Summary: The danger of excessive riches, in luring us away from our God (with a little help from Balaam).
[Note to preachers: This message, though gleaned from Proverbs 30, depends a lot on the spiritual lessons learned from the Balaam incident in Numbers.]
Tell the story of Balaam (BAY-lum)
- Asked by pagan king Balak to curse Israel
- Wouldn’t do it. Then was offered money. Changed his mind.
- Angel and donkey on the way.
- Three tries at cursing Israel, all unsuccessful
- Finally goes home
- Although no record of it in OT, New Testament (Jesus specifically) accuses Balaam of counseling Balak to defeat Israel by teaching them to commit sexual immorality and idolatry.
- Balak, apparently, sent some scantily clad ladies with idols in their pockets into Israel, with an invitation to party, and Israel departed from God in favor of the idols.
Bottom line of Balaam’s theory here: God defends Israel. He fights for them in battle. You cannot defeat them, therefore, in a straight-up fight. It follows, if you can’t beat them straight-up, you need to get them to stoop down, to bend over, to lean. God fights for His people, but He is a jealous God, and if His people desert Him for idols, He will stop fighting for them and start fighting against them!
Throughout the history of the Church, since then, though the devil has not abandoned the idea of frontal assaults in the form of violence and war and persecution, he does much more damage by following this battle plan…sabotage.
Paul is a good example: persecuted the church frontally, and was dramatically defeated by the Lord. Then spent an enormous amount of time in his Christian life battling against heresy and false doctrine within the church. Almost every one of his letters was written to clarify the truth, to set it apart from error, to address specific falsehoods.
Protestants during the Reformation: Put to death by the hundreds and thousands for not agreeing that the communion bread actually turned into the physical flesh of Jesus during the Lord’s Supper - - this didn’t stop the Reformation. In fact, it may have fueled it. But now, four and a half centuries later, the denominations that sprang directly out of the Reformation (Lutherans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists) are either dead or dying precisely because they’ve abandoned the very theology that gave them birth in the first place. The persecution didn’t get them, but liberalism sure has.
I get nervous to look around and see how theologically ignorant the average Christian is. That is the hallmark of defeat. It is proof that Balaam has been at work among us.
Now Read Proverbs 30:7-9
We (America) are in grave danger of falling victim to the first sin in v.9. Our bellies are full and we deny the Lord.
How filled are our bellies? So full that we’ve redefined poverty. Biblically, poverty means the lack of food, clothing, or shelter. If we have these, we should be content. But no. When Christmas rolls around, you will no doubt hear appeals from ministries whose big push is to help “poor” families buy nice presents for their kids. We’ve gone from defining poverty in terms of food, clothing and shelter, to terms of Sega Genesis, DVD’s, and Nike’s. We have the absolute fattest, most obese poverty stricken people in the world.
What allows us to do this? The fact that God has given us abundance of riches. While I am thankful for that abundance, and have no burning desire to move to some third world country anytime soon, I am increasingly aware of the grave spiritual danger in it.
The commercials come by on the TV, and scantily clad lady after scantily clad lady (all with idols in their pockets) come to us with an invitation to party. “You need this now!” “This product will drastically improve your miserable life.” “Guilt-free shopping!”
Meanwhile, like I said, our lay leaders, elders and deacons, men of the church we’ve tasked with leadership, don’t know enough theology to navigate their way out of a paper bag.
After 9/11, it looked to a lot of us like the nation was waking up spiritually. But there have been no more serious attacks, unemployment is low, and a little sweat can generally pay all the bills, so we’ve fallen back to sleep. Like the snoring spouse who is poked and told to roll over.
We were dusting off our Bibles, but then someone handed us the remote control again, and there are the enticing ladies….
God save us from our favorite idols, Comfort and Entertainment.