George is concerned that his wife Martha’s hearing is going and that she is not willing to get hearing aids. A friend suggests a plan, “Ask her what is for dinner several times and get closer each time until she answers. Then you can tell her what just happened.” George asks from the den, then the hall, and then the living room, “Honey, what’s for dinner?” Finally in the kitchen he asks yet again, “Honey what’s for dinner?” She turns to him and says, “I’ve told you four times, we’re having spaghetti”
Last week’s blog was a good example of the our amazing capacity for selective hearing. My comments on Benny Hinn’s divorce elicited two responses. Those that thought he was wrong, and those who thought I was wrong (for “criticising” him). Even though I said repeatedly that I was just a vulnerable as Hinn, people wrote and said, “You are just as vulnerable as him”. Even though I concluded my comments by saying that divorce was not the unforgivable sin and repentance, restoration and reconciliation was what I was looking for, people said, “You should be praying for his marriage”. Yes, we are all vulnerable, yes, none of us are without sin, and yes we should pray for Benny Hinn. That was not the point I was trying to make! My point was God’s word is the final authority on everything, not our personal sentiment or experience. No one has a right to redefine God’s standard to fit their situation.
When Jesus addressed the issue of marriage and divorce, it was actually in response to a question asked by the Pharisees. (Matt 19:3) Based upon their interpretation of Moses’ teaching in Deut 24:14, the Pharisees believed a husband possessed the right to divorce his wife if he found in her ‘erwat dabar’, which can be translated “anything indecent”. The intended meaning for the Hebrew words became obscured in the course of time. As a result, the Jews had heated discussions about what constituted cause for a valid divorce. Just as we do today. Jesus clears it up, ONCE AND FOR ALL, and says, “If a man divorces his wife and marries another, for any other reason except adultery, he commits adultery”. They were offended and sought for a way to kill Him. Why? Because at least some of them would have been divorced and wanted to justify themselves. They only wanted to hear what they wanted to hear.
The Church in North America has clearly become compromised on God’s standard of divorce and remarriage. But that is really just a symptom of a bigger problem. Some of the biggest names in ministry today have twisted the word of God to make it fit the American dream of fame, fortune… and folly. We have high profile preachers who are living in greed and avarice, committing adultery, marrying and remarrying, and are accountable to no one. The example to the Body of Christ is abysmal and indefensible. Paul warned us, “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” (2 Tim 4:3) But we only hear what we want to hear.
When we talk about pharisaism in the church today we almost always think of it as “legalism”. Not true. When Jesus told His disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees He was referring to their teaching. “Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matt 16:12) “And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Matt 15:9) Therefore the leaven of the Pharisees, at least in part, is believing what we want to believe irrespective of God’s word. Almost every time Jesus spoke, the Pharisees were offended. He continually cut across the grain of their pre-conceived beliefs. When you read the gospels, the crowds too were in Jesus corner only as long as he didn’t say anything that offended them personally. There is a great expression. If you throw a stone into a pack of dogs, the one that yelps is the one you hit. This is often how we react to God’s word. It’s all fine and dandy until it affects us personally and then we, like the Pharisees, get offended.
The leadership crisis in the Church is much worse than many might think. Most of us don’t know the half of it and I am not going to be the one to air the dirty laundry. Others will however. Senator Grassley from Iowa has been investigating six televangelists. He wants to know why they are using money given for charity to buy corporate jets, mansions and Rolls Royces (one preacher owns 2 of them). So do I! One ministry that is not even part of the investigation owns 31 mansions around the world reserved for the exclusive use of their family. Last year they brought in $170 million dollars and used almost none of it for missions or ministry to the poor. What is wrong with Christians that they continue to defend these people and worse yet send them money? “But just look at the lives being touched!” Just because someone got healed or saved through a ministry… the ends never justifies the means.
I wonder if the real issue is that many of us are just too content with the bar being set low. In the guise of grace and forgiveness, we too can live the compromised life without any feelings of guilt or shame. Look, God’s word is either true or it isn’t. Its time to stop hearing only what we want to hear.