Corruption exists everywhere from the most insignificant peasant trying to eke out a living to big industry players trying to buy favour to win lucrative contracts. But when corruption occurs in high places, in particular in the realm of religions, it damns the whole society and nation of people. The sinister nature of such corruption cannot be understated as the tentacles of their seductive and evil influence to collude with the powers that be will doom the people to unspeakable bondage and misery. The Holy Bible is littered with details of corruptive practices of religious professionals and the God of the Bible condemns their evil ways in no uncertain terms.
Matthew 21:23: And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?
The Lord Jesus Christ attracted a large following and did many miracles during His earthly ministry. His fame also united His enemies to challenge Him on every front seeking occasions to destroy Him. One such incidents occurred at the temple in Jerusalem where the Lord was teaching His followers.
While the Lord had been ministering all over the country, this time the war was brought to the turf of the religious authorities of the day. Thus, the Lord was confronted and challenged with regards to His authority for doing His work at the temple in Jerusalem. After all, the Lord was just a humble carpenter and wasn’t schooled under the tutelage of the esteemed religious professionals of the day.
Hence, this challenge to His credentials and certifications was necessary to demolish the good works done by the Lord. However, the crowds of followers needed no such qualifications from the Lord who taught them, led them, fed them, performed miracles to solve their earthly problems with healings and casting out devils where the religious authorities had no answer for such great work under the sun. They envied the Lord for commanding such respect and adulation and the war was now happening at the very seat of their power.
So this contest for supremacy at the temple was reaching a crescendo. In fact this wasn’t the first confrontation at the temple. A day before, the Lord caused a sensational incident at the temple when He overturned tables and chased the merchants out of the temple. The temple authorities dared not react to that incident.
Matthew 21:12: And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
Matthew 21:13: And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
Matthew 21:14: And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.
Matthew 21:15: And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased,
Matthew 21:16: And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?
Matthew 21:17: And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.
Why didn’t the religious officials challenge those merchants doing business at the temple? Who gave them the authority to conduct business at the temple? Since when Moses instituted business venture as part of worship at the temple? Did those in authority get a cut of the profit from those merchants? Rental income could be pretty attractive with such high human traffic. If there were no corruption and collusion between the authorities and those business people, the Lord wouldn’t have accused them for turning the temple into a den of thieves. The custodians of the temple were corrupt!
Corruption in high places is rather common. Firstly, authority would be challenged. Then once in power, corruption would set in to enrich those walking in the corridors of power. Religious realm is no exception.
It started very much earlier during the infancy of worship when Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt. Moses and Aaron were soundly and duly challenged for their authority to lead the nation of Israel. The rebels sought to carve out another centre of power for themselves.
Numbers 16:1: Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men:
Numbers 16:2: And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown:
Numbers 16:3: And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?
Their accusation was rather telling. Some of them were Levites too! They were unhappy with the power dominated by Moses and Aaron. But this power came from above. They sought some kind of power sharing arrangement unauthorized by Jehovah God. Those rebels were quickly consumed when the earth opened up and sent them on to meet their Maker.
Unfortunately, those in authorities are often found to be corrupt. During the days before kings were set on the throne in Israel, the nation was led by judges and priests and guided by prophets. God raised up individuals and set them in positions in those institutions to lead the nation of Israel. The earthly priesthood reserved for the tribe of Levi to minister for the children of Israel to Jehovah God soon became tainted with corruption.
1 Samuel 2:12: Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.
1 Samuel 2:13: And the priests’ custom with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his hand;
1 Samuel 2:14: And he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither.
1 Samuel 2:15: Also before they burnt the fat, the priest’s servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw.
1 Samuel 2:16: And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force.
1 Samuel 2:17: Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.
1 Samuel 2:22: Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
1 Samuel 2:23: And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people.
1 Samuel 2:24: Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the LORD’s people to transgress.
1 Samuel 2:25: If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them.
During the times of judges, the sons of one of the priests were corrupt to the core. They were subsequently killed as determined by Jehovah God. It was the Lord who instituted the priesthood so God would remove those unfaithful corrupt priests from office. It was just like those rebels who rebelled against Moses and Aaron in the past where God quickly judged those who abused their high office.
This however, didn’t solve the problem of corruption in high places. This eventually culminated in the children of Israel clamoring to have a king over them like the nations around them.
1 Samuel 8:1: And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.
1 Samuel 8:2: Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beer-sheba.
1 Samuel 8:3: And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.
1 Samuel 8:4: Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,
1 Samuel 8:5: And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
1 Samuel 8:6: But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.
1 Samuel 8:7: And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
The children of Israel had no faith in God who set individuals in institutions established by Him to remove sinners who abused their high office. Their rejection of judges and priests were in fact a direct rejection of God’s ordained order for the nation. Appointing kings would not solve the problem of corruption in high office. Creating another centre of power brought more abuse of power in a scale far exceeded the original offices of priests and judges.
During the split of the nation of Israel, king Jeroboam in rebellion against God who gave him the ten tribes of Israel, instituted his own religious authorities to prevent the children of Israel from continuing their worship in Jerusalem. This led to the downfall for the Northern Kingdom.
1 Kings 13:33: After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places: whosoever would, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places.
1 Kings 13:34: And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth.
1 Kings 14:16: And he shall give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, who did sin, and who made Israel to sin.
Corruption and collusion between the kings and false priests as well as false prophets eventually doomed the the Northern Kingdom and subsequently the Kingdom of Judah. The history of the children of Israel was marked by rebellion and apostasy. Stench of their ignominious history reached heaven.
Condemnation from God’s prophets documented their corruption in no uncertain terms in their prophetic writings. It is heartrending to read the treachery of those in powers and God’s prophets must be heartbroken when they penned such black spots in their history where God called them to be a holy nation among the nations in the world.
Isaiah 1:23: Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.
Jeremiah 5:31: The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?
Jeremiah 6:13: For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.
Jeremiah 23:11: For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the LORD.
Lamentations 4:13: For the sins of her prophets, and the iniquities of her priests, that have shed the blood of the just in the midst of her,
Lamentations 4:16: The anger of the LORD hath divided them; he will no more regard them: they respected not the persons of the priests, they favoured not the elders.
Ezekiel 22:26: Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.
Hosea 6:9: And as troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of priests murder in the way by consent: for they commit lewdness.
Amos 7:10: Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words.
Micah 3:11: The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us.
Zephaniah 3:4: Her prophets are light and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law.
Zechariah 7:5: Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?
Malachi 1:6: A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?
So when the Lord Jesus Christ confronted the corrupt religious officials, the condemnation of their corruption was quick and swift. It was just a natural progression of the corrupt practices from their forefathers where they sat in judgment who they might approve to be their peers and certify who could be the coming Messiah.
Matthew 23:1: Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,
Matthew 23:2: Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:
Matthew 23:3: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
Matthew 23:4: For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
Matthew 23:5: But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
Matthew 23:6: And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
Matthew 23:7: And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
Eventually, the betrayal of the Lord was set up between Judas Iscariot and the corrupt religious authorities. The corrupt practices of the priests were so natural as though it was business as usual and nature took its course with the Lord’s eventual crucifixion set in motion.
Matthew 26:14: Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,
Matthew 26:15: And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.
Even after the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the corrupt religious authorities spared no effort to collude with the soldiers guarding the empty tomb to spread falsehood concerning the Lord’s resurrection. They had access to the powers that be to secure those conspirators. Such rampant corruption in high places was the norm to further the agenda of those in power.
Matthew 28:11: Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.
Matthew 28:12: And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers,
Matthew 28:13: Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.
Matthew 28:14: And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.
Matthew 28:15: So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
Their own confession of self interest and self preservation condemned them to a road of corruption instead of a life of holiness as priests and scribes ordained to high office.
John 11:48: If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.
Corruption is not limited to those in the corridors of power in the religious establishment. Even enterprising individuals who saw the profitability in religion would have no qualms seeking to buy a religious franchise to further their own objectives.
Acts 8:18: And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
Acts 8:19: Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
Acts 8:20: But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
Corruption didn’t end with the Lord eventually setting the nation of Israel aside now establishing the Church, a Gentile Bride, to fulfill the grand plan of God for the salvation of the whole world. Israel had failed and failed miserably. Now the Church is the main actor in the drama of redemption for fallen man pointing sinners to Christ and not the temple in Jerusalem. Israel will come back into the picture when the Church’s mission is done and removed from the earth.
While the apostle Paul was going all out in the new mission to preach the gospel of Christ, he encountered countless obstacles and challenges. These are actually understatements. He was beaten, stoned and thrown into jail for doing the Lord’s work. Corrupt Jews everywhere set him up and set upon him. When the apostle Paul was jailed by the Roman authorities, even the governor was corrupt and colluded with his Jewish accusers. Paul could have been set free but the governor was hoping and waiting to be bribed.
Acts 24:26: He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him.
Acts 24:27: But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix’ room: and Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.
Corruption in high places will not end any time soon. Even in today’s churchianity where leaders sit in high places fleece God’s sheep when they preach everyone has to give till it hurts to receive God’s blessings while they live in luxury in penthouses wearing designer’s clothes. Some preach pastoral authority to bring God’s sheep under bondage to do their bidding and fulfill their personal agenda. God’s is not mocked. Their condemnation is certain and sure just like office holders in the Old Testament whose ends were anything but pretty.
Thankfully, while prophets, priests and kings failed the nation of Israel including some church office holders exposed to be wolves in sheep’s clothing, the Lord Jesus Christ is now the Great High Priests for those who put their trust in Him and Him alone. National leaders in Israel failed. Likewise church office holders are fallible beings. Consider Christ and Christ alone to escape corruption in this world and live a holy life by the grace of the Lord.
Psalms 146:3: Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.
Hebrews 3:1: Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;
Hebrews 4:14: Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
Hebrews 4:15: For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Indeed only the Lord Jesus Christ can be the only hope for those to have access to God the Father. Keep your eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ and not on anyone else be they mighty princes or eminent church office holders born dead in trespasses and sins.
1 Timothy 2:5: For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
Everyone has a price. For the right amount, this person can be bought.
Proverb:28:21: To have respect of persons is not good: for for a piece of bread that man will transgress.
Corruption will be in the world till the new heaven and new earth are established when the war of ages is finally over with Satan forever banished and saved sinners rejoicing before throne of the Most High God. Till then live right and trust the Lord!
Psalms 118:8: It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.
Psalms 118:9: It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.