I Timothy 6:4-5 “He has an elevated opinion of himself, being without knowledge, but dotes on an unhealthy love of questionings and war of words which leads only to envy, division, insults, insinuations and wranglings of men corrupted in mind and destitute of truth who think religion is a way to make money.”
The above description could be a description of some atheists I know. It also could be describing some religious figures who claim to be Christians. I think every lectureship I have ever done contained a person who dominated the question/answer session and attempted to impugn my motives. Atheists tend to believe that all religious speakers are hypocrites just in it for the money. Religious figures have desired to take over our ministry and link it to theirs so they could increase their income. Others seemed to believe that our outreach was taking paying contacts away from them.
This is not a new issue. The Bible has many accounts of this same kind of attitude. Acts 8 tells about a man named Simon who believed that religion is a way to make money. He had used sorcery “and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that he was a great one” (Verse 9). When he saw the power of the apostles, he tried to buy it (verses 18-19). Peter told him, “Your money will perish with you because you have thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.” Acts 19:13-14 tells a fascinating story of the seven sons of Sceva who are called “vagabond Jewish exorcists.” They had a colossal failure when they tried to merchandise the religious tools of the apostles to help people who had serious problems.
There are con artists today who believe religion is a way to make money. I don’t know of any human enterprise where greed is not involved, including atheist and skeptic projects. However, for every religious con artist out there, there are hundreds of people who do their ministry with no pay at all. No one gets rich in running a food pantry or a day-care center or a prison ministry. For every TV evangelist making money, there are dozens of people supporting themselves with a secular job while using their resources to do what God has called them to do.
The passage in 1 Timothy 6 cited earlier ends with Paul saying: “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And if we have food and shelter, let us be content with that. But they that want to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil: which some have coveted, erring from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (Verses 6-10).
Just for the record – your author does not receive a salary from this ministry and supports himself with his 41 years of teaching science in the South Bend Community Schools Corporation.
For the past two days, we have examined two reasons why atheism makes sense to some people. As we said before, many people genuinely believe that there is no God and there can be many reasons for that. Today we want to examine a third reason why atheism makes sense. It involves a failure to see God working in the lives of people who claim to be Christians.
REASON 3. Christianity does not work. If there is a God, why does He not act when things get rough? Why do even the best Christians find themselves afflicted with disease and loss and even death? Why do so many Christians have nervous breakdowns, broken marriages, hostile children, alcohol and drug problems, and all of the other bad things which are a part of the world today? One man recently wrote to me, “Christianity only works for those who would do okay without it.” Another wrote, “The only thing I can see in prayer is its therapeutic value. Certainly, those who are afflicted and are Christians do not have a better survival rate than those who are afflicted and are atheists.” A third said, “I do not know of any Christian man in my community that does more good, is more generous, or is more successful than my neighbor who is an atheist. If God is real and Christianity is really worth anything, why is that true?”
RESPONSE. This challenge gets to where most Christians live. Can our friends tell any difference between us as Christians and our neighbors who are not? There are two major problems here. The first is that erroneous claims by some religionists have fouled the air. There are those who wear the name Christian who convey to the world the idea that Christians have diplomatic immunity from all problems. They preach what some call a “health and wealth gospel.” They teach that no person who is a real Christian will ever be sick or fail.
The truth is that God never gave Christians diplomatic immunity from problems. The emphasis on present-day miracles and the use of television to promote the claims of “faith healers” have given atheists much to criticize. Atheists, and even many believers, do not understand the advantages a Christian enjoys. When the Word of God says things like, “Seek and ye shall find, ask and it shall be given to you,” it is not speaking of physical and material things. God has not promised that Christians will have health, wealth, and freedom from problems. What He has promised is that He will bless those things we do to serve Him. There is no greater joy, greater fulfillment, greater satisfaction, or greater thrill than to see God work through us to accomplish something we could not possibly do alone.
The difference between an atheist and a Christian in dealing with infidelity in a mate is that the Christian can rebuild that marriage. The difference between the two in dealing with an alcohol or other drug problem is that the Christian can overcome it with God’s help. In dealing with death or tragedy, the Christian can cope and go on and continue to have a fulfilling life. In dealing with failure, the Christian can be secure and confident that it does not affect our eternal destiny.
ADVICE. It is vital that we convey to the world around us that when Christ lives in us, and we are spirit-filled people, we are not walking around two feet off the ground behaving as mystics. We Christians need to let the world know how much of a positive change God has made in our lives. Too often non-Christians view the Church as a group of somber, unhappy, irrational, mystical, illogical, unintelligent, hypocritical people who are out of touch with reality. This third reason why atheism makes sense is one that we can easily disprove as we can laugh, love, enjoy life, and logically and rationally defend our faith.