«

»

Jun 09 2008

Wolf Religion

Matthew 7:15-20
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?7 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.18
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

“My, how big your eyes are grandma!”

“Come closer my dear, for it is better to see you.”

Shoot, wrong story

Although…the tale of Ms. Riding Hood’s woe does have a striking similarity: a wolf in Grammy’s Jammies, a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

You get the picture. If the stories are any indication, then wolves do not seem particular about fashion as long as the costume makes it possible to hang close to the food.

We don’t want to get eaten do we?
Preventing us from being munched on isn’t really what Jesus is trying to prevent.

He is warning us against a type of person who speaks with a certain kind of authority, right? He is clueing us into abusive actions from a specific type of person. What kind of person is that exactly?

Jesus uses the word Prophet. The word Prophet fills our minds with pictures. Wiled eyed guy who stands on the street corner with ragged cloths and a rat’s nest for hair, his hand thrust out like Darth Vader using the Force to throttle our necks on God’s behalf. Prophets, we suppose are men who say: “Thus sayith the Lord,” after spending time on Mount Sinai, and scare the bejeebbers out of us with Hell Fire and Brimstone.

Prophets presume to tell us the content of God’s will, and obligate us to obedience to that will.

Prophets give us spiritual immediacy, flavoring our sacred practice, so that we experience God NOW; they bring our Religion up close and personal. But the Prophets of Jesus warning are false.

In other words, while operating as a spiritual leaders, with all the presumed authority we attribute to that office, they fail on a fundamental level. The nature of the religion they bring us is in error.
I will say it this way paraphrasing Jesus Words.

These false folk bring us Wolf Religion.

“Pull the bobbin and the Latch will go up…”

To sick to get out of bed old Grammy Ridding Hood told the wolf what he needed to know to get in the house.

It is a sad thing; she wasn’t expecting a big bad wolf to be on the other side of the door. We are like Grammy, not expecting that some of our Leaders might be wolves dressed for sheep dinner.<

Some might contend that Leader is to general a term. But Jesus was clearly speaking about Prophets! He does not mention evangelists, pastors, or teachers!

Let’s be precise! That way we will truly be scriptural!

Right?

Oh, sigh

Ok… some of you are destined to be wolf dinner just like dear Grammy Riding Hood and all because of some misplaced literalism.

“Oh Mr. Wolf…pull the bobbin…come right on in. I’m on to those Waskally Prophets. You are welcome if you don’t call yourself that!”

I suppose it doesn’t really matter what we call the perpetrators of Wolf Religion. They all produce the same fruit.

OK … some of you are destined to be wolf dinner just like dear Grammy Riding Hood and all because of some misplaced literalism.  “Oh Mr. Wolf…pull the bobbin…come right on in.  I’m on to those Waskally Prophets.   You are welcome if you don’t call yourself that!”

>shrug< 

I suppose it doesn’t really matter what we call the perpetrators of Wolf Religion.  They all produce the same fruit.

The Breakfast of Champions

“…can berries be gotten from thorns?”  Very few amongst us will go looking for breakfast on a thorn bush.  A few South Floridians might.   Who can tell where their arrows will point?

Just messing… never mind.

But fruit?  What in the world, is He talking about?

What is that in human speak?  Something we look at? 

Fruit?

As in fruit of the Spirit?  Fruits of righteousness?  

“…Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?” 

Can you eat Grapes? 

Can you eat Thistles?

Can you eat the Word of God?

In a metaphoric way, I suppose.

Can you eat wolf religion?  Or does Wolf Religion eat you?    

Typically, bible teachers and commentators use this passage to launch into lengthy discussions about authority, and character.  

After all, only Holy men of God, men of the highest moral character are in fact Leaders.  Only men of the greatest piety could dare to speak for God.  No one else could possibly have authority to call themselves a “PROPHET!”

I was reading through the commentaries and usually they said something like:

“They are false teachers and false prophets, who produce false commissions, who pretend to have immediate warrant and direction from God to set up for prophets, and to be divinely inspired, when they are not so.”  [1]

This is a long-winded way of saying: false leadership claims to have authority from God but doesn’t.”  Well, Duhh!  You’re a quick one Sherlock.  That is a wonderful tautology, but it doesn’t help.

So then, character must be what authenticates Leaders?

Evaluating their conduct is how we will know that we have found the dastardly perpetrators of Wolf Religion.   Their fruit is their unrighteous actions, their hedonistic living, or their watching of movies!  This must be the criterion.  

Right?

Wrong.

It takes no spiritual insight to avoid somebody who has cloven feet, pointy tail and says, “Verily, verily I tell you, today you can kill your neighbor and sleep with his wife.”  Gee, Gosh, you forgot your sheep costume.  I think you’re a false prophet.  Right?” 

No, no, no, you say.  Fruit… as in LOVE.   If these leaders say things that are unloving or unkind, or unedifying that is the way we can tell they are false.  Wolves are mean and nasty and hurt people.  If a prophet says things that are harsh or mean that must make in False.   

AaaaaaHA!  Caught ya! 

You’ve got a picture in your head, don’t you?  The ones that flashes across the movie screen of your mind when you read Jesus words, “Ravenous Wolves.”  You know they one¾the big throaty voice that says, “All he better to eat you with my dear.”   You see a snarling mass of snapping animal ferocity, slavering muzzle drawn up in a k-9 rictus, bloody from the feasting on a lambs carcass, hatred pouring from feral eyes¾hate that precipitates violence.

That is the image isn’t it?     

And with that image we measure men who claim prophetic ordination:  looking for harsh words, an unloving demeanor, or social strangeness?

The problem is we get our standard from a picture that tells us wolves are motivated by hate.   

Uh… I would like to point out that picture isn’t accurate.  Wolves don’t have malice in their heart when they kill.  Cruelty and mischief don’t drive them.  The fact is wolves LOVE sheep.  They love the lamb chops.  Hey pass the mint jelly would you?

>snicker<

Like I asked before:  Can you eat Wolf Religion or does Wolf Religion eat you?

The common theme of all these measuring standards is that they are preoccupied with externals.  External assessments fall right into the trap of Wolf Religion.

“Say it ain’t so…”

 Well…it may be scandalous to our current Christian preoccupations, but it is true.  Think of this.  We already have perpetrators of Wolf Religion firmly ensconced behind our pulpits.  They want us to remain distracted with the wrong criteria.  Wolves want us to leave the bobbin up, because they can’t eat if we see the ears poking up under the sleeping cap.  The wolf in Little Red Riding Hood was a biblical wolf.  After much study and academic inquiry, I can assert this with authority.   No, really, stay with me here.  Jesus said that the Ravenous Wolves “dress up” to get to the food. 

He he he heh!

Just messing …never mind.

Hummmm. So, now what?

Well, let’s ask a different question.  Do we have the right picture in your minds about how wolves act-about the kind of animal they are?  Maybe if we clear up the picture in our minds we will get insight to Wolf Religion. 

Alpha Males and we’re not talking about Al Gore

One wolf is the boss of the pack, a tight group of roughly 8, called the alpha male.  He mates to the alpha female for life.  Alpha animals do not always lead the hunt, break the trail in snow, or eat first.  The rigors of life in a wolf pack make social standing precarious and competitive¾younger wolves constantly vie for POSITION. While social standing can be lost in a moment from sickness or weakness, wolves will let pack outcasts tag along to feed on leftovers.

Hunting alone in the summer, and in packs during the cold winter, wolves are opportunistic predators loving the defenseless livestock, selecting calves, very old animals, malnourished animals, injured or diseased, and preferring females to males. 

Wolves are naturally suspicious, timid creatures, cautious to the extreme about new experiences.   When encountering large strong animals they keep a respectful distance.  Wolves howl to warn interloping wolves away from their territory killing all that ignore the warning. 

Hunting alone in the summer, and in packs during the cold winter, wolves are opportunistic predators loving the defenseless livestock, selecting calves, very old animals, malnourished animals, injured or diseased, and preferring females to males.

Wolves are naturally suspicious, timid creatures, cautious to the extreme about new experiences. When encountering large strong animals they keep a respectful distance. Wolves howl to warn interloping wolves away from their territory killing all that ignore the warning.

The Revelation of Wolf Religion

To be certain, Jesus contemporaries would have been familiar with the habits of wolves, their demeanor and their conduct. It is likely that the people of the first century, with wolves roaming the country, would have been familiar with the habits and habitat of wolves, implicitly grasping Jesus metaphor. But we only catch wolves on TV and occasionally in a zoo, ergo we miss the subtlety of the point. But with my previous compelling synopsis we can all adjust our mental pictures.

Did you notice the things I did?

Did you see what I saw?

Were you able to flesh out our ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing? (Get it?)

Ok… the revelation of wolf religion.

First and foremost-it seems strange that it should need pointed out-wolves are not fashion conscious. In other words, they LOOK like we expect them to look. With that in mind read the following:

Wolves are monogamous: they take a mate for life. Translation: By our standard of sexual morality a perpetrator of wolf religion would look righteous.

Wolves are master organizers: They have a strikingly strict social order where the pack aspires to BE and at the same time DEFERES to the alpha male. Translation: perpetrators of wolf religion have an exacting social order, that from the outside looks decent and in order.

Wolves have a frantic social culture. Translation: perpetrators of Wolf religion are all about position and the authority to maintain that position. The leading characteristic of the alpha male is his obsession with defend his territory. Remember why wolves howl? They howl to mark their territory, to defend their position, to proclaim their status. Pack social standing can be lost in a moment from sickness or weakness, (How many good men have lost their “position” in Christianity because of frailty?) and be left to suffer the life of an outcast, shunned, and abandoned left to straggle along and feed on leftovers.

Wolf Leaders, AKA Alpha Males, are endlessly paranoid that someone will take over their territory. They guard and defend it with righteous impunity. They are very certain they are entitled to the hearts and thoughts of all who enter their domain. Woe to you who disagree or poach one of their flocks.

Wolf leaders, AKA Alpha Males, don’t always take the lead position: They are not always on the forefront, or in the lime-light. Translation: perpetrators of wolf religion can look humble, because they appear to let others blaze a trail, or champion a cause, but the motive is self-preservation-better to let some one else break the trail in the snow, and take the point where the real danger lies.

Wolf Leaders, AKA Alpha Males, are cautious about new experiences and interloping ideas. Translation: They set themselves up as filters and arbitrators of what is safe. They dress their cowardice up in the cloth of prudence.

Perpetrators of wolf religion avoid dangerous social conflicts. They are too timid to protect the “flock”. When they see a threat do they rush to defend the flock? No, they speak of wise action, and retreat to a safe distance. This is rank spiritual terminology is also known as cowardice.

Wolves keep a respectful distance of big healthy animals. Translation: Perpetrators of Wolf Religion defer to those who have honor to strength, power, and success. What does that mean practically? They give deference to those people who manage a television appearance, have business success, Political power, or manage to build large churches.

Wolves eat the weak, and small, and the maimed: Translation: Perpetrators of wolf religion surround themselves with people who NEVER pose a challenge to their authority, who will always say YES to every doctrine they pass off as divine. Ever seen a church full of yes men?

Wolf Religion is:

A religion with all the outward forms of sheepness: all the right titles, all the right speech, all the right actions, all the right forms of morality.

A religion the respects strength and preys on weakness.

A religion of exceedingly high standards– wolf standards to be exact– because the wolf life is hard, competitive and the price is high.

A religion where an elite few eat well but stragglers and weaklings feed on carrion.

A religion where sheep cannot rise to ministry.

A religion of suspicion, cautious to the extreme about new experiences, people or potential rivals.

A religion of small elite social pacts, called ministry teams, organized around a an allegedly strong male figure.

A religion that is highly territorial, preoccupied with position and authority, warning away usurpers with nauseating regularity, howling away behind their pulpits Sunday after Sunday.

A religion of love: these false leaders are not motivated by hate any more than a wolf is motivated by hate to eat¾no malice intended, no deliberate cruelty, just the satisfaction of primal urge. The perpetrators of wolf religion LOVE sheep because they love to eat lamb chops.

A religion of consumption: Jesus calls them Ravenous, driven by hunger pressed beyond reason; unable to help who they eat. “…Woes to you Pharisees, for you devour widow’s houses….”


[1] Henry, Matthew. “Commentary on Matthew 7″. “Matthew Henry Complete Commentary
on the Whole Bible”. <http://bible.crosswalk.com/Commentaries/MatthewHenryComplete/
mhc-com.cgi?book=mt&chapter=007>. 1706.

Share This Post With Others

    4 comments

    1 ping

    Skip to comment form

    1. 1
      db

      At least the trains run on time.

    2. 2
      Jake

      Hmmm….chilling in a way. True though- Wolves are not motivated by hate. “They are very certain they are entitled to the hearts and thoughts of all who enter their domain.”….

    3. 3
      2+2=4 again

      John, that reminds me of Ezekiel 34, too.  It ends on a good note, the servant David, (Jesus) the Good Shepherd, Who will feed the sheep, not devour them.

    4. 4
      John Immel

      Yes, good point. Understanding that the trait of consumption is indicative of ideological bad guys, is central to wading through the misinformation that so often revolves around people’s understanding of false prophets and false  teachers.  As a rule, preachers have focused on pretty much every other human failing as the definition of false.  When in fact, the tell tale trait is the endless appetite to “eat” to devour those around them by the moral justification to use for force.  And that moral justification is the product of what they teach.

    1. 5
      Spiritual Tyranny « For the scattered flock

      [...] like to call your attention to this posting, “Wolf Religion” – which deserves its own Credo. As well as this gem, [...]

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>