Mon | Nov 29, 2021

Orville Taylor | Good shepherds and false profits

Published:Saturday | October 23, 2021 | 12:09 AM

What is the difference in the destinies of sheep tended by a ‘Good Shepherd’ and those who roam wild, trusting only the leaders from their own herd? Wolves are known predators whose prey escapes 86 per cent of the time. However, almost 100 per cent...

What is the difference in the destinies of sheep tended by a ‘Good Shepherd’ and those who roam wild, trusting only the leaders from their own herd? Wolves are known predators whose prey escapes 86 per cent of the time. However, almost 100 per cent of domestic sheep being shepherded get eaten. And the poor sheep go like lambs to the slaughter and can’t say ‘mutton’ in their defence.

Thus, despite my belief in Jesus being the Son of God, the Hindu cattle herd is a far better exemplar. After all, he never eats the cows or pretends that the dung, full of grass fibre, is anything more than bull chips. How many Christian men of the cloth, whose wrath I am stirring now, can truly say the same?

This kind of thinking almost got me expelled from my Catholic high school twice, and I exacerbated the ire of the principal/religious studies teacher, when I stuttered and mispronounced, ultimately getting an F for treating the Apocrypha as an anagram. It didn’t help either that I questioned the etymology of domiciles of the unmarried priests being called rectory or that they studied in seminaries.

Blame God for giving me a mind to use, but to their credit, along with the Bible philia knocked into my head by Elder Taylor, these Jesuits pointed me to an appreciation of things biblical versus those doctrinal. Thus, for me, the tasks are simple. Something is either ‘Christ’-ian or not. How come most of the self-confessed Christians have never read all of the accounts of Jesus’s life, which should be the starting point of any professing of following in his footsteps?

Because, there were (misrepresented) statues and images of him nailed up on a plus sign, all over, I kind of went to school with Jesus and think I know him a little. This man, the Word made flesh, was pretty clear about what we were to do. No jokes about him driving with his disciples in one accord; he never drove a chariot. Indeed, the ass he rode into Jerusalem was not his own.

MISS OUT HIS EARLY WORD

Too many sheep and cheats miss his early word, in Matthew 6, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, … store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” He was consistent in this message. Therefore, when he entered into the temple like a municipal policeman, kicking over the money changers’ stall; he wanted it to be made clear that profiteering from the worship of God was sinful. He said it, not Saul (Paul) later, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it ‘a den of robbers’.”

Often, pastors and other church people deceitfully preach that Jesus chased out gamblers. Absolutely not! He routed money changers and vendors of ‘sacred’ objects and animals. Who are the robbers that he refers to here? Isn’t it those who are profiting from others’ serving the Lord?

In Matthew 19, Jesus spoke with no flair or panache; “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Not that it is impossible, but being rich carries a burden of being tight-fisted and it can easily border on being unkind and selfish; thus, running counter to loving the poor and neighbour as oneself.

Therefore, a rich preacher whose source of income comes from the ‘word’ must raise a flag. Again, if the sheep would have suffered the inconvenience of using the brain that God gave to them and actually read the Bible, instead of reciting King David’s laments, the warning is there for those whose eyes are not wide shut. Using the same needle-eye analogy, after cautioning that the gate is small and the road is narrow, the message is, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves… By their fruit you will recognise them.”

For the record, let me once again put out the challenge to any person who misleads his or her flock into making statutory deductions under the guise of Old Testament ‘tithes’. Nothing in the teaching of Jesus supports it and it is nothing more than a misrepresentation of the command to be generous and give. Show me the Christian foundation for this extortive practice!

Jesus was clear regarding religious men exalting themselves. After excoriating Pharisees and Sadducees and warning his disciples to avoid being caught up with titles and self-aggrandisement as they did, he reproached, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Title-loving churchmen, who ‘vampirise’ the flock and preach non-Christ-ian messages fit neatly into Matthew 7:15.

Yet, in wake of the debacle in the west, ending with the arrest of the pastor, Government must now have a role. For too long have charlatans lived off the weak-minded by scaring them into paying a tax to avoid hell fire or to get free passage to a version of heaven.

Non-profit must mean none for the prophet and charity must mean exactly what Jesus said it should be; giving and sacrifice; not sucking the blood of the believers.

- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at The University of the West Indies, a radio talk-show host, and author of Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.