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Monday, December 8, 2008

The Didache

I brought up the Didache a while back, but didn't do much with it. I would like to go over some selections from the Didache with you. 

In case you don't know, the Didache is a Christian document dating anywhere from some 70 AD to the end of the second century. It's old and it's easy to read. Many of the oldest documents are written by a single author. That makes them easy targets for ad hominen attacks by COG ministers that point out one perceived flaw in a person, then claim that taints every word they've ever spoken. I think that does a great disservice to everyone. This document, however, is a general instruction and has no single author.

DISCLAIMER: I'm not trying to get anyone's hackles up in this by claiming this document is on equal footing with the Bible. I'm not saying that. I am merely pointing to it and showing how the people of that time thought as compared to the COGs of our time.
ALSO: I'm pulling my link here from a Catholic website because of the quality of the website's feed, not because it's a "Catholic" document. I know some would be quick to jump on me for this misperception.

I'm going to give you chapter and verse from the Didache, then comment below it.

(1: 5-6) Happy is he that gives according to the commandment; for he is guiltless. Woe to him that receives; for if one having need receives, he is guiltless; but he that receives not having need, shall pay the penalty, why he received and for what, and, coming into straits (confinement), he shall be examined concerning the things which he has done, and he shall not escape thence until he pay back the last farthing. (Matthew 5:26) 6 But also now concerning this, it has been said, Let your alms sweat in your hands, until you know to whom you should give.

Give! Be charitable! But woe to the ministers because they constantly demand when there is no lack, and they take when there is excess, and rarely do they give to those who are truly in need! People went bankrupt while the upper echelon lived like great sultans in a harem of tithe payers. Even the local ministers were pampered while their own brethren were cast out for not being able to bear the weight of the tribute levied against them. They withhold money and God's word and Christian love to those who are not like themselves. Perhaps worst of all is the 'stock story' they will bring out of the time when they helped a non-believer [that God had clearly sent to them to experience their generosity].
The Didache tells you to let your gifts stay with you until you can be sure to whom you should give them. It DOES NOT say that you are beholden to give in excess of 30% of your income to a minister regardless of any and all circumstances. Nor does it say that minister should decide to whom alms should be given. In fact, now that I think of it, I am unaware of a single early Christian document that commands tithing (including the New Testament).

If you didn't catch it, the phraseology is "gives according to the commandment". I know of none of the 10 Commandments that say to give. This piques my curiosity about a thought I've been having these last few weeks that perhaps when the New Testament says "commandment" it is not referring to the 10 Commandments at all. Perhaps a better way to think of it would be "commands" or "instructions" rather than "Commandment(s)". Just a thought.

(2: 6) You shall not be covetous, nor rapacious, nor a hypocrite, nor evil disposed, nor haughty.

Do not be a hypocrite?! Do not be haughty?! Why, if there were two adjectives I would choose that best describes the general attitude of the Armstrong ministry, it would be these very two! There are exceptions. Do I slander maliciously? Do I bring unfounded accusation? I would wager there is not a single person who ever attended the COGs who doesn't either have a personal story of deep trouble with the ministry, or who doesn't know of several stories to that effect. I would go so far as to say that the great majority of all problems involved the ministry.
I have laid out example after example of hypocrisy and ministerial abuse here in my blog. I have read and attest that there are several other high quality blogs out there (I link to several) who all witness to the same.

(2: 7) You shall not hate any man; but some you shall reprove, and concerning some you shall pray, and some you shall love more than your own life.

Men were hated. The great and swelling accusations that I heard (and at times participated in -- to my shame) against the Catholic Church and against all that was not Armstrongist... they were inexcusable. They were condemnatory. They were un-Christian (anti-Christ). And they were, in most cases, baseless, fabricated, distorted, etc, etc.


(4: 5-8) 5 Be not a stretcher forth of the hands to receive and a drawer of them back to give. 6 If you have anything, through your hands you shall give ransom for your sins. 7 You shall not hesitate to give, nor murmur when you give; for you shall know who is the good repayer of the hire. 8 You shall not turn away from him that is in want, but you shall share all things with your brother, and shall not say that they are your own; for if you are partakers in that which is immortal, how much more in things which are mortal?

The ministry continuously have their hands stretched out to receive. Herbert Armstrong encouraged tithes and offerings for various projects and 'budget shortfalls' and works. He helped himself to that money generously! He gave off the top to his family and friends. He gave great and expensive gifts to heads of state who needed for nothing in order to get a few moments of paparazzi time with them. Then if, by some odd stretch, some would be left over at the end to make it to those who truly needed it, then the hand was withdrawn to give. Those who were their own, who hoped to partake in that which is immortal, could not afford to partake in that which makes mortal bearable - like properly fitting clothes, or a healthy diet. And how many of those "final witness" projects, like the temple in Pasedena, actually fulfilled the purpose we were lead to believe they were funded to fulfill? NOT A SINGLE ONE! There the temple sits, to this day, in Pasedena, sold off piece by piece and occupied by other churches. The stately colleges, the pricey advertisements, the extravagant gifts, the lavish trips around the globe - they accomplished little or nothing towards what we were told. (It accomplished everything towards what it was really meant to accomplish.)
They cry "God's people tithe!!!" No, God's people GIVE! There's a vast and spiritual difference between the two! Peter himself showed that giving is more than mere money. (ACTS 3: 6) Then Peter said, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." Peter gave!


(11: 4-5) 4 Let every apostle that comes to you be received as the Lord. 5 But he shall not remain except one day; but if there be need, also the next; but if he remain three days, he is a false prophet.

Why say "if he remain three days"? Because this is a person who arrives to gain something, and stays to continue gaining something. It is about making an income from people, rather than teaching God's honest truth.

(11: 6) 6 And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges; but if he ask money, he is a false prophet.

If he asks for money (for improper or selfish use) - he is FALSE! 

(11: 8) But not every one that speaks in the Spirit is a prophet; but only if he hold the ways of the Lord. Therefore from their ways shall the false prophet and the prophet be known.

According to their ways you will know a real minister. Do they make a profit of you? Do they cherry-pick the Bible and practice it with hypocrisy? Do they abuse and cast out the congregation? Do they focus on themselves and think highly of their office? Do they accuse and judge and condemn others? Do they cause division? Do they cry out for tithes and offerings like a baby cries for milk? Do they, God forbid, pray for people to get cancer and die? ...I could go on.

(11: 11) But whoever says in the Spirit, Give me money, or something else, you shall not listen to him; but if he says to you to give for others' sake who are in need, let no one judge him.

Asking for money in order to give it to people in need, like Paul clearly did, is perfectly fine and encouraged. Asking for money for pet projects, or any other such thing ["God's people tithe!"] is actually against God.


(12: 5) But if he wills not to do [work to support himself], he is a Christ-monger. Watch that you keep aloof from such.

A "Christ-monger"! Like a salesman who hocks Christ for gain. Christ is not a commodity to be sold! He is a free gift, undeserved, to be given absolutely freely to all with nothing in this life received in return! But if you listen to Armstrong, there is no such thing as a "Christ-monger" in his group, because your entire responsibility as a Christian is to pay up and pray for his success. Now I ask you, how could it be, under a tithing system, that such a thing as a "Christ-monger" could even exist?? Armstrong says your entire duty is to pay him and let him be a Christian for you. (I paraphrase.) (What? You don't believe me?? Read "The Incredible Human Potential"!) Yet these first Christians said for us to be wary of "Christ-mongers". Odd.


(13: 1-4) 1 But every true prophet that wills to abide among you is worthy of his support. 2 So also a true teacher is himself worthy, as the workman, of his support. (Matthew 10:10); cf. (Luke 10:7 3) Every first-fruit, therefore, of the products of wine-press and threshing-floor, of oxen and of sheep, you shall take and give to the prophets, for they are your high priests. 4 But if you have not a prophet, give it to the poor.

They are worthy, who devote their lives to giving the free gift of Christ, to be supported by those who accept the gift. This is not to say that they profit and grow rich while bilking the congregation. A true minister will be humble and only require those things that any regular person would need to live. You see, in the early days, there was no "home office" or college or any such thing. There were travelling evangelists, so to speak, and there were local elders and deacons. These people either supported themselves (like Paul usually did) or they asked to be put up for the night and fed and clothed. That's really about it. None of this multi-million dollar empire nonsense! None of this expense account garbage! No budget excesses! Certainly no dream of fluttering about the earth in a private jet (or fleet thereof)! So, when they do, and they certainly do, cry out that 'a worker is worth his wages', mis-quoting the Bible against you (I TIM. 5: 18), you can know what the Bible meant by that.


(15: 1) Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops [ie. elders] and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, (1 Timothy 3:4) and truthful and proved; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers.

Why all this focus on not letting "Christ-mongers" rip you off? Could they have foreseen the problems we have today? I think they had this problem quite a bit in their day as well.
Notice how this does NOT say "elders and deacons and ministers". The specific office of 'Minister' is nowhere described in all the Bible.

Please understand, I do not bring any accusation to condemn any one whatsoever. I only point out any of this to show the contrast between the Christian calling and how Armstrongism falls flat. And God reads and knows my heart, I point these things out in love of those children of the Most High who attend the COGs, that perhaps they may have their eyes opened to their condition. For many years I attended the COGs and I thought all was well - except for a few points that nagged the back of my mind. I would not allow myself to search the answers. I used to say certain things were non-negotiable. Then God stepped in and opened my eyes through several people that were of great aid to me. For the love of Jesus Christ and the hope of His Salvation, I stepped into the New Covenant. Once I arrived there, and was filled up to overflowing with an unspeakable joy, I couldn't help myself but I had to call out to those people who are still trapped in Armstrongism. I had to provide the answers to those things that I misunderstood for so long for others to read (even if I duplicate so much other information on the other blogs who went before me and admittedly do a better job than I do). I had to call out to those people God so deeply loves and offer them access to the information they will only be kept away from by Armstrong's ministers. Why? Because there is a joy in the New Covenant that you simply have to experience. There is a gap between what both the Bible and history say, and what Armstrong says. That gap will be called "confusion" and "sin" by Armstrong's ministers. They misunderstand. How can they only agree with a certain amount of the Bible, then say the rest is "sin and confusion"??!! In my mind, this is tantamount to blasphemy! They will say the Didache was written by people who were 'sinners' and 'confused'. But read it for yourself! Find one thing in the Didache that disagrees with the text of the New Covenant.
Loved and cherished by God, for whom He sent His only Son, and for whom His only Son gave up all things to languish and die on the cross, listen to the words of God. Please do not shut your eyes to His truth! Step in to the New Covenant!


xHWA said...

I keep thinking of that quote I read somewhere online (probably Painful Truth) where someone said something like "God is probably mentioned more times on the dollar bill than in one of Herbert Armstrong's overseas missions."

Anyone got that quote handy?

xHWA said...

I haven't found that one yet. But I did find this one:

"Brethren, the church has got a new gauge to measure how converted you all are. You see, it used to be that the people with sales-like outgoing personalities were considered to be the most converted. But from now on, the measure of your conversion is going to be whether you listen and do as the ministers tell you to do."

b said...

That last comment about conversion was made by Steve Martin (the minister, not the comedian) during a sermonette in the "House for God" sometime during 1974-76.


xHWA said...

Steve Martin... the minister... hehe
Can I call him The Jerk? Were tithes his 'special purpose'?

Thanks for that chuckle, Bob. I needed it!

Byker Bob said...

Hey, call him anything that fits. Everyone knows I defend my personal friends, but Steve was never one of them. He's fair game!