Monday, February 27, 2017

Cyber-pirates and Spiritual Thieves ................ Parables 555

May 13, 1997

Unauthorized copying and distribution of commercial computer programs, otherwise known as software piracy, is an enormous business. These software pirates roam the world wide web, sailing through Internet security screens and password checkpoints. Once inside a Web-site computer, they freely load up on stored files and programs. Serious pirates (not hacks out for kicks) offer them to the black market or industrial spies.

Software pirates package their ill-gotten products to look like the real thing. Some customers know the goods are illegally gained but do not care and buy them anyway. However, the companies who produced that software lose potential sales and honest people whenever they unintentionally buy their imitation goods and become victims of these crimes.

In parallel fashion, the Bible describes spiritual pirates. They infiltrate their way into the church of God, dressed up in a “package” that disguises their true nature. They freely load up biblical words and spiritual phrases and then offer it to unsuspecting truth-seekers who become their victims.

Spiritual hackers also invent their own interpretation of God’s Word. Because true spirituality involves a life of loving commitment, these pirates are not interested in what the Bible really means. They are more interested in twisting God’s truth just enough so as to personally profit from it.

Paul described these false teachers by saying they are “conceited and understand nothing... robbed of the truth and think that godliness is a means to financial gain.” He goes on to say that truly spiritual people have the opposite characteristics. Genuine people of God know eternal values lie in godliness and generosity, not money. They know wealth is to be shared, not made an object of hope and personal desire.

Paul also describes spiritual pirates as “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God... the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires.”

Spiritual deceit in the realm of illicit sexual relationships tears apart families and ruins lives. It also casts the real people of God into a bad light. God calls for purity and marital fidelity, not deceit that robs people of their virtue.

Money and self-indulgence spell power for those who are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love... “ yet Paul says they have “a form of godliness” — they look good, but they are “denying its power.”

This means that those who have only a “form of godliness” are religious, full of God-talk, appear pleasant, even loving, on the surface, but inside are (as Jesus said) “ravenous wolves.” The power they deny is not power to manipulate people with their words or their money (which they do have) but the power of God. God’s power is quite different. It melts hard hearts and changes sinners into God-fearing people. His power is given only to those who are poor in spirit, meek and self-effacing, not greedy and deceitful, hoping for personal gain.

Pirated software programs are difficult to detect and raise my hackles. Imitated godliness gets an even stronger reaction, yet anger will not solve this problem. I realize the only solution is that I be a “genuine original” and encourage other Christians to do the same. By this, those who are looking for the truth have a standard by which to compare and expose all imitations.

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