Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Jeremiah 5 & 6: Beliefs Predetermine Behaviour

Jer 5:1-2 "Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city. Although they say, 'As surely as the Lord lives,' still they are swearing falsely." 

Jer 6:13-16 "From the least to the greatest,all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them," says the Lord. This is what the Lord says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, 'We will not walk in it.' 

God's concern is always about our conduct , not just our doctrines because our conduct invariably reveals what we really believe about God and His character.

In Jeremiah's time, the people still "believe" in God--in fact, they swore by His name: "As surely as the Lord lives." But they were totally unethical and immoral in their conduct--"they are still swearing falsely." Their real motivation is not seeking the Lord, but seeking the profits: "From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit" (6:13).

Recent case regarding Dr Susan Lim's billing the Brunei royalty for $25 millions for her service can only be explained by one motivation-greed. Greed is easy to justify but hard to satisfy. Once a person is on that slippery road, there are always good "reasons" to exploit others--as the doctor's royal patient found out. In Jeremiah's time, it was not just the "laity" who were greedy--even the religious leaders were found to pursue the profit -- "prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit." When there is large amount money coming in as tithes and offering, the greed justification comes in. I heard of one visiting evangelist from the States who took a few hundred thousands dollars in "honorarium" in one week's ministry here in Singapore through the "free-will" offering of gullible Christians. And no wonder he loves to minister in Singapore! The same can be said of other religions too. I heard of this case from a friend whose business is remitting cash for Chinese workers back to China: he once had a customer, an invited religious speaker on Buddhism from China who remitted large amount of cash back to his homeland.

Religion has become a profitable enterprise. Many "successful" pastors are swarmed by cash from tithes and offerings. The danger of falling into the trap of greed is real--it's always "Money No Enough" when we are cash-rich. And such pastors can lose a sense of proportion. I heard on CD a  well known speaker here says that there are no poor people in this world. Obviously, he has been living  in Singapore far too long, and probably visited only rich cities in the United States and Europe to come this stunning conclusion. Maybe he should preach more in the slums of our neighboring countries.

Jeremiah's warning should be taken seriously by us who think we are excused from divine judgment: "They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them," says the Lord" (6:14-15). We are familiar with famous preachers who have fallen--both here in Singapore and elsewhere in the United States. We should not think that such thing cannot happen to New Covenant priests and people. To ignore the seriousness of the wounds that can be caused by sins by preaching "peace, peace" is a grievous violation of a preacher's trust.

Lest we think that Jeremiah's negative message is meant for the Old Covenant people who were still under Moses' Law, let's take heed Paul's warning to us who want to become rich: "But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" (1 Tim 6:8-10).

Father, may You open our eyes to the danger of greed in the marketplace and also in the ministry. Deliver us from the love of money for it is the root of all evils. Amen.

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