BAD SHEPHERDS

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Christ’s true disciples are not self-appointed bishops and shepherds of wallets. 

Let me tell you my own version of the parable of the Prodigal Son.  He stole money from his father and ran away to a far country.  But after some time, he repented and sought reconciliation with his father.  His counsellors told him to soften his father’s heart by sending him lavish gifts.  So he sent his father gifts upon gifts.  He sent him lots of money, expensive electronics and sophisticated household appliances.  On one occasion, he even sent a Mercedes Jeep.

 

A Self-serving Theology

But the gifts never got to his father.  They were simply cornered by his mentors.  They encouraged him to send even more gifts, claiming they were absolutely necessary to appease his father.  But in actual fact, they wanted the gifts for themselves. 

They warned him that if he ever went back home, his father would have him arrested.  They told him he might even kill him.  But if he would only send more expensive gifts, his father would surely have a change of heart.  It just so happened that the gifts they suggested were the very things they desired for themselves.  In fact, the Prodigal Son could have sworn that the Jeep he saw with one of them was the same one he had sent to his father.

Thanks to their threats and warnings, the Prodigal was scared to death of his father.  He had nightmares of his father’s wrath and swore he would never go back home.

 

A Providential Intervention 

But one day, things went from bad to worse for him.  His businesses collapsed and he lost everything.  He concluded that he had no choice but to go back home.  But how could he go back without a gift?  What gift could he take now he was penniless?

So he decided to make the ultimate sacrifice.  He would offer to sacrifice his status as a son and ask to be received as a servant.  But what if his father refused and insisted on having him prosecuted instead?  He decided he had no choice but to take the risk.  If he did not, he would die of starvation in a foreign land at any rate.  But he felt confident, from what his mentors had been telling him, that his sacrifice would be accepted.  After all, his father seems to have a great partiality for gifts and sacrifices.

 

A Pleasant Surprise

But when he finally went back home, he had the surprise of his life.  To his utter amazement, his father was extremely pleased to see him.  He did not allow him to finish his prepared speech; plea-bargaining to be accepted back as a servant.  His father jumped on his neck and gave him a tight embrace.  He did not have him arrested and he did not kill him.  He did not even ask if he brought him any cows.  Instead, the father himself killed the fatted calf in his honour and threw a lavish home-coming party for him.

What is the moral of this parable?  Some people had given the Prodigal Son a false impression of his father.  They told him his father would have him arrested or killed.  They told him he needed to appease his father’s wrath with gifts upon gifts.  But on his return home, he was not confronted with his father’s wrath.  Instead, he was overwhelmed by his father’s love.  He suddenly discovered that his father was far more forgiving and loving than he had ever been led to imagine. 

Who are the counsellors of this Prodigal Son who gave him such a false impression of his father?  Who are the counsellors who profited from his ignorance of his father’s love? 

You have guessed it: they are the Pauline pastors and bishops of the churches.  These churches “build Zion with bloodshed, and Jerusalem with wickedness.  Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money” (Micah 3:10-11).

 

Beware of Pastors

Jesus says we should beware of pastors (Mark 12:38-40).  He does not even say: “Beware of the devil.” 

Don’t continue to give the sacrifice of fools (Ecclesiastes 5:1).

Is that nattily dressed man at the pulpit always asking you for money for his church? 
He is not a disciple of Christ.  Is that smooth-tongued evangelist on your television screen asking you yet again to send money to his ministry?  He is not a disciple of Christ.  Is that Pastor insisting if you don’t pay tithes you will not be blessed?  He is not a disciple of Christ. 

Christ’s true disciples are not money-minded.  They are not self-appointed bishops and shepherds of wallets.  They receive freely from the Lord and they give freely without asking for anything in return (Matthew 10:8).