The story of Balaam bin Besor is told back in Numbers 22-24. We'll get to him in a minute, but first let me point out Pergamos wasn't the only church with this problem: Jude and Peter also encountered this same activity in churches they ministered in (see 2 Peter 2:15-16, and Jude verse 11). The Apostles say these opportunistic preachers & teachers "love the wages of unrighteousness" and "run after the error of Balaam for reward" ; "teaching things they ought not for filthy lucre's sake" (Titus 1:11).
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with ministers of the Gospel receiving tithes & offerings from the people they minister to. The labourer is worthy of his hire, and you shall not muzzle the ox that treads out the grain. Men & women of God who have committed themselves to the Gospel of Jesus Christ have a reasonable expectation of compensation from those they serve. I personally know of a couple who slept on the floor of their apartment because they would not take of the church's offerings to buy themselves a bed! And there be many, many who sacrifice the comforts of this this life to serve on the mission field or pioneer works at home.
Unfortunately, theirs are not the names, not the faces the world knows and associates with the evangelical church. They see only the Balaamites who are always asking for money! Those who suppose gain is godliness, and the ones raking in the most bucks must be the ones preaching what God wants taught! Don't be deceived. To the world, religion is a business.
So, who was Balaam? A fascinating character in the Bible: is he a good guy, or a bad guy? Balak, the king of Moab, hired this prophet to curse the people of Israel. But God wouldn't let him, and instead, he blessed Israel three times, and prophesied the utter destruction of the Moabite nation. Indeed, Balaam gave forth one of the great Messianic prophesies in the Bible: "I shall see Him, but not now; I shall behold Him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and Sceptre shall rise out of Israel...." But even though he didn't curse Israel, he still wanted the curse fee from King Balak. The New Testament points out it was Balaam who gave Balak the strategy of using Moabite & Midianite ladies to seduce the men of Israel into idolatry at Baal-Peor.
The Devil hasn't changed his tactics, folks! He's still got his Monarch slaves out there selling sex for idolatry. (Just look at the past few Grammy Awards nights.) So Balaam really is working both sides of the street. He's serving God, but taking kick-backs from the Devil! And many of these Balaamic ministers are in fact preaching the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and His Second Coming, just as the original Balaam prophesied of the first coming.
What happens though, is after awhile, they see what side their bread is buttered on, and they figure out what Christians wanna hear, and tailor their messages to draw the biggest crowds and offerings. Teaching things they ought not for filthy lucre's sake. Like the Pre-Trib Rapture Theory, for example.....books, movies, video games, come on! M-O-N-E-Y!
It's not all the Balaam gang's fault though, either. We keep buying their books & DVD's, attending their conferences, and paying top dollar to have them speak at our churches. In the words of Isaiah, "...which say to the seers, 'See not'; and to the prophets, 'Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits.'". (Isaiah 30:10) They wouldn't preach smooth things if we didn't pay them to do it!
"When we do these things, we're not doing them for God, we're really doing them for OURSELVES!" coos Victoria Osteen gleefullly. Truer words were never spoken. But the Word of God is not for sale, and the Kingdom of God cannot be bought for money. In case you haven't figured it out, I'm not here to tell you what you want to hear. I don't scratch itching ears for profit. Don't you think I know my little blog would go viral if I filled it with the right buzzwords kicking around, and wallpapered it with Satanic symbols (to expose them, of course)?
"The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up", Jesus thought as He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and those who sold doves in the Temple. I'm not saying your Youth Group can't do a car wash or bake sale, but when pastors fear offending their biggest tithers, or are beholden to the government for that precious tax-exempt status, there is a problem.
You cannot serve God and Mammon. It's about integrity. I can sit here and tell you God will make you rich if you send all your money to me...I know all the Prosperity verses.
But I also know Elishah asked Gehazi, "Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep and oxen, and menservants and maidservants?" (2 Kings 5:26)
As the old song goes, "But the buyers and the sellers were no different fellas than what I profess to be, and it causes me shame to think we're not the people we should be." Amen.
Next: The Judge at the Door