By Steve Wolfgang
Footnote “Tithes,” Christian Baptist, I (February, 1824), 144.
Alexander Campbell, who mercilessly exposed the hypocrisy of the churches of his day, published this widely circulated story: “A certain woman found by the wayside a lamb perishing with cold and hunger. She had pity upon the lamb, and took it unto her house and nursed it and brought it again unto life. And it came to pass, that the lamb grew up and was a goodly ewe, and had a large fleece. And the poor woman sheared the ewe, when, lo! the priest came unto the woman and said, ‘The first fruits of everything belongs unto the Lord – and I must have the wool.’ The woman said, ‘It is hard,’ the priest said, ‘It is written’ and so he took the wool. And it came to pass, that soon after the ewe yeaned and brought forth a lamb, when, lo! the chief priest came again unto the woman and said, ‘The firstling of every flock belongeth unto the Lord – I must have the lamb.’ The woman said, ‘It is hard,’ the priest said, ‘It is written’ – and he took the lamb. And when it came to pass that the woman found that she could make no profit from the ewe, she killed and dressed it; when, lo! the chief priest came again unto her, and took a leg, a loin, and a shoulder, for a burnt offering. And it came to pass that the poor woman was exceeding wroth because of the robbery; and she said unto the chief priest, ‘Curse on the ewe. Oh! that I had never meddled therewith! And the chief priest straightway said unto her, ‘Whatsoever is cursed belongeth unto the Lord’ – so he took the remainder of the mutton, which he and the Levites ate for their supper. “
This story, as much as Campbell’s early writing, stung the pompous religious leaders of his day, as Jesus’ teaching infuriated the hypocritical leaders of the Jewish religion. Such teaching strikes at the core perversion of institutional religion. Churches become human institutions manipulated for the benefit of man. The force that sustains most popular religion today is not love of God but man’s craving for position and money.
Every servant of the kingdom is worthy of his hire, but one must never let his service be dependent on human reward (Matt. 6:18). Christians must discern between the honest servant and the greedy religious official who uses religion for financial gain and personal pride (2 Cor. 11: 19-20).
I fear the man who dresses in $250 suits and alligator shoes, while traveling the world in haste and importance soliciting funds to support himself and his projects.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 20, p. 614
October 20, 1988