in Acts 8:22: REPENT therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps this the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. Simon had received Christ as Savior, but he still hung onto his old ways of witchcraft. He went up to Peter and tried to buy the power of the Holy Ghost with cash money. That was an awful sin. Peter wasn't even sure that contemptible attitude on Simon's part COULD be forgiven. "Once again there's witchcraft in the house of the Lord, saints," Cody said, in a gentler tone. "Only this time, the sin lies with the so-called men of the cloth. For years and years God has been mighty patient with fishers for
funds who buy fancy Lexus cars, diamond Rolexes, yachts and gigantic mansions with the sacrifices of the poor. And they got this mad money by twistin' the truth till it becomes a lie! They say God'll bless YOU with a million if you give a thousand. But I got somethin' to say to those sidewinders, folks. For any preacher to dare use the sin against the Holy Ghost to pound poor people over the head with to get 'em to cough up the cash, well, that's beyond what God can be patient with. And lest you think I'm makin' this problem up, I just watched a DVD sermon where the preacher stoops to this dirty tactic. "Preachers who preach on Ananias and Sapphira conveniently ignore the first part of Acts 5:4 which plainly says the money was Ananias' to do with as he pleased once he sold his own land. But they'll always drive home the fearfulness of committin' a fatal sin against the Holy Spirit by quotin' verse 11: And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things. And they'll turn the screws even tighter by talkin' about how it's a deadly dangerous thing to promise God money you don't intend to pay Him. Better pay that tithe, or He'll send satan to beat it out of your hide in some way you won't like. "Saints, even if you've been railroaded by some preacher into makin' a so-called covenant to tithe to God, you're doin' somethin' the Bible never teaches New Testament church people to do. You are to give freely as God leads you, out of a cheerful heart, not as a debt you owe. If you find yourself in bondage to any unscriptural covenant, or your back is up against the wall and you can't give to God's work like you promised, you are free to pray ‘Father, please forgive me my debt. Wipe my slate clean in Jesus' Name and let's start all over again.’ Think that's wrong? Then you'd better go back and read Matthew 6:12 where Jesus teaches His disciples to ask God to 'forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. "Which introduces still another point: "Just who is makin' debtors of God's people? Who's layin' a heavy yoke on their necks except for modernday Pharisees who add their own steep price tag to Christ's free salvation? It's these snakes in the grass who make baby Christians open their mouths and swear unto the Lord that they'll give till it hurts! Just like the taskmasters of Egypt whipped God's people, made slaves of 'em and kept 'em in bondage 400 years. And I tell you, there's no bondage worse than the bondage of fear spoken of in Romans 8:15. That's the bondage of a slave who fears the whip of a cruel taskmaster. But God has set us free to be His children!
"What right do those modern-day Pharaohs have to forbid God to forgive our debts, even the ones we make to Him out of ignorance, or bein' pressured to do so? But it ain't God who keeps us in bondage to some debt, it's those shifty preachers who collect that money and lavish it on their own lusts in God's Name! But the Word is very clear on that. If they don't forgive us our debts, either real or imagined, God won't forgive them theirs, either. THEY are the ones who oughta be shakin' in their boots from fear of God's judgment, not the poor souls they're leadin' astray!" Can ya say 'amen', Tex?" I mooed. Folks, every true believer in Christ is a temple of the Holy Ghost, for Christ dwells in his or her heart by faith. I'll be so bold as to say that it's just as bad for professional ministers to deliberately lie to so-called pew Christians and distort the Word of God to get their money, as it was for Ananias and Sapphira to lie to Peter for their own personal gain. That same Holy Spirit Who indwelt Simon Peter indwells the poorest and the meekest of Christians out in the pews! Religious polecats are holdin' back something far more precious than money…the real truth of the Word of God, and when that truth doesn't make 'em richer, they'll sit on that truth and hammer poor Christians over the head with false religious traditions they know to be lies! Woe be unto a Pharaoh Pharisee who blinds God's little ones to His love and causes them to stumble. It would be better if a boulder was tied around that rascal's neck and he was drowned in the depths of the sea…" Cody stopped. He shut his eyes as if he was tuckered out from the effort. Then he looked at me kind'a sad and said, "I'm gonna take a break now, Tex. But knowin' Brother Bullard, I wonder how far I'll get to go with this particular message. A whole lotta saints are bein' stampeded down a trail which leads far, far away from a Savior Who is meek and lowly in heart and offers rest unto their souls. Some of God's people want to break free, but they just don't know how. The've been milked dry and fleeced clean by timber wolves who've led 'em away from the Lord's Green Pastures of peace. They've been penned up in spiritual stockyards with electrified fences, and now they're bein' driven all the way to the slaughterhouse by merchants of fear. Tex, the Lord needs to rescue His flocks and herds from religious rustlers, doesn't He?" I chewed on that one all the way back to the feedlot.
$$$$$$ I know Boaz the Bible bullock begot every begetter that begot me, but this preacher's got more pedigrees than a purple Pekingese poodle!
Brother Burnburger's Pedigree It wasn't hard for Cowboy Cody to like his new senior pastor…as a good buddy. But as a pastor, he was a disaster. Even though Brother Bart Burnburger had a long string of divinity degrees, Cody wondered if he'd bought 'em over the Internet. Brother Bullard had just moved on to greener pastures, fed up with the lean pickings at Big Sky Assembly. Miraculously, Cody hadn't been kicked out of church after givin' his sermon on how sleazy pulpiteers make big money out of the unpardonable sin. Once Brother Bullard saw that most of the congregation sided with Cody, he'd just left in a huff. Now all them good folks would'a just let Cody have Brother Bullard's pastorate in a minute, but Cody hadn't finished doin' the lessons for his Open Pastures Cemete…ah….Seminary Course yet. So Brother Bullard's senior elder had been unanimously voted in to fill his vacant pulpit. Brother Burnburger was a big ox of a man, full of laughs and fun. He had thick black hair, coppery skin and green eyes that twinkled whenever he warmed up his sermon with jokes…clean ones, of course. His flock did their duty by showin' up at church each and every Sunday, and they figured if Brother Burnburger entertained 'em in the pulpit he wouldn't have much time left to preach on the three Wild West sins of drinkin', womanizin', and gamblin'. Cowboy Cody said to me one day as he was fillin' my water trough, "Tex, Brother Burnburger is like a bag of pork rinds. Either you love him or you can't stand him. He's like a breath of fresh air after puttin' up with that ornery 'ol buzzard Brother Bullard. Oops!" Cody laid his hand across his mouth. "Did I just gossip? Sorry, Lord, I'm just talkin' to a rodeo steer. But he's one step away from Clayton or Chester." "Mooo!" I answered, with a toss of my horns. Cowboy Cody looked all around to make sure the other guys weren't around to razz him before he told me more. Cowboy Cody liked to practice his sermons on critters who couldn't offer much negative feedback. So part of my job was to pretend to be a pew-
warmer. And I could sympathize with Cody for havin' to sit through Brother Burnburger's long-winded performances. Cody told me laughter is good for a weary soul, but he had started to wonder if that preacher ever had anything important to say between his jokes and tall tales. But it came to pass that one of Cody's church buddies lassoed Brother Burnburger with one of his own yarns. Brother Burnburger had one big fault: He liked to brag on himself every now and then. That particular Sunday he wanted to get the congregation in a good mood to introduce a subject he hadn't touched on yet: tithin'. Here's the gist of what he said: "Saints, we are called to be heroic. Givers are heros. I've got quite a few heroes in my family tree. My forbears came from all walks of life and from every corner of Planet Earth. Just look at me. I'm a real duke's mixture. My great-great-great Grandpa was an Injun medicine man, Big Chief Pophattan, who introduced the early settlers to the joys of popcorn." Brother Max raised his hand and asked, "What tribe did he come from?" Cody warned him to hush up. "Ah….uh…the Communchies, I think. But by no means is he the greatest of the great. My most famous ancestor sailed on the Mayflower. I forgot his exact name, but he was the skinny kid who sat up in the crow's nest to take pot shots at pirate ships. I think he was half Irish and three quarters Portuguese." "Then there's my great-great-great-great granddad Luke. He was a black dude who started life as a field hand chopping cotton. But the day came when Massa promoted Luke to be a butler. Then Luke got the position of Massa's personal valet, the cushiest job in the Big House. Not long after that, Massa's wife ran off with another man, takin' their whole passel of kids with her. "Years later, Massa still hadn't kissed and made up with his wife and none of his kids wanted anything to do with him. Massa got arthritis so bad Luke was at his bedside night and day, doctoring him up and waiting on him hand and foot. Massa had a great big swig of whiskey and told Luke he was so grateful for his TLC he swore by his good name that he'd give him anything he wanted. Luke was a young man and thought of asking for his freedom so he could go up North and start a new life of liberty for himself. Instead, he thought of something even more lucrative. He took a deep breath, then asked Massa if he'd bequeath all his worldly goods to him in his will. Just to spite his wayward family, Massa got out a big bottle of White Out and
blotted those ornery whites out of his will. He gladly made Luke his sole heir, seein' as he had nobody else to leave his worldly goods to. "Wasn't long after that Massa died of a heart attack and Luke found himself the massa of the whole cotton' pickin' plantation. He was far ahead of his time and paid union wages to his cotton pickers. But then the night riders came to lynch Luke for his good luck. Just before the Bedsheet Brigade could grab him, Union soldiers charged over the horizon and chased 'em all away. Luke was so grateful he treated the whole platoon to fried catfish and mint juleps. Before you know it Luke turned the plantation into a great big B and B, a bed and barbeque for Yankees in blue a-passin' through." "There was another white guy, my Great-great Grandpa Sacre Bleu, who lived in Paris. He invented the Escargot, a horseless carriage which ran on olive oil. Ol' Sacre's idea never got off the ground, though. Black Oil was where the green cash was." "Then there's Bartimaeus Burnburger, my great-great Granddad from Bavaria. He married Rosita, a full-blooded Gypsy. He brewed beer while she fiddled. Not to mention Won Ton, my great grand-uncle, twice removed. Born in China, he started his own fortune cookie factory with five pennies in his pocket." "What province of China was he from?" a missionary lady in the front row asked him. "Hop Sing, I think." Brother Burnburger scratched his head. The preacher had 'em all in stitches with this one: "Not to mention Horace Gyroscope, another relative on the far end of my tree. He was a Grecian naturopath who sailed to Africa to breed zorbas." "But the whole point I was trying to make is this, folks: All these people in my family tree worked hard to be a success in life. They all helped make me what I am, and now it's time to apply this lesson. Be a hero, saints. WORK hard to support this wondrous work at Big Sky Assembly. Money represents your work. And to be blunt about it, God expects ten percent of everything you earn to go back into the place where you're being fed week by week. You wouldn't go through the MacDonald's drive-through, snatch the food and then drive off without paying your bill, would you?" Cody could have died when good buddy Max asked the pastor: "Is there any Jew in you?" Brother Burnburger gave Max a meat-cleaver look. "What're you doing, interrupting my sermon again? And what did you just say?"
"IS THERE ANY JEW IN YOU?" And that made Cody duck his head and sink lower into his seat. Was Max so hyper he couldn't hold his peace till the service was over?" "What's that got to do with the price of fish in Denmark?" Brother Beanburger growled. "Well, Brother Burnburger, you've gone on and on about how the whole human race went into manufacturin' you, but not once did you lay claim to Jewish ancestry." "Well, so what?" Brother Burnburger was gettin plenty of attention by now, especially from Cowboy Cody. "I learnt the real truth about tithin', Brother Burnburger. Only men descended from Levi have got the right to take tithes." "Well, Mr. Bible Expert, it just so happens my granddaddy on my mother's side was a 'Levi'. Levi Davis, to be exact. "But not Levi Cohen or Levi Levine?" Max shot back. "Well, what's so special about 'Cohen' or 'Levine'?" Brother Burnburger asked, wonderin' what ace Max had up his sleeve. "'Cohen' means 'priests' in Hebrew," Max let him know. "And "Levine" is a form of "Levi". There's just a handful of very special names which a few Jews have which make 'em fairly confident that they truly are descended from Levi, Israel's priestly tribe. And even so, they don't pay tithes to any Temple in Jerusalem today, for the simple reason it was destroyed and hasn't been rebuilt yet. If you'll bother to read your Bible, Pastor, you'll see that only the Levites were ever permitted to take tithes of the children of Israel. Here, I have it dog-eared in my Bible, 'cause I just knew you'd bring up the subject sometime. Okay if I read it out loud, Pastor?" Every eye was fixed on Brother Burnburger. If he said 'no', they'd all know he was tryin' to hide somethin'. So he gritted his teeth and said, "I guess. "Come up front and read it." So Max took the pulpit. Pastor Burnburger sat in a nearby chair and watched him like a hawk. Max read Numbers 18:21: And behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the Tabernacle of the Congregation. Then to keep it short and sweet, Max skipped down to verse 24: But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as an heave offering unto the Lord, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.
"I'll just pause right there a moment, Brother Burnburger. Didn't you just tell everyone how one of your great-granddaddies inherited a cotton plantation?" "Yeah, what of it?" "Well, the real Levites weren't allowed to inherit real estate in the land. Aside from that, just what sort of tithes were the Levites allowed to take? Y'all turn to with me please to Leviticus 27:30 and we'll start readin'. And all the tithe OF THE LAND, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's. It is holy unto the Lord. And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. That means if you wanted to buy back the crops you tithed, you'd have to pay a twenty per cent surcharge for doin' so. Verse 32 talks about tithes on livestock: And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord. " Max cracked everybody up with this one: Now, Brother Burnburger, I can't imagine you'd see a twenty-dollar bill gallopin' by to pass under the preacher's rod to be counted. "Okay if I go on, Brother Burnburger? After all, this is your church." The good pastor was too speechless to stop him. And he wanted everybody to like him so he bit his tongue and held his peace. "Now, we'll find out what those tithes were collected for," Max said. He read from Deuteronomy 14, beginning with verse 22. He resurrected Scripture bypassed by money-hungry preachers. The tithe was farm products, plain and simple, given by God to be eaten at a big thanksgiving feast by all the people, not just the leadership. And tithes were collected to feed poor folks and widows, not to pay for a new Mercedes. "No, Brother Burnburger. Those tithes weren't made of money. It's even disputable that the cotton Luke picked could'a been tithed on, seein' as it can't be eaten. Tithes were groceries, plain and simple. They were burgers. They were steaks. They were wheat flour pounded into tortillas. Even wine and strong drink were served at those feasts. Those people had a ball praisin' and worshippin' God together as they ate the fruits of the Land in His Presence. Now if you truly wanted to observe proper tithin' procedure, you'd need to do the same as they did and even allow Coors to be served on these premises. But my last point is: Who was that tithin' law for in the first place? That passage we read from Leviticus Chapter 27 comes right before the end of the whole book, and we'll start readin' from verse 34, which is the very next verse we see after instructions on proper tithin'
procedure are given. These are the commandments which the Lord commanded Moses FOR THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL in Mount Sinai. Now who were those commandments for, saints?" Max cupped his hand to his ear. "FOR THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL!" a few bright-eyed people called. By now, Brother Burnburger was wigglin' and jigglin' in his fancy chair. "And which place were those commandments given from?" Max asked. "FROM MOUNT SINAI!" a couple of others shouted, as if the lights suddenly went on in their hearts and they finally understood. "That's just my point, people," Max said. Those ceremonial laws were given BY MOSES TO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL IN MOUNT SINAI. In Hebrews and Galatians you'll read some pretty scary things about Mount Sinai, that it is a place of bondage, not of liberty in Christ Jesus. It was a place of thunderings and lightnings where Moses said, "I exceedingly fear and quake." A place the people were afraid to draw near unto God's Holy Presence because they knew they were sinners who couldn't keep the Law. In Romans 8:15 Paul says: Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of Adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. "Now I'll read Hebrews Chapter 5, verses 14 to 16: Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the Throne of Grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. The sanctuary grew quiet. Max bowed his head and said, "Thank you, Jesus, that we are no longer standin' at Mount Sinai, the place of the Law which can only serve to condemn us for our failures. but instead we're standin' at Mount Calvary, where we have been set free from the bondage of the claims of broken law. Max looked up and asked the congregation, "Can't y'all see some of us are doin' just what Luke the field hand did? He had the chance to take his freedom and leave the old plantation far, far behind. But Luke found the place of slavery and bondage so lucrative he still hung around, thinking it would make him a rich man. And that place of bondage almost killed him. Ain't it funny, brothers and sisters, how some preachers preach liberty, but still hang around Mount Sinai to make an easy buck out of it? Think we're still under the Law of Moses which proceeded from Mount Sinai? If you say
we are, then we can't be under grace at the same time. Mount Calvary is a far better place to be because it makes us free men and women. If you think we have to keep the tithin' part of the Old Covenant, then we've also gotta go back and keep all the animal sacrifices, and certain other laws I'd rather not mention with ladies present. But none of the ceremonial laws can be twisted to bilk money outa God's people, except for tithin'…and First Fruits, which, by the way, meant the first of the fruit of the Land, not the fruit of the Federal Mint. Read all of Paul's epistles. NOT ONCE do you ever read of Paul takin' up tithes or "First Fruits" offerings to finance his missionary journeys. Paul was a member of the Tribe of Benjamin and he knew he had no right to take tithes from people, especially the Gentiles. Not even Jesus took money tithes to support His own earthly ministry. Aside from the fact money tithes are unscriptural, Jesus didn't even have the right to officiate as a Levitical priest to take tithes of the produce of the Land from worshippers. Jesus is a member of the Tribe of Judah, not Levi." "Whoa, there, wait just a minute," Brother Burnburger said. "What about that place in Hebrews Chapter 7 where Melchisedek took tithes from Abraham before the Law, and it says that Jesus is our High Priest after the order of Melchisedek? Doesn't that prove that tithing is still in force and He still takes them?" "But what KIND of tithe did Abraham give Melchidedek?" Max said. "If y'all will turn with me to my other dog-eared Scripture portion, Genesis Chapter 14, I'll explain what that is." So Max read most of that chapter and dug out some choice nuggets. "What was the SOURCE of Abraham's tithe?" Max asked the crowd. "SODOM was the source of that tithe. Goods plundered from the City of Sodom were rescued by Abraham and his men, along with all the citizens kidnapped by desert desperados. Out of deep gratitude Abraham presented to Melchisedek ten per cent of all that loot. But Abraham didn't keep ninety per cent of the loot for himself. He kept NONE of it, not so much as one shoe string! And nowhere does it say that Abraham ever tithes again, or that he ever pays tithes on his personal property or income. Righteous Abraham actually presented to Melchisedek jewlery and other fine apparel which had been worn by the seediest sinners of them all: the citizens of Sodom. Now if you're gonna tithe the way Abraham did, go rescue a stash of fancy jewelry stolen from some bordello and present ten per cent of it to the Lord."
"Brother, you're way out of order here!" Brother Burnburger warned. "My Bible says the Lord Jesus is a High Priest after the Order of Melchisedek, and it's a sin to say "bordello" and "the Lord" in the same breath!" "Well, Brother Burnburger, my Bible says that Jesus was the friend of harlots and tax collectors. Jesus would love to save every workin' gal in the land. My main point is this: Jesus' Melchisedek priesthood doesn't give any preacher the right to take money tithes from poor people or anybody else. It says in Hebrews 7:24 that Jesus has an UNCHANGING priesthood, and that means the Melchisedek priesthood is held by the same Man forever and ever. Now Brother Bullard just quit preachin' here and you've taken his pulpit. But nobody, and I mean NOBODY can ever Jesus' place because He lives forever and ever. Nobody else on earth has got the right to sit in Jesus' office , by playin' deputy High Priest in order to lay claim to tithes of the spoils of war. And that's the only tithe Melchisedek ever took from Abraham. And if we're the children of Abraham by faith, we don't have to pay Levitical tithes either, and even if we did have to pay them, those tithes were on produce and livestock, not on money!" "God looks at the motive of our hearts," Brother Burnburger said, "and our money represents the fruit of the land, and the land can represent the job we work in. The Bible says New Testament believers are a Royal Priesthood in Christ. Levites took tithes in Bible times. That gives me the right to take tithes too, doesn't it?" Max grinned and stuck out his hand. "Well, pay up, preacher. I'm in Christ too, and I'm part of that Royal Priesthood. You just told us about all the kinds of folks that went into makin up' Bart Burnburger. And I just asked if there was any Jew in you to get this discussion goin'. I can truly say the King of all the Jews dwell in my heart by faith. And I pretty much doubt Jesus wants me to go fight a bunch of gangsters so I can bring Him a new Rolex or MP3 player." Max got lots of "amens" out of that one. Then he looked at Cody and said, "And I owe it all to Cody here for teachin' me the real truth about this tithin' thing. God bless you, brother." Cody stood up and said, "Saints, I wanted to get along better with our new pastor, Brother Burnburger, than I did with Brother Bullard. I was about ready to clobber you, Max, for speakin' your mind today. But I was the one who was in the wrong. I was beginnin' to get a little bit soft. The Lord has called us to holy boldness and I just felt like keepin' my mouth shut
and not makin' any waves. But I gotta answer to Jesus for what I do with the truth, not some man. Speakin' of pedigrees, I didn't know you were part preacher, Max." Like the humble cowpoke he was, Max hung his head and said, "Cody, you know as well as I do that I'm a bashful guy and I can't hardly string two sentences together. But when the good Lord gives me a word to say, I let Him do the talkin' through me and it makes it a whole lot easier." Brother Burnburger was plum aggravated. "He didn't say anything through you and you know it! Max Miller, you're a spiritual outlaw so I'll try to communicate on your level: This church ain't big enough for you and me both and if you and your sidekick Cody don't vamoose before I count to seven…" "Don't draw your pistol, Pastor, we're outa here," Cody said. "C'mon, Max, we're wastin' our time in this dead place." The two cowpokes put on their Stetsons and headed out the door. And it wasn't long before Big Sky Assembly became the most dried-up religious waterin' hole in Cowpoke County, Texas. Just another religious country club where people emptied their pockets to get their fill of spiritual loco weed every Sunday. As for Cody, he's put his pulpit ambitions on the back burner for awhile as he waits for his Good Shepherd to lead him to a greener pasture to graze in.
$$$$$$ Now let's pay a visit to the true Shepherd of the Flock, the One even the meanest of preachers claim to be like. If a pastor's truly like Jesus, he'll give, not grab. He'll share, not shear. He'll lead by love, not drive with fear. Jesus and the Rich Man Jesus and His four half-brothers were slavin' away in the carpenter's shop one morning. Now James was gettin' mighty tired of it all. To show how bad he felt, he beat on a board with a hammer. His loud bangin' almost drowned out the sweet hymn Jesus sang. “I don’t know what there is to sing about,” James said. “Another day, another shekel of taxes for the rich man who lives only to exploit us. The good-for-nothings...”
“Enough of that, James,” Jesus said. “Father Abraham was rich in faith as well as in earthly goods. There is hope even for the rich, though a camel would have an easier time threading himself through the eye of a needle than for a covetous man to enter the Kingdom of God.” The others had to laugh at that one. “Amen to that, brother,” Jude nodded, as he worked on his lathe. “And remember what our parents said,” Jesus said. “When I was a tiny child three great men from the East came to bring Me gifts. Their kindness made it possible for our parents to take me to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath.” James sighed. Jesus was always right. “There are exceptions, Jesus, but you must remember how most rich men got that way. There is but one loaf in this world, and in order for the rich to fare sumptuously we poor must subsist on their crumbs. Being poor is a sure sign of God’s disfavor.” “Aye, that is so,” Jude and Joses agreed. “Do not confine God to your meager purse, James,” Jesus said. “God has chosen the poor of His Kingdom to receive His spiritual riches, for their hands are not already full of vain things which do not endure. Better is the substance of the righteous poor than all the riches of the wicked. God spoke this earth into existence out of nothing and all we need do is ask His blessing upon what little we have. Whatever is consecrated to our Heavenly Father will, like a tiny seed, grow into eternal riches laid up in heaven where no thief can break through and steal.” “Thieves,” Jude said, absent-mindedly. He remembered a passage from the Prophets. “Restless men forever foaming like the waves of the sea, never resting content till they wreak some mischief on the weak and defenseless.” “Bah!” brother Simon barked. “Thieves and rich men! One and the same! Worthless lot, all of them!” Their deep discussion stopped when they saw a big, beefy man standin' by the door, one who looked like he hadn't missed a meal in ages. He wore fancy duds made of fine silks. His stripy wraparound headgear had jewels on it. He looked like the daddy of all oil shieks. The carpenters saw a long stretcher with poles stickin' up from each corner, which held up a tent made of fancy curtains. That was for the rich man to ride in, and standin' next to that portable tent were a few hired hands who wore uniforms. They bent over and rubbed their achin' backs, all worn-out from haulin' the big boss around town. Little barefooted kids in dusty rags looked at the man and his
crew with big round eyes. Never before had they seen such a fancy dude in their town. Jesus looked up from His workbench, but didn’t seem too fazed by the rich man. His soul was just as needy as anybody else’s soul. The wealthy merchant was too tender-eyed to look at the bare-backed laborers, all shiny from honest sweat. So he looked away and waited for the carpenters to put their shirts on before goin' in. Jesus’ four brothers were flattered that such a high-and-mighty man was payin' their shop a visit, 'cause he seemed friendly and probably wasn't a tax collector. He was one of those lucky stiffs who didn't have to suffer the curse laid on disobedient Adam, the sweat of toil. "James," Jesus whispered, "I need to handle this Myself. Would you fellows go into the house and lend a hand to Mother and our sisters? I’m expecting some friends for lunch. Please ask them to bake a few extra griddle cakes and throw some smoked fish on the fire to serve with the porridge." "And how many guests are coming to this sumptuous feast, Jesus? It isn’t even a Sabbath supper." "Five are coming, James." "That many, just for an everyday lunch?" James shook his head. "You never even told us." "It’s a surprise," Jesus said. "And please don’t give Me a hard time about it. Mother is still not fully recovered from the passing of our father, so let’s show a little compassion, please." "So why should men do women’s work?" James growled. "We slave all day to support sisters who ought to be married off by now. Why can’t they handle unexpected company? Admit it, Jesus. You want us to go help Mother so you can negotiate with this fine gentleman all by Yourself. Aren’t we even worthy to stand in his presence?" Brother Simon aired his opinion. "Big strong guys like us baking bread! Bah!" Jesus disagreed with the typical male attitude of his day. "Just do it, fellows. If you truly love our mother prove it by loving deeds. She would enjoy your company and I really must have a private word with this gentleman." The brothers left their work stations, throwin' down their tools with a loud clatter. The nerve of Jesus, pullin' rank on them as the eldest.
"I’m sorry you had to witness that," Jesus told his visitor. "James needs to learn to bridle his tongue." The man nodded like he understood. "I have heard of the recent death of your father Joseph. At least you treat your mother with the consideration she deserves. If only I’d been kinder to my own poor mother after my father died." Jesus’s smile brought cheer to a troubled soul who wasn't used to bein' smiled at by hard-workin' poor folks. "Perhaps you were so caught up in your own sorrow you lost sight of your mother’s grief," Jesus said. He looked earnestly at Simon. "That is so," Simon said. "When somebody dies the living must take up the burden of the deceased. I tried to become the scholar of Scripture I failed to be before my father’s death. What better way to honor Father’s memory, and it served as a welcome distraction from my grief. But I was so engrossed in my own spiritual betterment I was of small comfort to my own mother. It must be difficult having to take up the mantle of your father in this household. Sibling rivalry, that type of thing." "Oh, I manage," Jesus said, "with the help of our Father in heaven who comforts those who mourn. Welcome to My shop, Simon bar Ezekiel. I’ve been expecting you." How strange it made Simon feel. We’ve barely met but I feel so drawn to Him, he thought. What is there about this poor Carpenter that makes me want to tell Him the secrets of my heart? "How odd," Simon said. "I feel like I already know you, but how do you know my name, young man? I don’t even live in your village." "Seekers of the Truth live everywhere, Master Simon. You hunger for what money cannot buy." Simon was surprised by this glimpse into his own heart. This poor man fascinated him, even more than all the rich Pharisees he'd broken bread with. "That may be, but my immediate need is a new banqueting table. My other one’s all rickety and scratched up. I’m disposing of it because it no longer matches my decor." "If you’ll let Me have your old table to fix up for a poor family as a gift," Jesus offered, "I’ll make you another one free of charge." "It’s a wonder you don’t lose your cloak, Jesus, being so generous and all." "But Master Simon, I enjoy being generous. God always supplies all My needs. Ordinarily I do charge something for My services, but today the Father in heaven wants Me to waive My labor fee."
Simon wondered if Jesus was in His right mind. "Have I need of charity from a man poorer than myself?" His eyes moved away from his own pearls and finery to Jesus’ homespun garb. "God has richly blessed me. I have need of nothing." "And God has likewise blessed Me," Jesus said. "Yet I have a need only you can meet." "You’re talking nonsense, young man. First you claim God meets all your needs, then you say you need my charity. And yet you refuse my offer of honest wages for honest work. I am an expositor of the Law and I know Scripture warns against using your neighbor’s service without wages." Through fathomless eyes of love Jesus said: "Whenever you minister to the least of these my poor brethren you do so in My Name. The poor are My neighbors, and I have come to give them life everlasting. God makes righteous people His ministers in serving the table of the poor." "But your family are also poor," Simon said. "Surely you need money for your own family’s table." "We have more than enough," Jesus quietly said. "We have food for this day and God will provide for tomorrow. Unless you are willing to pay God’s price, I can do nothing for you." The man insisted he needed a decent table and dug into his money bag. "Other-worldly though You are, you can’t subsist on nothing. Of course You can have my old table, Jesus. And here. At least accept enough money for materials. I want a long table three cubits wide by fifteen cubits long. Make it of the finest hardwood. Inlay the edges with floral mosaics and polish it till it shines. When it’s finished, I’ll send my servants to come pick it up." Jesus jotted the details on a broken piece of pottery. "No problem, sir, I can do this for you...so long as you meet My terms. I’ll do My very best...and we can deliver it to you too. " The man lingered in the shop starin' at this strange young carpenter Who had the face of a gentle angel, this poor Man who acted well-off enough to pick and choose which customers He would serve. "Jesus," Simon said, "I’m not your ordinary run-of-the-mill rich man who oppresses the poor. I want to give You something in return! What can I do to show You my gratitude? What is it You’re really after?" "Sell all you have and give to My brethren the poor." The rich man wondered if Jesus might be unbalanced, but judgin' from the neat way the Carpenter’s shop was kept and the fine-lookin' ox yokes and other items Jesus had on display, He had to be of sound mind.
"I...I’m not ready to do that yet, Jesus," said Simon. "I need a home to live in, food to eat, clothes to wear. I’m not yet strong enough in faith to divest myself of all my worldly goods. Isn’t there some other way I can show myself a righteous man worthy of salvation?" "Yes. If you would enter into the Kingdom of God, consecrate your new table to My Father’s Kingdom. Once I have finished your fancy table, invite all your poor neighbors to dine with you whenever you are inclined to throw a party. Honor your father’s memory by living the spirit of the Law: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and your neighbor as yourself. Share your food with the hungry. Let your weary servants dine with you at mealtime and serve them yourself. Wash the feet of those who are so weary they can hardly stand. Cheer the hearts of the lowly by treating them like your own family. Ease the burden of shame the poor must bear in this evil world, for it is quite heavy enough." The man was flabbergasted to hear those words. "I can’t live like that! All my friends would think I was crazy! I’d be the laughingstock of the whole synagogue!" "You can either choose them or choose God," Jesus said. "You can’t serve both God and mammon." 'Ol Simon was minded to turn around and walk off, but all the way to the carpenter's shop he'd wrangled with his conscience, thinkin' about all the dirt-poor folks and skinny little kids he passed on the way who did without while he had it made. "You drive a hard bargain, young man, but I know my days on earth are numbered and I so much want to share in the lot of the righteous when God raises the dead on the last day." "You shall," Jesus said as if he were sure of it. "I’m working on that too, Simon bar Ezekiel. Would you and your men kindly join us for lunch? It will be far simpler fare than you’re used to, but I offer you the hospitality of My home." Never before had that fine gentleman been invited to break bread in a poor peasant’s home, but he was happy to accept. Simon didn't see Jesus as a poor man he should feel sorry for, but a man who was richer than he was in all the ways that counted. And Jesus treated Simon like a friend, not like a rich man to keep his distance from. Simon rushed outside to call his four hired hands to come in and eat. The more Simon got to know the Carpenter from Nazareth, the more he wished he could be like Him. Simon might have hired any other man on the Street of the Carpenters, but Jesus had a reputation for quality
workmanship. Not only that, he was a very likeable young Man, Who had a lot of good sense and was a friend to all kinds of people, rich and poor alike. Jesus told Simon his table would take weeks to finish, even with the help of his brothers, who gladly offered to do their bit so a rich man could hold a decent party for destitute beggars poorer than themselves. Even James was in a better mood by now. Because he had something to give, he didn’t feel quite so poor anymore. The rich merchant knew Jesus must make a special journey to buy the materials, saw the wood into planks, cure it, then sand it then shape it into pieces what would fit together. The table would be skilfully carved, then patiently polished and prettied up with mosaics to make it fit for a king’s palace. Simon sang for joy all the way home. Though he was up in years, he got off his stretcher to walk home the rest of the way after one of his men moaned from an achin' back. But so what if Simon’s fancy sandals might get a little dusty? His heart was light and free. Simon felt like he'd been cooped up in a cage for a long time and now he was free to fly. Still, he wondered how the village Carpenter could be workin' on a way to give him eternal life. While Jesus’ brothers wondered about Him, He sang at His workbench, praisin' His Father for the change in the rich man. As for the fine table, the day finally came when Jesus was able to lay down His tools and say: "Thank God, it’s finished." When He delivered it He said: "Remember your promise, friend, and the day will come when you will dine at My table in My Father’s Kingdom. Now I must go and work on your eternal salvation." ***** Now, before I mosey on back to the feedlot, I'll leave y'all with this to chew on: Steer clear of snakes in the grass who lie so they can lay down in green pastures. Don't mo-o-ove away from the Truth, 'cause it's the Truth that sets you free (John 8:32). Adios, pardners. Love, Tex