Spiritual Malpractice

Michael Beck

“The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment.” (Proverbs 12:19)

Growing up Catholic, I accepted everything I was taught. I had complete confidence in my church, which I took to be the one true church. During those days, the church taught that you could not eat any meat on Fridays, except fish. Every Friday, our family had tuna sandwiches for lunch and fish sticks for dinner. I didn’t understand the reason behind this restriction, but that didn’t matter to me, because I was taught that I didn’t have to understand, I just had to respect what the church taught because whatever it told us came directly from the mouth of God. So if God decided that on Friday the only meat we could eat was fish, that was good enough for me.

One of my very favorite saints was St. Christopher. I loved to collect statues of the saints and St. Christopher had a cool statue. St. Christopher was the patron saint of travel. The story was that Jesus as a child came to a river and wanted to get across (this was before He could walk on water.) St. Christopher was kind enough to offer Jesus a ride on his shoulders and get him to the other side. Because he was willing to assist Jesus on His journey, St. Christopher was now the one that we were to look to for “traveling mercies.” If you put a little magnetic statue of him, with the young Jesus on his shoulder, on the dashboard of your car you would be protected while you drove. I felt safe when I got into a car that had St. Christopher up front.

Years later, a spiritual bomb dropped when the church informed us that it was no longer necessary to abstain from meat on Friday. Why they changed their position, I never found out. But it seemed strange to me why something which was such a big deal to God, all of a sudden, no longer mattered to Him. Then an even bigger bomb dropped. We were told that St. Christopher never existed. Lo and behold, the story of him taking Jesus over the river was made up; just a legend. I really had to scratch my head now. Why would the church have us all believing something as gospel truth, and have us put our trust in someone who they knew didn’t even exist?

Well, at that point, I was still conditioned to believe that we of “little minds” should stop asking so many questions. But one question remained: if they lied about these things, they could be lying about other things.

Who holds anyone accountable for speaking lies in Christ’s name?

When I got saved, left the Catholic fold, and went to a Bible believing church, I thought I had finally found people of integrity who held strictly to what the Bible said. Here were people who based everything they said on the unchanging, infallible Word of God. There would be no reverses down the line. Those in Pentecostal circles especially are “Word people” who don’t like the idea of people tinkering with scripture. Every word of God is pronounced as pure. Dire warnings are given against adding to or taking away from what is written. But I noticed something strange happening over the course of time. The same people who took issue with any corruption of God’s written word would, in the name of Jesus, pronounced all kinds of things that didn’t come to pass. From the “anointed” man or woman, dreams and visions; words of wisdom and knowledge and prophecy; things “seen in the Spirit;” would all pour forth. But many of these definitive “words” concerning what was going to happen, either in the world, in the church, or in an individual’s life, did NOT come to pass.

I know we are admonished to “prove all things and hold fast to that which is good,” but who IS proving such things? Tell me, who holds anyone accountable for speaking lies in Christ’s name? Are people writing  down these bold proclamations and checking back later to find out whether they have been fulfilled? Do we not even care whether idle words are being spoken in our midst? Or do we just like the idea that the supposedly “supernatural” is taking place? Are we hoping that new people will be awed by such things and will fall down in our midst and say, “Surely, God is among you!” Does it matter to us though if someone has something prophesied over them and the thing fails to happen? Does it matter to us if someone is told they are healed, and they go away believing it is so, but it has not happened? Worse still, what if they are told they are healed and can throw away their medicine, or no longer need a doctor’s care, and they end up dying of the sickness or disease they “didn’t have”? This has happened more times than we would like to know. Is there such a thing as spiritual malpractice? Do we really fear a God who said: “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7)

As long as the people of God are willing to excuse their ministers when they are guilty of spiritual malpractice, such will not end.

Through Jeremiah, God communicated what He thought about those who used His name lightly and spoke as His oracle without being sent. Jeremiah said his heart was broken and he shook like a drunken man because of the spiritual malpractice of his day. (Jer. 23:9-11) God declared that He was well aware of the folly of the prophets who misled His people. (Jer. 23:13) He said they spoke lies, a vision of their own heart, and not from His mouth.

God also implicated the people in the spiritual malpractice of prophet and priest: “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?” (Jer. 5:31) As long as the people of God are willing to excuse their ministers when they are guilty of spiritual malpractice, such will not end. The people need to call on the carpet any minister who pronounces anything that does not come to pass. If he tells someone they are healed, they better be healed. If he says such and such is going to happen, it better happen. If not, he should at the very least be admonished to walk much more softly before God.

The church is not a playground in which we get to dangerously practice our growing ministerial skills at the expense of Christ’s flock. God called the practices of the false prophets of Jeremiah’s day a “horrible thing.” (Jer. 23:14) He did not take it lightly. He cried out: “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.” (Jer. 23:21) He was sick of their saying they had the “burden of the Lord” to deliver. He told Jeremiah that the next time one of these prophets or priests or any of the people asked him what the “burden of the Lord” was he should answer: “What burden? I will even forsake you.” (Jer. 23:33)

St. Christopher; fish on Fridays; and all the presumptuous words coming from any overzealous religious imagination, they will all pass away like so much chaff. Only what God speaks, and what God truly does, will last forever. Sooner or later, the deceived find out the real truth, and can become very disillusioned. Spare yourself from disillusionment. Hold yourself and others accountable to stand in God’s counsel and only speak His truth which will stand the test of time.

“I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.” (Ecclesiastes 3:14)

Michael Beck is a pastor in the Dallas, TX area and the main author on Signpost. Receive a daily devotional he publishes every morning via email.