A Magician Learns a New Trick
Taken from Trip Four of Beam Me Back to Bible Days
Available from www.i-proclaim.com under fiction
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Ben and Sam, two backslidden preachers, share a money-making tip with sorcerer Simon Magus, who is reputed to have used occultic powers to fly through the air, firewalk, levitate, and turn stones to bread.
Magus was delighted with the splendid fund-raising idea Sam brought from the future. “That is truly remarkable! Not even Peter, James or John go around dunning their disciples for ten per cent of their salaries and wages! And no form of the tithing law is ever observed by Gentile believers. Jewish farmers and herdsmen still tithe on their products, but no fisherman or potter ever pays tithes of fish or pottery to the Jewish Temple! How will religious leaders of your day manage to convince even the poorest Gentile widows they must tithe on filthy lucre? And especially since, as you told me earlier, the Temple will be destroyed in only a few decades, and the Levitical priest system shall cease operations?”
“Most folks don’t know this,” Sam drawled, “but institutionalized tithing on money didn’t start until the Middle Ages, when the great false church system begins to persecute the kind of ‘little flock church’ Peter and his associates shepherd. Rich prelates will rise up among the nobility of the land. They will live like kings. Instead of a few humble raggedy apostles running around on bare feet, those lordly rulers shall be decked in rich vestments and miters. They will be carried around in litters, being hailed as demi-gods. People will kneel before them and call them the closest reality to Christ Himself, and treat these powerful men as if they were Christ Himself. The great edifices of the worldwide institutional church will be vast. Statues and icons will adorn them. They will be palaces bedecked by the gold of starving peasants around the world. And it costs plenty of money to maintain the princes of such a worldwide superchurch in the splendor they’ve grown used to. It is at times like that where forging convenient ‘principles’ out of the written Word of God comes in handy. Now we admit, not one verse in all the Bible, Old or New Testament, ever commands believers to pay tithes on money, but on agricultural produce only, and even then, only under the old Jewish covenant, and you and I know Gentiles aren’t under the old ceremonial law anyway. But most people of our time are so busy with their kids and their jobs, they’ll just take the preacher’s word for it that God wants them to tithe out of their meager cash wages.”
“So they will be too busy to investigate whether the heavy yoke placed upon them is legitimate,” Magus mused. “I marvel that such a lie will be so easily swallowed, though.”
“Well, Magus,” Ben said, “you yourself believe in drawing deeper truths out of that which is plainly stated in Scripture. ‘Principles’, that’s the word for it. Or, ‘reading between the lines’, you might call it. God’s Word can be considered a love letter to His people, and what is implied, or what can be deduced through an interpretation of Scripture based on spiritual mysticism is often regarded as being just as binding as the literal letter of the Law. In that way, people add to the written requirements of the Word of God. In various places, the ‘ten per cent’ principle recurs. Melchisedek was presented with ten per cent of Abraham’s booty of war. Kings were honored with tribute of ten per cent or more. Like in I Samuel Chapter 8, the Israelites demand that God give them a king. So what does Samuel the prophet do but warn them that if they get that king, he’ll confiscate ten per cent of all they possess?”
“So the religious kings of your time enrich themselves by laying tribute upon the people of God?” Magus said wonderingly.
“Yes, Magus. People are led to believe that since the ‘ten per cent’ standard of giving keeps on cropping up, the Christian slaving away at a humble job is obligated to hand ten per cent of his wages over to the one doing the more important job of preaching. And he is to give this amount even before Caesar is paid his taxes.”
“But you said the Roman Empire would someday fall, Ben.”
“Different form, same essence,” Sam said. “Our leaders might not be called ‘Caesar’, but they sure do act like it!”
“So the preacher of your day justifies taxing God’s children ten per cent, based on what they claim is an unspoken, implied command of God Himself?” Magus remarked. “Principles for successful living include obeying laws that aren’t even written in Scripture. I have taught you well, Ben. Delving into mysticism has its advantages. Someday the church will be clothed in splendor, and her princes will be garbed in gold. That is how it should be.”
* * * * * *
At one of their miracle shows, Magus, Ben and Sam sing to persuade people to tithe.
When the crowd was firmly in a good mood, Ben began his sermon on tithing. “All God asks for is ten per cent,” he said. “I think tithing’s a good deal. After all, you get to keep the other ninety per cent, and Scripture promises you’ll never have to do without if only you’ll dare to take God at His Word and prove His Word is true.”
To zithers and trumpets Ben began to march round the stage with Sam and Magus, singing:
That I’m blessed
Time to put God to the test
Pay your tithe
Pay on time
And your faith will do the rest
There’s a million miracles a-waitin’ there for you
If you’ll only believe what faith can do
That you’re blessed
And you’ll always get the best!
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Ten per cent
Put it in
Lots of loot will come to you
And you’ll save
Tons of trials and trouble too
There’s a million miracles a’waitin’ there for you
If you’ll only believe and sow seeds too
That you’re blessed
And your stones will turn to bread !
After the trio finished singing, the brass instruments kept on playing as Magus wowed the crowds with a mighty miracle. He waved his jeweled hands over a heap of gray stones. Immediately they were transformed into freshly baked, hot loaves of bread which gave off a sumptuous aroma. Then Magus bowed and blew kisses to the hungry people before flinging the loaves out to them. Some got injured in the rush for free food, but the show must go on.
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