Scripture: Romans 16:17 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offenses, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them. 18 For such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded.
Observation: What caught my attention this morning is the adjective “simple-minded” describing those who are deceived by false teachers. To my ears “simple-minded” means “stupid” or “lacking in intelligence”, but that’s not what Paul is getting at. When I look up the original Greek word “ἄκακος” it can also be translated as “innocent” or “naive”. The people at risk in Rome aren’t stupid, but are perhaps immature believers not yet deeply rooted in the faith and in the word of God. As such, they are easy targets for smooth-talking, but false teachers. As Paul writes, “For such people (false teachers) do not serve the Lord Christ, but their own appetites…”.
Application: There have always been smooth-talking preachers/teachers who tell people what they want to hear (a false gospel) and profit from it. Our modern version is probably what is called “prosperity gospel” in which people are taught that God wants you to have the best of everything: material wealth, favor/promotion at work, peace at home and with one’s neighbor, good health, and more. And while it’s true our heavenly Father wants what’s best for us…
Our wants and needs are ALWAYS subordinate to the needs of the Kingdom of God and the message of the gospel.
If you’re not sure about this, read the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) as well as the book of Acts. You’ll find that many of God’s most faithful servants (principally Jesus himself) enjoyed the favor and blessings of God AND endured suffering, depravation, loneliness, and heartbreak. At the same time! These are not mutually exclusive, for when we draw close to our God, the purposes of God become our own desires. When called upon to do so, we willingly embrace hardship for the sake of something greater than ourselves – knowing that mortal life is fleeting, but eternal life endures. Forever and ever.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, this morning I pray for all those tempted to respond to a gospel message that effectively equates the American dream (being healthy, wealthy, and wise) with the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are not the same thing. Give us grace to discern your truth, even when it’s not what we want to hear. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.