MAKE NOT MY FATHER’S HOUSE A HOUSE OF MERCHANDISE!
By Doug Krieger
MERCHANDISING THE WORD OF GOD JUST GOT WORSE!
Just when you thought that the depths of “evangelical ministries and churches” seeking after filthy lucre and the “mammon of unrighteousness” could not get any more ostentatious—we’re hit with the recent LA Times articles on the financial excesses of the Trinity Broadcasting Network—the world’s largest evangelical programming network!
Nothing like having the “world” hang out your dirty underwear for all to see and scorn. WHY IS IT THAT THE WORLD MUST SIT AS JUDGE AND JURY TO PRONOUNCE OUR INTENTIONS ARE WRETCHEDLY DEFILED BY THE GOD OF MAMMON? The Bible declares: “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (I Peter 4:17)
JOHN REVEALS WHAT GOD IS AFTER TODAY!
Now, you thought that Jesus tossed out the “money changers” from the Temple in Jerusalem just prior to His crucifixion—and, actually, you’re right. Shortly after His “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem (Matthew 21), He entered the Temple (Matthew 21:12-13) and declared while overturning the tables of the money changers, that they had made it a “den of thieves.” Then, he visited Bethany (Matthew 21:17); gave parables and the “Olivet Discourse” (Matthew 21:28-25:46); and then the Passover and the ultimate crucifixion—all within a matter of days (Matthew 26:1-27:56)!
So, how is it that in John’s Gospel (at the very beginning of His three-plus-years’ ministry), immediately following the account of His first miracle at the “Wedding of Cana of Galilee,” John records: “He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple . . . poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables . . . and He said to those who sold doves, ‘Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” (John 2:15-16)? Note: This “appears” out of chronological order by some three years! But some commentators allege that Jesus literally accomplished this fete TWICE—at the beginning and at the end of His ministry—making the issue all the more significant!
John’s “accounting” is, however, “spiritually-designed” to convey to us Christ as our Life:
“And truly Jesus did many other signs (i.e., “miracles”) in the presence of His disciples which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”
John presents Christ as the Son of God—OUR LIFE! As our Life, He pours Himself as the NEW WINE into empty human vessels. He is our true enjoyment—the One Who fills us; Who changes the “water into wine” (the transforming power of His Life) to create, through His Divine Life, His “Ultimate Intention” – THE BRIDE OF CHRIST! In John’s first miraculous accounting, performed by the Son of God, He immediately sets forth why He has come to the earth as our Life—the setting is altogether too clear: His Life will “bring forth” the Bride of Christ—He is our Bridegroom—He is looking for a Bride—we are that Bride!
BUT—John immediately brings us to the Temple and the money changers? Why? Because, although He is desirous for a Bride, there is a huge problem—the Temple of God (which, again, is a type of God’s “Ultimate Intention” and/or a picture of His Habitation (II Corinthians 6:16)) is abused and has become a “den of thieves” – IT MUST BE PURGED! For the Son of God, Who has revealed in John’s Gospel His desire for a Bride—must “cleanse” His Temple and make it a “house of prayer for all peoples.”
FALSE PROPHETS MAKE MERCHANDISE OF YOU!
The unsuspecting members of the Jewish Diaspora scattered throughout the Roman World came to Jerusalem to offer their sacrifice. They entered the Temple of Jesus’ time and were provided a “much-needed” service in the conversion of their foreign currency into shekels, in order to purchase their particular sacrifice (be it a dove, etc.). Eventually, however, these “services” evolved into nothing more than ripping off the people of God—“a den of thieves.” The Apostle Peter speaks of these very same thieves in the Church who afflicted the Church; to wit:
“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily (“privately” or “secretly”) shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words (Lit., “well-turned words” – i.e., “spin”) MAKE MERCHANDISE OF YOU; whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” (II Peter 2:1-3) (Emphasis, DWK).
Indeed, how clever are these modern-day Church thieves? In essence these “evangelical money changers,” with their “pernicious ways” and their modern-day “spin” of seductive, well-turned words—prey as much upon those who have come to offer their sacrifices within the Temple of God as the thieves of yesteryear who were driven out of the Temple, had their tables upturned, and their money bags EMPTIED by the Son of God! MAKE NOT MY FATHER’S HOUSE A HOUSE OF MERCHANDISE!
Please review our chapter in UNSEALING THE END OF DAYS entitled: Chapter 10, Part 2, “Take These Things Away! Do Not Make My Father’s House a House of Merchandise!” (John 2:16).
MAKING MERCHANDISE OF GOD’S PEOPLE – THE CROUCHES
On September 19, 2004 a series of articles appeared in the Los Angeles Times entitled THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL with a byline: Pastor’s Empire Built on Acts of Faith, and Cash . . . The top Christian broadcaster’s steady plea for money funds growth—and a life of luxury for Paul Crouch and his wife, by William Lobdell, Times Staff Writer—also, Times staff writer Scott Martelle assisted in the Times piece. The Times articles also exposed an illicit affair allegedly committed by Crouch and the hush money that went with the cover-up!
Nearly 18 months have passed since I wrote a series of articles decrying the extravagant methodologies by today’s “evangelical charlatans” and entrepreneurs who continue to both harass and fleece the people of God—it is relentless and unabated; frankly, without precedence since the days of selling Papal Indulgences by Johann Tetzel, who sold the Grace of God to multitudes of the faithful in order to build St. Peters Basilica and the splendors of Vatican City.
What is it about these “den of thieves” that demand such ostentatious settings for their views below of the vulnerable they bilk? The extravagance of the Evangelical Empire of the Crouches literally, and this is hard to fathom, that of the Vatican’s!
Yes, this makes for some interesting comparisons. According to the LA Times’ article, TBN’s latest 2002 balance sheet lists their net assets at $583 million, including $238 million in Treasury bonds and other government securities and a mere $31 million in cash—along with 400 employees.
Now, the Vatican stats are exceedingly skewed due to their priceless art treasures which are incalculable; however, a TIDINGS ON LINE article by John Thavis, the Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service on July 16, 2004 wrote an article entitled: Amid diocesan financial crises, Vatican has own problems—to wit:
“The Vatican’s net worth is difficult to gauge, but has been estimated at close to $1 billion.”
Trinity Christian Center International, located in Costa Mesa, Orange County, California, with its elaborate sets, and adjacent gated development in which Trinity Broadcasting Network owns 11 homes, along with residences in Texas, Tennessee and Ohio—along with extravagant homes owned by the Crouches in nearby Newport Beach (adjacent photo recently on the market for $8 million), demonstrates, according to the “Gospel of Prosperity” God’s blessing upon TBN’s ministry.
St. Peter’s Basilica took nearly 100 years to complete (1626 AD); meanwhile the Vatican Papal Residence (i.e., The Apostolic Palace) and gardens, along with scores of similar residences, dwarfs anything the Crouches could envision—but, given time, who knows what will suffice them!
PLEADING OR PREYING UPON THE PEOPLE OF GOD
The LA Times article revealed an amazing amalgamation of unprecedented wealth heaped up by the Crouches—the likes of which staggers the imagination of, I am sure, even one Donald Trump. No, it’s not akin to a Bill Gates—but given time, look out!
Paul Crouch peers into the camera and proclaims the need for $8 million in order to spread the Good News throughout the Indian subcontinent. Viewers were/are encouraged to give $1,000 each as a pledge—even if they don’t have it to give—but to take a “step of faith”* and make the pledge for the “Lord would repay them many times over!” (*Note: Quote marks are derived from the LA Times series.)
The outrageous appeal for such funds for the “spread of the Gospel in India” upon some 8,700 television stations was not a matter of “additional funding needs” because: “TBN was not short on cash. In fact, it could have paid for the India expansion out of the interest on its investment portfolio. But at TBN, the appeals for money never stop—nor does the flow of contributions.
Did somebody say “success?” Well, if you think success can be compared to the likes of Ted Turner, listen to how the world compares such “success” –
“Much as Ted Turner did for TV news, the Crouches have created a global infrastructure for religious broadcasting. But that is just one element in their success. Another is a doctrine called the ‘prosperity gospel,’ which promises worshipers that God will shower them with material blessings if they sacrifice to spread His Word.”
But “success” has its downside:
“The network, little known outside fundamentalist Christian circles, was buffeted by unwanted publicity last week, when The Times reported that Crouch had paid a former employee $425,000 to keep silent about an alleged homosexual tryst.
“WHEN YOU GIVE TO GOD . . . YOU’RE SIMPLY LOANING TO THE LORD AND HE GIVES IT RIGHT ON BACK!”
TBN has no advertising—yet it generates more than $170 million a year in revenues—its viewers contribute two-thirds of that money! Do you want to know what you’re paying for? Take a gander:
“Paul, 70, collects a $403,700 salary as TBN’s chairman and president; Jan, 67, is paid $361,000 as vice president and director of programming. Those are the highest salaries paid by any of the 12 major religious nonprofits whose finances are tracked by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.”
Don’t worry; the “prayer partners” should be delighted to discover other amenities for the gospel include:
“A $7.2-million, 19-seat Canadair Turbojet owned by TBN. Luxury cars . . . 30 ministry-owned homes . . . a pair of Newport Beach mansions, a mountain retreat near Lake Arrowhead and a ranch in Texas.”
Then there’s the happy family:
“Paul Jr., earns $90,800 a year as TBN’s vice president for administration . . . Matthew (another son), has received $32 million from the network since 1999 to produce Christian-themed movies such as ‘The Omega Code.’”
Wall Watchers, a respected evangelical financial watch dog organization, has been abysmally ineffective in getting the financial contributions faucet turned off for TBN—I mean:
“TBN surpluses average $60 million a year since 1997; list net assets of $583 million, including $238 million in Treasury bonds and other government securities and $31 million in cash, along with 400 employees.
“IF THEY WEREN’T PROSPERING, I’D SAY, ‘WAIT A MINUTE . . . I DON’T SEE ANY EVIDENCE OF GOD’S BLESSING IN THEIR LIFE.’”
And where is the outrage from the people of God in this rank display of materialism: Ask TBN’s contributors.
“The fruit of God is on their life,” said Tennille Lowe, a computer analyst in Phoenix City, Alabama . . . If they weren’t prospering, I’d say, ‘Wait a minute. I don’t see any evidence (of God’s blessing) in their life.’”
Furthermore, you can now “rock and roll” at TBN’s complex; to wit:
“Visitors to the complex . . . can attend live studio broadcasts, buy TBN-branded clothing and stroll down a re-creation of Via Dolorosa, the street in Jerusalem where Jesus walked to His crucifixion. In a high-tech 50—seat theater, people watch Biblical movies in seats that tremble during the quakes, storms and other disasters recounted in the Scriptures.” (Note: The “ministry” owns a similar complex near Dallas and a Christian entertainment center outside of Nashville.)
Another faithful “prayer partner” who contributes $70 a month out of her $820 disability check, according to the Times, explains:
“I don’t go to church . . . I turn the TV on and it’s right there . . . sometimes I will watch it for weeks on end, every day . . . without TBN, I wouldn’t be here (Olivia Foster, 52 of Westminister, has AIDS and lives alone) . . . that’s the Gospel truth. It gave me purpose that God could us me. I watch it 18 hours a day.”
The comprehensive nature of the Times articles which appear in September, 2004 are so outlandish, embarrassing, and “spiritually bewildering” that to extend more space upon these pages only reveals the amazing and relentless plunge the Church in America has taken during the last several decades and even the last 26 months—please read my initial discoveries “back then” when life was simpler!
JOHN HAGEE’S FINANCIAL EMPIRE—26 MONTHS AGO—ALONG WITH “FAT CAT” CHRISTIANITY:
Reeling from John Hagee’s $1.25 million-dollar salary; his $700K-nearly 6,000 sq. ft. mansion in the Dominion of San Antonio, TX; his hunting lodges and barns complex and his immediate family’s generous financial packages, along with hundreds of thousands stashed away in his Rabbis Trust made my day of small beginnings from Santa Cruz (some 26 months ago) difficult NOT to be despised by the rich and famous among the Televangelists of American evangelicalism.
As billions in the Third World (i.e., the financial reservoirs of Americas multinationals) eke out an existence in grueling poverty, and as real unemployment in America affects one out of five workers (22%+ and counting--not the 6.4% still drawing unemployment insurance payments; and where nearly 50% of all black males (ages 18-26) are now incarcerated according to the latest stats) and human interest stories abound throughout the USA of unemployed professionals now in their third year of job search (having gone through their savings and refinance money just to survive)--they who supposedly represent the poor carpenter of Nazareth continue to amass and flaunt their wealth with righteous impunity!
You’d think that the scandals that plagued the evangelical Church in the 90s, and the current cover up of sexual improprieties by the American Roman Catholic Bishops could not be topped by any more sensationalism; but, alas, the evangelical fat cats have proved us wrong again! Think of it, Paul and Jan Crouch just had to have more room for their dogs to play around in, so they purchased a new $5.5 million mansion overlooking the Pacific (Now worth $8 million, see above); Benny Hinn--fresh from his exposure by the liberal media--begins to fight back against the devils critics but goes ahead with his $3.3 million dollar pad--and, that’s a modest investment considering the $100-million dollar uptake per year his kingdom absorbs.
The list is virtually limitless--like who cares about the $57 million evangelism empire of Joyce Meyer and her $62,000 Lexus SC 430 sports car parked at her 7,000-square-foot Sunset Hills home valued at $521,000 in Saint Louis County, or (again, according to the St Louis Business Journal (June, 2003)), the $57.3 million in revenue pouring in to Charles Stanley’s In Touch Ministries? After all, if you’re not concerned, you could still buy Joyce’s video entitled: Why Do Things Happen the Way They Happen? If God can’t get you to obey Him concerning your money, He wont get to anything else you got. (Question: Just who’s getting to whom here?)
JESUS AND THE MONEY CHANGERS:
One would have to be hard pressed NOT to see the Laodicea-type of Christianity America has produced. I’ve given you but the tip of an iceberg of decadent Christianity that is giving Mother Rome a run for her money. This “bigger is better Churchianity” proliferating throughout the land, spurred on by the marketeering, Madison-Avenue ways of the MEGA-CHURCH MOVEMENT, await the wrath of the Almighty. For all the good and the alleged gospel that is broadcast through these channels, is it any wonder that the world sees little societal change while it takes such offense at our financial manipulations and scorns us in the public marketplace!
You can see this same Jesus—OH, YES YOU CAN—you can see Him coming into the Temple of the Lord today. If anyone else would have thrown out the moneychangers in this fashion--I mean, after all, the Creator (by Him (Jesus) were all things created) makes this heavy-duty whip and beats up on the changers--well, if anyone else would have thrown out these guys, at least a session on anger management would receive strong consideration (temper, temper). No, I’m not being irreverent here--but, think of it: Here’s the Master (according to John), moving from feast to famine, from wedding to whip, from merriment to money changers and doing so sequentially, like in the same breath. Does this make any sense? Absolutely!
Then, as if to substantiate His real purpose--juxtaposed to the den of thieves occupying the majestic Herodian Temple--He shows up in little Bethany several miles from Jerusalem and tables with Mary, Martha, and the testimony of resurrection himself, Lazarus (who, by the way, says nothing but simply sits there in glorious testimony to the soon-to-be Resurrected Savior--talk about a contrast in mega-Church vs. fear not little flock home meetings).
I do not bring the above to your attention as if it had nothing to do with today’s appalling commercial resemblance now witnessed within the American Church wherein the flaunting of wealth by these money changers not only displays its wealth but spiritualizes it as if it somehow can be justified. This “doctrinalization of wealth” by so-called believers, is nothing more than the Woman of Wickedness of Zechariah 5, who is likewise depicted in Revelation 17 as the Apostate Mother of Harlots who has both made rich the kings of the earth, as well as been enriched by the commercial-political Beast upon whom she rides. The support that the Beast gives her, and the moral covering and enrichment that this Beast receives from her, is no manipulation of Biblical imagery--IT IS THE FACT OF TODAY’S CHRISTIANITY; and, in particular, American Christianity!
TILTON AND HAGEE CALL IT LIKE IT IS!
While in St. Louis some 18 months ago, I chanced to view the infamous Robert Tilton from Texas. Long thought to have expired from televangelism due to a major exposure of his wealth and flagrant use of Christian funds (facing lawsuits and ultimate collapse for a season). Tilton was seen by yours truly on the tube. This ghostly figure boldly declared that verses in Deuteronomy literally allow God’s people to speak wealth into being and generate wealth by simple declaration and speaking ex cathedra. Now one can (under this spontaneous combustion theory of wealth), have ever-increasing faith (i.e., money) to invest in Tilton’s wallet. What a revolting display of heresy did I witness here?
Again, not to be topped--listen to what John Hagee told the San Antonio Newspaper (Analisa Nazareno, Express-News Business Writer, July 6, 2003):
“Hagee instructs church members to hold their money toward the heavens. The thousands repeat after him: Give and it shall be given. When you give, it qualifies you to receive God’s abundance, he tells his listeners. If God gives to you before you give to him, God himself will become a liar . . . If you’re not prospering, it’s because you’re not giving.”
Nazareno continues . . .
“Hagee’s compensation was among the highest pay packages for television evangelists in 2001, according to IRS 990 filings . . . (Hagee continued in his justification for such a package): Faced with questions about his personal finances and the profitability of GETV, Hagee raised his voice and said: We are hiding absolutely nothing from nobody. I’m not afraid of you. I’m not afraid of the government, but I am afraid of God. And I’m not going to lie to God and go to hell over this.”
Again, Nazareno . . .
“Hagee would have little reason to fear the federal government. Other than disclosing their 990 forms, nonprofit organizations have little federal government oversight. Each year, the IRS may examine the tax returns of 1 percent of the 1 million nonprofit organizations that disclose income, according to an IRS spokesman. So, while the IRS has stringent rules about the disclosure of profits and investments, as well as income requirements for officers, most nonprofits such as GETV (Hagee’s Media Network) will operate virtually tax-free with little scrutiny, if any.
“In fact, when the federal government challenged his church’s nonprofit status in the mid-1990s, Hagee elicited the help of high-profile lawyers who worked often with Christian enterprises and sued the U.S. Postal Service when it denied his church a nonprofit bulk mail discount. A year after Hagee sued, the Postal Service settled with him, granted his church the discount on its mailings in 1999 and refunded more than $40,000 in excess postage fees.”
“IN ROME,” CRIED LUTHER, “THEY SELL EVERYTHING’”
Harry A. Ironside, the great evangelical fundamentalist preacher and expositor of the Bible, once, like so many of his peers, railed on Mother Rome for her financial excesses and overt commercialism . . .
“Commercialism has always flourished under the patronage of the popes, and this is another powerful weapon that Rome knows well how to use. Commerce is the goddess of the present feverish age, and to her everything must be sacrificed. And the Babylon of the future is not only a great church, but a great commercial system as well, for to her men will finally turn for the solution of the problems that now perplex them . . . “(p. 307 – Lectures on the Revelation)
Little did Ironside realize that this “infection” would spread like a flesh-eating bacteria upon the Body of Christ, and that its most unlikely victims would be the same evangelical community he once held in high esteem. And, little did Ironside’s predecessor, Martin Luther, realize that it would someday be the inheritors of Protestantism who would bow at the altar of mammon:
“In Rome,” cried Luther, “they sell everything. They would sell the Father, and sell the Son, and sell the Holy Ghost.”
What would Ironside and Luther say today of the very ones to whom they gave spiritual birth? I think you know full-well their prognosis of this dying, diseased and terminally-ill shadow of its former self!
May the Lord speed the day that believers would see what Peter called these pernicious predators: FALSE PROPHETS! These are they who at the end of the age, prior to His coming, Jesus warned us:
“For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24) – indeed, the same false prophets spoken of by Peter who “secretly bring in destructive heresies and who because of their covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words” (II Peter 2:1 & 3).
Much more could be said of the “way of Balaam” and the “way of Cain” that now flaunts its perversions and soils the garments of His Bride – yet does not our Lord speak to this Church in Laodicea:
“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see . . . as many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:15-19).