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Monday, June 29, 2009


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

He’s sentenced to 150 years in prison.

Jesus said that the love of money is the root of all evil. Madoff surely loved money as his god. Therefore, fill in the blanks.

His soul is black as any hell pit. He has breathed the demons’ cravings and shared that with his wife and sons. The lengths are limitless to which the Devil will go to dupe the spiritually void worldly crews.

After the first lie, the second becomes easier. After the second, the third slips in quite without fanfare. And from then on out, it’s lie as lifestyle. In Madoff’s pit, lies were tied to money.

However, there are countless others “out there” who are slipping down the same pit; it’s just that their money take is not the lump sum of Madoff’s. They won’t make the news either. Nevertheless, their god is money.

Jesus said that one cannot serve money and God. Jesus knew the parasitic suck-blood creature money can become.

As a child my Christian parents taught us children to tithe. We were told that the Bible states that God’s ownership of our first tenth of any income is to be given back to Him. If we keep it for self, we are stealing from God.

God was quite displeased with Israel for centuries upon centuries. Part of that displeasure was their stealing the tithe for self. Malachi 3:10 accents this in particular.

I have looked back over my life to realize that my parents’ instruction concerning the tithe put money in the biblical perspective. I gave God His tithe. He instructed me in frugality concerning the other nine-tenths. He also gave me peace of mind regarding money. I really did not worry about finances when I was faithful to God’s way of dealing with my money.

Having pastored for half a century, I have watched people struggle with the tithe. Some have obeyed God’s Word. Others have rationalized it away. For the former, they have lived out the divine peace. For the latter, they have slipped further and further away from God’s way.

Preaching on the tithe has gone out of style in today’s preaching-lite messages that tickle. Yet that does not scissor it out of the Bible. No matter the current culture’s spiritual excellence or lack of, God’s holy writ remains intact.

I think of one fellow whose god became his house. He had once been totally surrendered to God’s Scripture. However, over time, I noticed him struggle with full commitment. When he was on the lean side, he was on the shaky side of soul. When he was on the full side, he enjoyed God’s smile.

Finally, his house and its improvements got the hold of his soul. It seemed harmless to him. But I saw the signs early on. It is very difficult however to warn parishioners in such circumstances. They tend to rail back, lash out.

Eventually, the material took over the spiritual. Today he is empty and wandering in spirit.

How many others have come to his sorry state of affairs? Only God knows.

If Madoff had been taught the biblical perspective regarding money, he could have latched onto it, making it a safe lifestyle under heaven.

However, as the world now knows, Madoff never even came close.