“Thou shalt not take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous” (Deuteronomy 16:19).
Grace and peace, Saints.
Last month, I went to visit a friend whom I had not seen in almost two years. The last time I saw him, he had told me about a relative of his, who had stage three cancer, and was not expected to live much longer. Since then, I had been praying for the woman’s healing, and was quite pleased to learn that, in the meantime, she had made a complete recovery. I give all the glory to the Lord Jesus.
The conversation thereupon turned to the blessings of God, and, during the course of our conversation, my friend related that he had recently moved into a large house on the German economy the purchase of which was made possible by a sizable monetary gift from a widow whose car he had once repaired.
I was very happy for my friend, because, unlike in America, a house in Munich, one of the most expensive cities in the world, is almost impossible for the average person to purchase. Even a modest two-bedroom with a tiny garden could cost well over a million dollars. My friend only lives about a couple hours drive away from Munich, so I don’t think it is much different where he lives.
This gentleman happens to be one of the most pleasant and agreeable people I have ever known, so I was very pleased at his good fortune. Still, I was somewhat troubled, and I could not help but wonder, if I were in his stead, if I would have dared to give this generous lady the Gospel message.
This is an important question, when you consider the fact that the region of Germany where we live–Bavaria–is very Roman Catholic. All over are to be found statues of the Virgin Mary and altars with dead men hanging on them (which many suppose to be Jesus). It is very possible that the woman was Roman Catholic. And if she was Roman Catholic, then it is very possible that her generosity was motivated by something other than a genuine desire to help my friend. It may have even cost her eternal soul.
Let me explain. The Roman Catholic church derives its catechism (body of beliefs and doctrine) from the Council of Trent which was convened in sessions from 1545 to 1563. The Council of Trent was instituted to counter the “errors of the Protestant Reformation” started by former Roman Catholic priest, Martin Luther. The Council of Trent condemned Luther and all Bible-believing Christians (including you and me), whom they called heretics, pronouncing upon them over 125 anathemas, or curses. These curses still stand today.
You may be interested to know that the Roman Catholic church declares it an anathema (curse) to believe that faith in Jesus’ death and the shedding of His blood alone is enough to save you:
“If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.” –Canon 9, Council of Trent, Sixth Session.
“Action of his own will” means “good works.” The Roman Catholic, therefore, is taught that he must earn his way into Heaven by his own good works. The Bible says our works are but “filthy rags.” Only faith in the blood Jesus shed on the cross at Calvary can wash away our sins:
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9).
The Roman Catholic, however, is taught that it is anathema to believe that his good works will not get him into heaven:
“If anyone says that all works done before justification, in whatever manner they may be done, are truly sins, or merit the hatred of God; that the more earnestly one strives to dispose himself for grace, the more grievously he sins, let him be anathema.” –Canon 7, Council of Trent, Sixth Session.
The same Council of Trent also declared it anathema for one to be confident he is going to heaven:
“Moreover, it must not be maintained, that they who are truly justified must needs, without any doubt whatever, convince themselves that they are justified…and that absolution and justification are affected by this faith alone…so each one, when he considers himself and his own weakness and indisposition, may have fear and apprehension concerning his own grace, since no one can know with the certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God.” –Council of Trent, sixth session, January 13, 1547.
By its own admission, then, the Roman Catholic church believes and teaches that Roman Catholics must always be in doubt about and have “fear and apprehension” concerning the future of their eternal souls. And they do.
Evangelist Monica Farrell, a converted Roman Catholic, in the book, “From Rome to Christ,” writes that Roman Catholics live in a constant state of fear. On page 24, Farrell says that Catholics are taught that Jesus’ death opened the door to Heaven, but that you had to “work your own way in.” Because of this doctrine, the sincere Roman Catholic can never know if he has been “good enough” and is always striving, through good works, to merit the grace of God. For this reason, Roman Catholics have been known to be very generous.
That’s why I was concerned about my friend accepting the woman’s generous gift. If she was a Roman Catholic, it is highly possible that could have been trying to earn her way into Heaven. I doubt that my friend is a Christian; so, unless he is himself a Roman Catholic, it is highly unlikely that he would suspect that her action was motivated by the hope of eternal rewards. It would be a pity if this were the case.
Generosity is good, and the good works done by many sincere Roman Catholics doubtless benefit many. But if their good works are, in fact, efforts to “earn” their way into Heaven, then they are only deceiving themselves. Only faith in the shed blood of Jesus saves.
As a missionary and evangelist here in Munich, I witness to Roman Catholics quite frequently. I took all this as a sign from the Lord Jesus that I must never forget that, regardless of my circumstances, my first concern should always be for the souls of the lost Roman Catholics. I cannot allow gifts, promises, or personal gain deter me from telling them the truth.
Be encouraged and look up, for your redemption draweth nigh.