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What to say?  Where to begin?  After more years than I care to remember, I can say with certainty that I have been cheated, misled, defrauded and robbed.

But, and this part is important, this wasn’t your typical robbery.  There was no gun, no knife nor even a mysterious, violent looking culprit​ lurking around in the night.

What’s more, I wasn’t exactly the Hollywood stereotype of a victim.  I mean, I didn’t do any of the usual things that people who put themselves in harm’s way do.  I wasn’t flashing money around like it was going out of style.  I wasn’t publicly intoxicated or visibly impaired in any way that would indicate I was an easy mark. I wasn’t wandering around, looking lost and uncertain.  In fact, I never left the comfort of my house.  Yet, it happened, just the same.

Like many today, I’ve got a few problems.  Some of my issues are health related.  Some of my problems concern wealth or, in my case, the lack thereof.  But some of the most pressing issues in my life revolve around spirituality.  I admit it, I have a few questions.  And as I no longer belonged to a church, I needed to do some searching if I wanted my answers.  Just my luck, information and possibly answers were available 24/7 via my favorite medium… the TV.

Again, like so many others, I settled right in.  And before long, I had chosen some favorite Ministers, simultaneously tossing out more than a few Bishops, Apostles, Pastors, Doctors of Theology etc., that I deemed as suspicious and/or obviously money grubbing.  As much as I wanted/needed information, something in my spirit said paying for divine guidance was wrong.

Armed with my spiritual arsenal of religious men, I felt strangely empowered.  I now had plan A.  I even had plan B.  If my favorite Man of God wasn’t available, (you know, that special one that speaks directly to you), I had emergency alternates.  What could possibly go wrong?

In a word… everything.

Before long, they had me roped in.  Trust me, that’s not a simple​ task. Somehow, I was convinced that I could tithe, seed and pray myself out of my problems. So, I did just that!  I scraped every penny I had together and sent it in.

I don’t know if it was fate’s decree, coincidence or something decidedly more sinister but, some fairly nice things—things that I had wanted for so long—started to materialize in my life.  I couldn’t explain how it was happening (and didn’t much care to).  All I could do was confirm that it was indeed happening for me.

After a while I became quite used to sending in tithes, seed offerings and donations for this or that, in support of less fortunate people in other countries or for my personal healing and success.  I really didn’t care about the narrative.  I helped out and, as a result, expected to be blessed.

Because that’s how it works, right?

With those blinders firmly in place, it was a while before I noticed an increase in family ministries.  On the surface, this seemed harmless. God was saving whole families, right? It made sense that if one family member became saved, they would spread the Gospel to all the other family members.  But, as I begin to take a closer look, I couldn’t help but notice that church was starting to more closely resemble a family business—where the children of the proprietor are poised to step in and takeover—than real ministry.  How could this be?  How could ALL the children of all Televangelists receive a calling from God to become ministers?  For me, it seemed highly unlikely and very contrived.  I mean, what are the odds?

And I had a front row seat to the grooming process of the next generation of pastors, who seemed to be making more of a career move than receiving a calling from God.

Suspicious and more than a little upset, I took my studies abroad, expanding my research to YouTube, the KJV 1611 Bible, the Apocrypha, biblical encyclopedias and as many other sources as made sense.  What I discovered was telling.  To say it was a bombshell would be an understatement.

I’ll spare you the bulk of my angry ramblings but, suffice it to say, I discovered major discrepancies between what is in the Bible and what is being taught in Christian churches.  This was particularly true as it pertains to tithes and offerings.

It was only through my research (and actual reading of verses) that I discovered what the purpose of a tithe actually was.  Hint: it’s not for a helipad.

This is where I discovered, among other things, that I had indeed been robbed, just not with a pistol.  And sad to say, this is also where I learned I had been more than complicit. I walked in with open eyes but a closed book.  Did you know that tithes and offerings were meant to support the widows, orphans and priests—who, incidentally, weren’t allowed to hold property on earth…in direct opposition to the multimillionaire pastors we have today?  Did you know that the things being offered weren’t monetary at all, but rather food and goods that they needed?  I didn’t.  Surprise, shock and anger… all of them seem far too small to encompass my emotions.

If nothing else, though, I had an answer to an oft repeated question.

Will a man rob God?  Possibly.

Will a man rob another man using God’s name?  Absolutely.

Personally, I prefer robbers that don’t preach their bastardized version of the Good Word and that aren’t appareled in nice suits, touting false promises and taking advantage of those disenfranchised with life.  I’m better prepared for them.  I know what to expect.  They want your money.  Plain and simple.   And they don’t try to appeal to your soul or build themselves up as holy men.

And maybe that’s part of my pain.  Call me old-fashioned but, I prefer my thieves with ski masks, not crucifixes.

So what’s my conclusion?  Just this, if you want knowledge, don’t just take it for granted that someone will hand it to you for free.  There is no such thing as a free lunch.  If you want to have something, do something, know something, you’re going to have to put in some old-fashioned elbow grease.  Do research.  Study.  It’s only a click away now.  No excuses.

In my case, it wasn’t all bad.  Uncle Sam recognized my efforts and rewarded me in the form of a nice tax break.  Thus, the tithing/seed sowing deception was not a total disaster for me.  Still, along with a few of the other major deceptions I’ve uncovered, it was more than enough to make me shake my head and fear for humanity.

Can anybody hear me?