Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 10, 1960

Is It Nothing To You?

Louis J. Sharp, Little Rock, Ark.

Jeremiah, a prophet of God, in viewing the state of an apostate Israel, said: "For my people have forgotten me, they have burned incense to false gods: and they have been made to stumble in their ways, in the ancient paths, to walk in byways, in a way not cast up; to make their land an astonishment, and a perpetual hissing; everyone that passeth thereby SHALL BE ASTONISHED, AND SHAKE HIS HEAD." (Jer. 18:15-16) This observation of Jeremiah might well be made by the people of God today. He further lamented, "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?" (Lam. 1:12) Anyone who is aware of what is happening in the Lord's body at this time cannot help but be alarmed over the rapid, helter-skelter departures from the Book divine. Is it nothing to you? Are you concerned? Do you not have to pause in utter astonishment and shake your head over the schemes and contrivances of men?

One of the things that made it difficult for me to recognize the destructive tendencies of the current issues and trends within the church was that I had a great deal of confidence in my brethren, and their regard for truth. Like many others, I simply couldn't believe that gospel preachers and elders would flout the teaching of the Scriptures. We had the feeling all along that brethren would eventually wake up, realize their departures, retrace their steps, and begin to preach as they formerly had concerning the all-sufficiency of the Scriptures and the necessity of following the divine pattern. But, alas, we were too optimistic. Our confidence seemingly was misplaced. We must wake up to the fact that we must face reality! Disregard for the Scriptures is widespread, inasmuch as it is seemingly no longer the exception, but rather the rule. Instead of book, chapter, and verse, we hear such statements as: "I believe," "I think," "I don't see anything wrong with it," "This has long been an accepted practice among us," etc. Instead of getting back to the Bible, brethren are going farther and farther away.

Little did I dream a few years back that a congregation, claiming to be the Lord's church, would go into the "Parking Lot Business." The 6th and Izzard Streets congregation, where Cleon Lyles preaches, is now advertising their parking spaces for rent. Here is the exact wording of the announcement, as it appeared on a card which was placed under the windshield wipers of automobiles parked on the "church parking lot."

"Beginning October 1st space on this lot will be $6.00 per month. Make your reservations with the Church office, FR 4-1998.

"We will also have space available on two other lots at the same price."

I have heard brother Lyles deliver many fine lessons on church finances. In times past, he ably exposed the money raising practices of the denominations, such as pie suppers, tacky parties, begging from business men, etc. In 1946, the following was written by him.

"God has given a divine pattern for people of today. Jesus is the express image of the Father and he gave us a pattern of life, obedience, humility, and service. This pattern has been preserved for us by the Holy Spirit, It was perfect when given and is today. To change it in the least would make it imperfect. Man must mold his life after it or his life will not be pleasing to God." (Reminder, August 1, 1946)

And in the same article, he continued:

"To deviate from God's pattern is to fall. If we seek to change it we reflect on the infinite wihdom of God who made it. We cannot overlook the smallest detail, for in so doing souls will be lost. Regardless of how small they may seem in the beginning the result will always be fatal."

Concerning giving, in the same year he wrote:

"They gave of their prosperity. (I Cor. 16:1-2) They had no special drives, shows, etc., but gave as prospered."

We read again from his pen in 1948:

"Why do people become dissatisfied with the church? Usually the answer is found in this story. They have not become active in the work of the Lord. Recently I read this note, 'Please tell us how to finance our church. We have tried, suppers, bazaars, carnivals, bingo parties, and begging, but somehow we cannot seem to raise enough money.' The answer came back, 'Why not try religion.' "

One more quote should be sufficient to prove that this recent scheme is a departure from his former teaching.

This was given in the Reminder, 1951, in an article called "Back Scratching Religion."

"The privilege of being a member of the church and enjoying the higher blessings thereof, is a Divine favor that we cannot bring down to human levels. Business is one thing. The church is another. This does not mean that Christian ideas and ideals should not have a place in business, but it does mean THAT THE WORK OF THE CHURCH SHOULD ALWAYS BE KEPT SEPARATE FROM ANY WORLDLY BUSINESS, or favor granting for worldly causes." (emphasis mine. WS)

I wonder how brother Lyles defends this new project. What scriptures does he use? What scriptures were cited in the business meeting when it was decided to rent parking spaces, or was it decided in a business meeting?

Cleon, do you fall back on the old worn out expediency argument? Remember, for a thing to be expedient, it must first be lawful! How will this income be handled? Will it go into the Lord's Day contribution to help you reach your budget? Or will separate books have to be kept as a business? ISN'T THIS TAXABLE INCOME? After all, brother Lyles, you have gone into COMPETITION WITH LEGITIMATE BUSINESSES THAT DO HAVE TO PAY TAXES! These and many other questions that could be asked need to be answered. They really deserve an answer.

It is a shame and a pity before God that a once sound congregation has stooped to the point of engaging in private business schemes for filthy lucre. "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?" Like the people of old, we are so astonished that we can do little more than sorrowfully shake our heads. It is time for tears to be shed. It is time for an open proclamation of divine principles by all gospel preachers. It is time for saints everywhere to wake up; we have been asleep too long. "Is it nothing to you?"