How to get kicked out of church: Swindle

We are working from 1 Corinthians 5:11. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who calls himself a Christian who is sexually immoral, or greedy, or an idolater, or verbally abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. (NET) Today's focus is on swindlers. The Greek word is harpax. Paul uses the word three times in this very letter and Jesus uses it twice. Here are the verses.

Jesus

Mat 7:15


“Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves.


Luk 18:11


The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself like this: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: extortionists, unrighteous people, adulterers – or even like this tax collector.

Paul

1Co 5:10


In no way did I mean the immoral people of this world, or the greedy and swindlers and idolaters, since you would then have to go out of the world.


1Co 5:11


But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who calls himself a Christian who is sexually immoral, or greedy, or an idolater, or verbally abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person.


1Co 6:10


thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God.



Recent news makes it easy to conjure up a name to associate with the name "swindler." Bernie Madoff comes easily to mind. He operated on the confidence of Jewish social circles. Christians do it to other Christians as well. Here's one from the end of 2008 and another from 2007. The second one is interesting in that an anonymous commenter at the blog claimed to be a neighbor of the deceased offender and considered the neighbor a waste of oxygen. However, a close Christian friend of the offender defended him in an open letter as just another sinner. The friend is quoted in a newspaper, "Derrich was exactly like the rest of us, a sinner who rebelled from a holy God and fell far short of his glory," Rowley said..."No, Derrich didn't stop sinning after he became a Christian," Rowley said. "The difference between him and other sinners was he was simply a sinner saved by God's grace." I think Paul would disagree with the minimization of the sin. He didn't just sin, he swindled people, and he was not worthy of Christian fellowship. He was not living a transformed life. The difference between this Christian guy and Bernie Madoff is that Paul wants us to reach out to the unsaved swindlers like Madoff, but deny the privilege of fellowship to swindlers who call themselves Christians.

Is this an example of Christians shooting their own wounded? I don't think so. I think it is what any healthy family does. They bring consequences on those who hurt family members. In fact, we sometimes practice this in my own family. If one of the children is especially mean or disruptive at the table, they have to go eat in the kitchen by themselves. They are not allowed to ruin everyone else's meal. They are invited back when they settle down or apologize or resume acceptable behavior. Likewise, guests are welcome to eat with us, but disruptive guests might not be invited back.

Swindling is worse than stealing. It involves betraying confidence. Cons are confidence scams. When you've been conned, your confidence has been betrayed to the benefit of someone else at your expense. Theft is bad enough but to add betrayal on top of that jeapordizes community at a deeper level. Judas was guilty of this. He had the confidence of the apostles to hold the band's money bag, John 12:6, which he spent on himself. He also betrayed Jesus for cash. Swindling is top-notch wickedness. Paul wants it kept out of the church. However, he wants swindlers converted. They are destined for hell, 1 Cor. 6:11. Jesus wants us to be humble about our salvation. The rest of the parable in Luke 18:9-14 is very important.
Jesus also told this parable to some who were confident that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else. “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself like this: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: extortionists, unrighteous people, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’ The tax collector, however, stood far off and would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am!’ I tell you that this man went down to his home justified rather than the Pharisee. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Swindling can be done by anybody at any time in their lives. As Iris Chang wrote, "the veneer of civilization seems to be exceedingly thin." Opportunity tests our characters. And as I concluded before, no one has character that is not corrupt. The Bible says that as well, Romans 3:10-18.

The Bible talks about stealing as well. It's the 8th commandment, which I previously wrote about, see here and here.

If you swindle your brothers and sisters, you can't sit at the table until you apologize and make amends. If you want to stay in the dining room with us don't betray us and stay sober.

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