For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach–and that for the sake of dishonest gain. (Titus 1:10-11)
We have already considered some theological falsehoods present in the churches on Crete. Here is a summary statement of the situation from an earlier devotion: “This explains why those who considered circumcision and adherence to other Jewish traditions as a sign of righteousness were so destructive. They preyed on the guilt of their Jewish friends who desperately wanted to please God. And they played into the inflated egos of those who were inclined to self-righteousness.”
Now we are told a little more about the nature of these teachers. They ruined whole “households” and did what they did for “dishonest gain.”
It is a little hard to determine whether Paul is talking about core family units or “households of faith” (i.e. churches) in our passage. Perhaps the term “household” applies to both. The two were intertwined since people often learned how to treat others at home by modeling brothers and sister in Christ who were a part of their church family.
Why are false teaching and greed so often mentioned in the same sentence in the Bible? And why are they so toxic to human relationships? Here are some possibilities:
1. False teachers model unhealthy principles of conflict resolution. They speak and act without grace, and encourage others to do the same. Then they complain about their own mistreatment.
2. People who use others as a vehicle for their own purposes foster an attitude of criticism and condemnation. They rally people around causes and love to define their own brand of spirituality.
3. Greedy people are frequently self-absorbed. Their obsession with being the center of attention sets the tone for an unhealthy competitive spirit in every kind of household, whether it be the church, or one’s core family.
This cycle is an old refrain repeated in churches, governments, organization and corporations for generations. The exploiter uses moralistic jargon or god-talk to distort the truth and spiritualised his cause, mocks the heart and ability of those he opposes, and insists people follow him (together with their money).
Unfortunately, in the environment of the church where people try hard to be gracious and understanding, they are often unaware they are being “preyed” and “played”. And some people are so desperate for acceptance they will follow anyone who makes them feel important.
Such is the danger of false teaching in the body of Christ. It is not always enough that we know the truth. Sometimes we have to recognize the characteristics of those who see the church as their vessel instead of the other way around.
No wonder Titus needed to take his time finding the best leaders possible.
Dear God, give me the insight I need not to be taken in. In Jesus’ name, Amen.