Beware of Dogs
This admonition of Paul is found in Philippians 3:2. It is not, however, referring to creatures of the canine species, nor is it followed by a warning to ‘Keep off the Grass.’ Paul is not trying to give us a lesson in human-animal relationships, but is warning us to look out for spiritual dogs. The Holy Scripture, itself, explains what, or, more accurately, who is meant by the term ‘dog.’
In Isaiah 56:8-12, we read, "The Lord God which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him. All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest. His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter. ‘Come ye,’ say they, ‘I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and to morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant.’"
It is these ‘shepherds that cannot understand’ that are the dogs: the ‘greedy dogs.’ The phrase immediately preceding this passage, in Isa. 56:7, says, "Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people." These words should be very familiar to us, for they were quoted by our Lord Jesus Christ; and it is of no coincidence that they are found in this setting in Isaiah.
In Mark 11:15-17, it is written, "And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, ‘Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.’"
Jesus had come into his Father’s house, and found it to have become a kennel for greedy dogs. Paul’s warning to us to beware of dogs shows us that this condition did not end when our Lord drove out the ones in the temple that day, but was, and would be, an ongoing condition in the midst of God’s children.
Fiction writers have introduced us to such personalities as Elmer Gantry, and movies like "Leap of Faith," that have reminded us of money-loving entertainers which have posed as preachers. These fictitious stories, however, are made more believable by the existence of their real-life counterparts.
It is relatively impossible to listen to Christian radio broadcasts, or to watch Christian television programming, and not hear the constant pleas for money, and the appeals to the covetousness of the audience. This is the very thing that Paul was talking about!
Christian ‘shepherds’ have substituted covetousness for faith, and prosperity for righteousness. The latter has been done to such an extent that, whereas the King James’ reads, "He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honour." (Prov. 21:21), from the NIV®, one would be lead to believe that "He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor."
Peter, in his second epistle 2:1-3, prophesies of our day, saying, "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you…"
"Many shall follow their pernicious ways…" One of the most prolific and loved doctrines in Christianity today is the ‘Prosperity doctrine.’ We are seeing the fulfillment of Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Tim. 4:3-4, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."
"By reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of." Christianity has developed a bad reputation in the eyes of the world: not for the gospel — but for their greed. The world has become more skeptical of the gospel today, not because of its message to the sinner to repent, but because of its message to people to "Send money so that we can stay on the air tomorrow to ask you for more money."
"And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you…" The promise of wealth to those who make their tax-deductible contributions is the key. Often, for your ‘love gift’ of a certain amount, you not only have ‘God’s promise of 100-fold (10,000 percent) on your investment,’ but also a very nice present (book, pendant, pin, etc.) "WELL, THEN, WHO DO I MAKE THE CHECK OUT TO?!?"
Jesus told us to "Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." (Luke 12:15)
Some ministers preach that you should "name it/claim it." They say that you should tell God to give you a better house, a better car, etc. Paul said, in Heb. 13:5, "Let your conversation [conduct] be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
The truth is that God knows that money is necessary in all aspects of life on earth. The individual or family needs money for food, clothing, shelter, etc. The church, likewise, needs money to minister. If we trust Him, therefore, He will meet our needs. Sometimes, He even goes beyond our needs and gives us things we want. Nevertheless, one must ask one’s self, "Who is who’s servant?" Are we supposed to be doing God’s will, or is He supposed to be doing ours?
Jesus told us that if we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, that all of our material needs would be met. (Matt. 6:33) Likewise, King David testified, "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." (Psa.37:25)
Paul said in Acts 20:33 that he had worked to provide for himself. "I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’"
These last words, so often used by today’s ministers to tell YOU to give, were spoken by Paul to tell you that HE was giving, thereby acting as our example. He said that he worked with his hands to meet his needs and the needs of the people with him, because it was more blessed for him to give than to receive. We have surely come a long way since Paul!
John wrote, "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." (3 John 2) Today’s ministers often speak of financial prosperity, but do nothing to prosper the soul, and edify the saints.
Yes, the Bible speaks of giving our tithes and offerings unto God, bringing them into His house, and He promised to open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing if we did so. (Mal. 3:8-11) He even said that He would bless 100-fold! But those blessings are not necessarily financial, they cover every aspect of our lives: material, physical, and spiritual.
Eph. 4:11-13 says why the ministry was given. "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ…"
The ministry was not given to be God’s tax collectors, but to be givers, servants, feeding the flock. Paul said that if you come across a dog, a minister whose ministry is one of ‘send me money,’ to beware, because these greedy dogs are bound to bite the hand that feeds them.