The eighth commandment says, “Thou shalt not steal.” The subject is thievery which is a command broken in myriads of ways. There is an important aspect of this command that might have escaped your attention. This aspect is that of religious thievery. False teachers are guilty of theft in a most serious way.
Theft is taking place as you read this and as you got to church on Sundays. Across our country and the world, there is an insidious lie that is told which says that God offers health, wealth, and prosperity to those who plant seeds of faith in the ministries of prosperity preachers. These seeds are dollar bills, of course, and the bigger the seeds the more the growth of prosperous trees that are large enough for the fowls of the air to lodge in. This false teaching encircles the globe so that good missionaries in many countries say it is the biggest hurdle they face in preaching the true gospel of Christ. In other words, the biggest threat to salvation is not Islam, Buddhism, animism, or other false religions. The worst is the perversion of Christianity.
In a sermon about ten years ago, John Piper who was then pastor of the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, made this statement: “I don’t know what you feel about the prosperity gospel—the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel—but I’ll tell you what I feel about it…hatred.” He went on to say, “It is not the gospel, and it’s being exported from this country to Africa and Asia, selling a bill of goods to the poorest of the poor: ‘Believe this message, and your pigs won’t die and your wife won’t have miscarriages, and you’ll have rings on your fingers and coats on your back.’ That’s coming out of America—the people that ought to be giving our money and our time and our lives, instead selling them a bunch of crap called ‘gospel.’”
Admittedly, Piper used strong language that I probably would not use from the pulpit, but his deep disgust for a false gospel is reflected in his disgusting description. The prosperity gospel is theft when it asks for money to fulfill a promise that will not come true because it is based in a lie. It dupes people into believing material goods are the gauge of good hope in Christ. It teaches people to seek satisfaction in this world’s offerings when God clearly says we must set our affections on things above.
Piper made another heart stopping riveting statement. He said, “I’ll tell you what makes Jesus look beautiful, it’s when you smash your car, and your little girl goes flying through the windshield, and lands dead on the street . . . and you say through the deepest possible pain, ‘God is enough.’”
When we preach this gospel, “God is enough, Jesus Christ is enough—He is all I need”—we do not steal from the people. We do not take—we give. We give the best possible gift they can receive. We give them hope that never fails to bring lasting peace. The worst thief is a religious thief. Souls are the commodity he takes from unsuspecting seekers. Souls seek the kingdom of God without realizing Satan has his thieves seeking them.
Praise God for those who preach truth! Let us stand with those who do and let us stop the mouths of the thieves of the glorious gospel. Without apology, we will fight religious thievery!
Pastor V. Mark Smith