"He picked up the diamonds and bundles of fivers
He pushed them, well, down in his sack
But the alarm had been sounded, he was completely surrounded
But he had some more tricks up his sleeve"
Robbery, Assault and Battery - from Trick of the Tail by Genesis
"For they have gone the way of Cain, and have abandoned themselves for the gain of Balaam's error,
and perished in the gainsaying of Korah" Jude 11.
The dreadful story of Jim Jones and how he lead his followers to literally poison themselves because he told them to still chills us many decades after the event.
We wonder how someone can be so controlling, so charismatic, that he can literally lead people to do anything he tells them to do, even at the cost of their own lives.
We're no doubt thankful that such extreme cases are few and far between, but they highlight a truly deadly issue in regards to the danger of who has authority amongst us and what the consequences of choosing the wrong people to lead can be.
There's a telling moment when word about Jesus had begun to spread and the crowds had begun to gather to hear and see Him. The gospel tells us that He looked upon them with compassion for they were harassed and helpless... sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36) and the harvest in the land was indeed great but the workers few.
Today we face a similar sorrow, not because there aren't many 'proclaiming' something, but because these men and women are the false teachers and apostles that Jude declares will poison the church as deeply as the murder that happened in Jonestown.
Jude tells us that the first indicator of their evil is that they will be like Cain (see 1 John 3:11-16), killing those who they should love. The Scriptures are not speaking here of physical murder, but of hating others because we refrain from truly providing what they need , spiritually and physically. This is particularly done through denying the truth by teaching error and by hoarding wealth and riches whilst neglecting the needs of others.
Jude also shows the motivation of this is that of Balaam - the prophet who decided that notoriety and riches were far more important to obtain than service and obedience to God. The tragedy, of course, is that he ended being killed on a battlefield, unable to retain either.
Finally, and most dreadfully of all, these false ones are like Korah, who believed he could enter the holy place on his own merits and by his own actions, blind to the character and warnings of the most high. The ground swallowed him, his household and all who followed him, and the camp of Israel were terrified of the swiftness of God's judgement.
Jesus shows us just how serious this matter is. The Gospels record the moment when He was truly angry, cleaning out the sanctuary of those who had turned a place of prayer into a den of thieves, seeking to rob people in the very house of God.
We cannot escape the fact that many of the popular teachers of today are exactly these kind of people - murdering the church with teachings that are lies and making themselves rich on the gullibility of those who think they can become healthier, wealthier or at least spiritually blessed by supporting them. The entire enterprise is offering nothing more than snake oil beneath a dazzling hall of mirrors.
May God keep us sheltered beneath the very precious grace of the Gospel of Christ's life, death and resurrection alone saving us, boasting in nothing more.