Matthew 21:23–27, 1 Thessalonians 2:1–12
Religious figureheads are often accused (too often, correctly) of seeking their own gain, whether by influence or money. Even those with no Christian background see a problem with it. Truthfully, it is not just Christianity that has this struggle, not by far. As Christianity is the culturally “dominant” (though how dominant it truly has been is questionable), we generally see more of the Christian-flavored versions.
What makes a religious figurehead true or false is a good question to have. The chief priests and elders weighed the cost of their answer. In their case, it was a matter of influence and power. They chose what they thought was the safe (or unanswerable) response. Yet, Jesus had a response for them. Their attempt to be safe did cost them, after all, though not for long.
The ability of the American people to retain the collective antagonism toward religious figures was also played out in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. Apparently there were some (likely outside of the Thessalonian Christian community) that were actively trying to discredit Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy. Somehow the mess at Philippi continued to (unjustly) follow them, which was being used to discredit them. They were being accused of being into evangelism and church leadership for the money (or for free room and board). It is actually the flattering speech that has caused many churches and leaders to fall.
When hardships come (which they do) flattering speech does not produce deeply rooted disciples. It actually can create a mob of people who feel betrayed and will go after those that “hurt” them. As Christians, it is our responsibility to move beyond the shallows of faith and move to deep waters. The deep waters are scary, yet if we well anchored in our faith, we will not go—nor be lead—astray.
1) Who are some people (not necessarily religious ones) that speak with flattering speech? Why do they do it? If they are successful in speaking that way, why do you think that is?
2) In this day and age, business leaders and politicians seem more likely to greedy motives. What is the attraction to their many followers, do you think?