Menace-ters of the Gospel
Robert Wurtz II
I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Timothy 4:1–4 NKJV)
The renowned Greek scholar A.T. Robertson once commented that “the temptation of the merely ‘popular’ preacher is to furnish the latest tickle.” Those tickles are for the ears of those who have turned away their ears from the truth and have turned them to fables. Tickling the ears is an expression meaning to gratify a person’s hearing or in our day to “tell them what they want to hear.” As A.T. Robertson expressed it, “they want any ‘new thought’ or any other fad that will give a new momentary thrill to their itching ears and morbid minds.” These teachings and new fads make their way into Christendom to become a menace to the true saints and faithful ministers of the Gospel. Lacking a good word to describe the effects of a menace upon the ministry I combined the terms. In this entry I wish to describe the furnishing of ear tickling words as menacetry and the respective preachers are menaceters (menace-ters).
In modern times, the world is plagued with self-serving ministers. I’m reminded of Paris Reidhead’s suggestion that all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life are the only tools the devil has ever used to damn the race of men. What are they? Pleasure, possessions, and popularity. In the Old Testament, the house of Eli used the priesthood to obtain all three of these things. Between Hording Hophni and fornicating Phinehas, this family nearly destroyed the ministry they were entrusted with. It seems unconscionable, but many men and woman see the Church as a multilevel career opportunity. Some view ministry like a family-owned business that they can get in and establish, and then pass down to their children. They convince themselves that they own it and thereby have the right to do with it as they wish.
Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:2-3)
Leaders in ministry need to be reminded often that the people over whom they have the oversight are God’s heritage (emphasis on God’s). The sheep do not belong to men. Nevertheless, many ministers so-called, have the notion that they do indeed “own the sheep” and lord it over them in every way they possibly can. They drain the saints for sordid gain rather than being servants to them. Understand that those who labor in the word and the Gospel are to be financially supported by the churches. Nevertheless, some people would not do the work of ministry unless they were getting a paycheck. Preaching for a paycheck is a perilous endeavor for all involved.*
A primary qualification for leaders in the churches is that they must not have a reputation for “filthy lucre.” This is a word that means discraceful gain. In other words, they must not have been shrewd business men who were willing to stoop to all kinds of questionable things to make a profit. If you asked them they would tell you it is just “business.” In fact, some Christians actually make a distinction between their Christian life and business as if it’s acceptable to be such a schizophrenic. Nevertheless, this mentality carries over into the churches of God once the person gets involved in ministry. God does not want that. Why? Not only will they almost inevitably resort to the sordidness of making profit out of Christian service; they will behave differently in board meetings than they do in the pulpit. It becomes about the money rather than God’s will. Of course we know they will call it stewardship, but this is usually a thin veil for greed and covetousness. The split personality of Christian/lover if lucre is a menace to the churches and must be eradicated. If we see it we must show no mercy to it.
Paul gives the solution when he writes to Timothy, Preach the word! Pastor/teachers are to labor in the word primarily so that they can be ready to preach. Why should they do it? Why not just do what ever we want to do? Paul answered our question when he told Timothy, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom.” Judgement day is coming and we are all going to give an account of our ministry. In fact, James tells us that teachers and preachers will receive the stricter judgment. This warning ought to compel any reasonable and sane person to preach only what God’s word says and not spin it in any way for personal gain.
* In case there is any confusion (per M.F), this article is not addressed to Missionary Societies who provide stipends to their ministers.