Tag Archives: wealth

Demas and the Silver Mine

Now at the further side of that plain was a little hill called Lucre, and in that hill a silver mine, which some of them that had formerly gone that way, because of the rarity of it, had turned aside to see; but going too near the brink of the pit, the ground being deceitful under them, broke, and they were slain; some also had been maimed there, and could not, to their dying day, be their own men again.

Then I saw in my dream, that a little off the road, over against the silver mine, stood Demas (gentlemanlike) to call to passengers to come and see; who said to Christian and his fellow, Ho! turn aside hither, and I will show you a thing.

Christian: What thing so deserving as to turn us out of the way to see it?

Demas: Here is a silver mine, and some digging in it for treasure. If you will come, with a little pains you may richly provide for yourselves.

Hopeful: Then said Hopeful, Let us go see.

Christian: Not I, said Christian, I have heard of this place before now; and how many have there been slain; and besides that, treasure is a snare to those that seek it; for it hinders them in their pilgrimage.

Then Christian called to Demas, saying, Is not the place dangerous? Has it not hindered many in their pilgrimage?

Demas: Not very dangerous, except to those that are careless, (but withal, he blushed as he spoke).

Christian: Then said Christian to Hopeful, Let us not stir a step, but still keep on our way.

Hopeful: I will warrant you, when By-ends comes up, if he has the same invitation as we, he will turn in thither to see.

Christian: No doubt thereof, for his principles lead him that way, and a hundred to one but he dies there.

Demas: Then Demas called again, saying, But will you not come over and see?

Christian: Then Christian roundly answered, saying, Demas, you are an enemy to the right ways of the Lord of this way, and have been already condemned for your own turning aside, by one of His Majesty’s judges; and why do you seek to bring us into the like condemnation? Besides, if we at all turn aside, our Lord and King will certainly hear thereof, and will there put us to shame, where we would stand with boldness before him.

Demas cried again, that he also was one of their fraternity; and that if they would tarry a little, he also himself would walk with them.

Christian: Then said Christian, What is your name? Is it not the same by the which I have called you?

Demas: Yes, my name is Demas; I am the son of Abraham.

Christian: I know you; Gehazi was your great-grandfather, and Judas your father; and you have trod in their steps. It is but a devilish prank that you use; your father was hanged for a traitor, and you deserve no better reward. Assure yourself, that when we come to the King, we will do him word of this your behavior. Thus they went their way.

By this time By-ends and his companions were come again within sight, and they, at the first beck, went over to Demas. Now, whether they fell into the pit by looking over the brink thereof, or whether they went down to dig, or whether they were smothered in the bottom by the damps that commonly arise, of these things I am not certain; but this I observed, that they never were seen again in the way. Then sang Christian—

By-ends and silver Demas both agree;
One calls, the other runs, that he may be
A sharer in his lucre; so these do
Take up in this world, and no further go.

Dumas and the Silver Mine

Christian and Hopeful did not enjoy the comforts of Ease for long. They crossed the Plain quickly and discovered close to Ease another danger. At the far side of the plain “was a little hill called Lucre.” In the hill was a silver mine, enticing and extraordinary, where, it is said, one can dig with little effort and find rich reward.

Lucre represents the prosperity of the world, especially money or wealth that is gained in sinful or dishonest ways. The silver mine is the inviting prospect of wealth and worldly success for all who desire to live in Ease and enjoy its comforts.

Near the mine, Christian and Hopeful are beckoned by a notorious person from the pages of Scripture. Demas calls to them to come and see the marvels of the mine. Demas is not the first Bible character to be included in Bunyan’s story. Earlier Faithful encountered Adam the First and Moses. We read of Demas in Paul’s letters. In two letters, Paul includes Demas as a “fellow laborer” in his greetings:

Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you (Colossians 4:14).

Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers (Philemon 1:23–24).

But near the end of Paul’s life, we learn the sad truth that Demas became enchanted with the world and forsook Paul. Paul writes:

Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry (2 Timothy 4:9–11).

Here, in The Pilgrim’s Progress, Demas stands inviting others to turn aside to search for worldly treasures. His offer is appealing. He appears respectable and believable—a gentleman. He promises light work and a quick return. The attraction of wealth and success lures many to the mine. But to get a closer look, travelers must veer off the Way.

At this point in the story Bunyan shows again the advantage of walking with other believers in the journey. Hopeful is curious and wants to go and see the mine. But Christian recognizes the danger. He has heard of this place. It hinders pilgrims from pressing on in their journey. It distracts them from pursuing godliness and eternal life. Some in the past ventured too close to the edge of the mine and fell in. Some were slain and some were maimed.

Though Demas attempts to dismiss the dangers, Christian is not persuaded. He holds firm and will not leave the Way even a step. In Exodus, after the ninth plague, Moses held firm to God’s Word and refused to compromise when Pharaoh offered to negotiate terms. He told Pharaoh “not a hoof shall be left behind” (Exodus 10:26). Christian here exhorts Hopeful: “Let us not stir a step, but still keep on our way.” Christian was already led astray once by Worldly Wiseman and chastened by Evangelist at the foot of Mt. Sinai. He will not be taken in again.

Though Demas claims to be a fellow pilgrim and a “son of Abraham” (one who is true to the faith), Christian recognizes him and the danger he represents. He rebukes Demas for turning aside and for trying to get others to do the same. He points to Scripture and compares him to Gehazi in the Old Testament, who valued money and possessions over obedience.

But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “Look, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, while not receiving from his hands what he brought; but as the Lord lives, I will run after him and take something from him” (2 Kings 5:20).

And he compares him to Judas in the New Testament, who betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him (Matthew 26:14–15).

In the end both faced destruction. Gehazi left Elisha’s presence stricken with leprosy and Judas took his own life.

Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself (Matthew 27:3–5).

Bunyan highlights an important lesson about the danger of desiring worldly wealth. Prosperity and success are not inherently evil. They can be blessings from God. But the lure of prosperity and the drive to success can easily become consuming and plunge the heart into idolatry. They can cloud the mind with fears and forgetfulness of God. They can put the soul in a precarious place. Those who venture too close to the mine are in grave danger of falling in. They ground they stand on is deceitful. Asaph calls it a slippery place. In Psalm 73 Asaph was perplexed when he “saw the prosperity of the wicked” (73:3). But then he recognized their danger:

When I thought how to understand this,
It was too painful for me—
Until I went into the sanctuary of God;
Then I understood their end.
Surely You set them in slippery places;
You cast them down to destruction.
Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment!
They are utterly consumed with terrors.
(Psalm 73:16–19)

The wicked were trusting in their own prosperity rather than God, and success became for them a slippery slope bringing them to desolation.

Before Israel entered the Promised Land, God warned His people of the dangers that come with plenty and prosperity.

Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end— then you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.” And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day (Deuteronomy 8:8–18).

In time Israel did indeed fall prey to idolatry and rebel against God. The prophet Hosea describes their sin:

For Israel is stubborn
Like a stubborn calf;
Now the Lord will let them forage
Like a lamb in open country.
Ephraim is joined to idols,
Let him alone.
Their drink is rebellion,
They commit harlotry continually.
Her rulers dearly love dishonor.
(Hosea 4:16–18)

The prosperity that God’s people enjoyed became a pathway to destruction as they forgot God and sought their own way. The plenty and harvest that they enjoyed in the Promised Land dissolved into nettles and thorns.

For indeed they are gone because of destruction.
Egypt shall gather them up;
Memphis shall bury them.
Nettles shall possess their valuables of silver;
Thorns shall be in their tents.
(Hosea 9:6)

Though Christian and Hopeful continue their journey and avoid the perils of the mine, By-ends and his friends do not. They fall prey to Demas and are not seen traveling along the Way again.

The demise of By-ends and his friends is a stark warning. Those who long for the riches of this world will in the end find only disappointment and destruction. But those who are “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21) will be abundantly satisfied (Psalm 36:8).

Scripture warns us not to set our heart on riches.

A man with an evil eye hastens after riches,
And does not consider that poverty will come upon him.
(Proverbs 28:22)

But to treasure God.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19–21).

May God anchor our hearts firmly in Him and may we remember that He alone is our greatest joy and treasure.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2017 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Religion and Worldly Gain

So they came up to each other, and after a short salutation, Mr. Hold-the-world propounded the question to Christian and his fellow, and bid them to answer it if they could.

Then said Christian, Even a babe in religion may answer ten thousand such questions. For if it be unlawful to follow Christ for loaves, (as it is in the sixth of John), how much more abominable is it to make of him and religion a stalking-horse to get and enjoy the world! Nor do we find any other than heathens, hypocrites, devils, and witches, that are of this opinion.

1. Heathens; for when Hamor and Shechem had a mind to the daughter and cattle of Jacob, and saw that there was no way for them to come at them, but by becoming circumcised, they say to their companions, If every male of us be circumcised, as they are circumcised, shall not their cattle, and their substance, and every beast of theirs, be ours? Their daughter and their cattle were that which they sought to obtain, and their religion the stalking-horse they made use of to come at them. Read the whole story.

2. The hypocritical Pharisees were also of this religion; long prayers were their pretense, but to get widows’ houses was their intent; and greater damnation was from God their judgment.

3. Judas the devil was also of this religion; he was religious for the bag, that he might be possessed of what was therein; but he was lost, cast away, and the very son of perdition.

4. Simon the witch was of this religion too; for he would have had the Holy Ghost, that he might have got money therewith; and his sentence from Peter’s mouth was according.

5. Neither will it out of my mind, but that that man that takes up religion for the world, will throw away religion for the world; for so surely as Judas resigned the world in becoming religious, so surely did he also sell religion and his Master for the same. To answer the question, therefore, affirmatively, as I perceive you have done, and to accept of, as authentic, such answer, is both heathenish, hypocritical, and devilish; and your reward will be according to your works.

Then they stood staring one upon another, but had not wherewith to answer Christian. Hopeful also approved of the soundness of Christian’s answer; so there was a great silence among them. Mr. By-ends and his company also staggered and kept behind, that Christian and Hopeful might outgo them. Then said Christian to his fellow, If these men cannot stand before the sentence of men, what will they do with the sentence of God? And if they are mute when dealt with by vessels of clay, what will they do when they shall be rebuked by the flames of a devouring fire?

Answering By-ends

In the previous post, By-ends and his companions propounded the question: Is it right for a minister or a tradesman to use religion in the pursuit of personal gain? They confidently answered in the affirmative and collectively admired their reasoning. Now they attempt to impress Christian and Hopeful and are gleefully awaiting the moment when they can watch the two pilgrims falter and fall silent.

Christian, however is not swayed or silenced. He easily sees through the superficiality of their answer. Our need in this life is not for worldly wealth or success. Jesus did not come to improve our status or increase our possessions in this life. We need forgiveness, righteousness, and new life—gifts that are afforded to us only in Christ. Jesus is King of kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16); He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last (Revelation 22:13). To follow Him for the mere trifles of this world is indeed a tragedy of eternal consequence.

While Money-Love framed his answer to By-ends’ question according to his own logic and for his own advantage, Christian draws out his answer from Scripture. He first points to John 6 where Jesus rebukes the crowd for following Him, not because they believed Him to be the Messiah sent from God, but because He fed them with loaves and fishes.

Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him” (John 6:26–27).

Jesus continues in John 6 to explain that He is the true “bread of life.” The fullness and satisfaction He offers is far greater than what the crowds were seeking or expecting. He can truly satisfy the hunger and thirst of our souls. He alone can give us life that is everlasting (John 6:28–40).

Christian continues to make his point by providing four examples from Scripture of men who used religion for personal gain: heathens (those outside a covenant relationship with God), hypocrites, devils, and witches (sorcerers).

Heathens—Hamor and Shechem were willing to be circumcised along with their countrymen in order to gain wives, property, and livestock from Israel.

And Hamor and Shechem his son came to the gate of their city, and spoke with the men of their city, saying: “These men are at peace with us. Therefore let them dwell in the land and trade in it. For indeed the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters to us as wives, and let us give them our daughters. Only on this condition will the men consent to dwell with us, to be one people: if every male among us is circumcised as they are circumcised. Will not their livestock, their property, and every animal of theirs be ours? Only let us consent to them, and they will dwell with us.” And all who went out of the gate of his city heeded Hamor and Shechem his son; every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city (Genesis 34:20–23).

Hypocrites—The Pharisees used religion to increase their status and swindle money and property from unsuspecting widows.

Then, in the hearing of all the people, He said to His disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation” (Luke 20:45–47).

Devils—Judas was willing to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve (John 6:70–71).

Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him (Matthew 26:14–16).

Witches (Sorcerers)—Simon thought he could purchase the power of God to heal with money.

And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity” (Acts 8:18–23).

Through Christian’s answer, Bunyan once again highlights the value and prominence of God’s Word. William Mason observes in his commentary on The Pilgrim’s Progress:

Here see the blessedness of being mighty in the Scripture, and the need of that exhortation, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16). For the Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than a two-edged sword; it pierces through all the subtle devices of Satan, and the cunning craftiness of carnal professors; and divideth asunder the carnal reasonings of the flesh, and the spiritual wisdom which cometh from above.

By-ends and his friends are stunned by Christian’s response. They had sought to silence Christian and Hopeful with their argument, but in the end, it is they who are speechless. Christian warns that they will face a far greater rebuke in the coming judgement. Christian and Hopeful are mere men, wielding God’s Word and standing for truth; but God, who is “the Judge of all” (Hebrews 12:23), “is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29; Deuteronomy 4:24).

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2017 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

By-ends Asks a Question

By-ends: My brothers, we are, as you see, going all on pilgrimage; and, for our better diversion from things that are bad, give me leave to propound unto you this question:

Suppose a man, a minister, or a tradesman, etc., should have an advantage lie before him, to get the good blessings of this life, yet so as that he can by no means come by them except, in appearance at least, he becomes extraordinarily zealous in some points of religion that he meddled not with before, may he not use these means to attain his end, and yet be a right honest man?

Money-Love: I see the bottom of your question; and, with these gentlemen’s good leave, I will endeavor to shape you an answer. And first, to speak to your question as it concerns a minister himself: Suppose a minister, a worthy man, possessed but of a very small benefice, and has in his eye a greater, more fat, and plump by far; he has also now an opportunity of getting of it, yet so as by being more studious, by preaching more frequently and zealously, and, because the temper of the people requires it, by altering of some of his principles; for my part, I see no reason but a man may do this, (provided he has a call), aye, and more a great deal besides, and yet be an honest man. For why—

  1. His desire of a greater benefice is lawful, (this cannot be contradicted), since it is set before him by Providence; so then, he may get it, if he can, making no question for conscience’ sake.
  2. Besides, his desire after that benefice makes him more studious, a more zealous preacher, etc., and so makes him a better man; yea, makes him better improve his parts, which is according to the mind of God.
  3. Now, as for his complying with the temper of his people, by dissenting, to serve them, some of his principles, this argues: (1) That he is of a self-denying, temper; (2) Of a sweet and winning deportment; and so (3) more fit for the ministerial function.
  4. I conclude, then, that a minister that changes a small for a great, should not, for so doing, be judged as covetous; but rather, since he has improved in his parts and industry thereby, be counted as one that pursues his call, and the opportunity put into his hands to do good.

And now to the second part of the question, which concerns the tradesman you mentioned. Suppose such a one to have but a poor employ in the world, but by becoming religious, he may mend his market, perhaps get a rich wife, or more and far better customers to his shop; for my part, I see no reason but that this may be lawfully done. For why—

  1. To become religious is a virtue, by what means soever a man becomes so.
  2. Nor is it unlawful to get a rich wife, or more custom to my shop.
  3. Besides, the man that gets these by becoming religious, gets that which is good, of them that are good, by becoming good himself; so then here is a good wife, and good customers, and good gain, and all these by becoming religious, which is good; therefore, to become religious, to get all these, is a good and profitable design.

This answer, thus made by this Mr. Money-love to Mr. By-ends’ question, was highly applauded by them all; wherefore they concluded upon the whole, that it was most wholesome and advantageous. And because, as they thought, no man was able to contradict it, and because Christian and Hopeful were yet within call, they jointly agreed to assault them with the question as soon as they overtook them; and the rather because they had opposed Mr. By-ends before. So they called after them, and they stopped, and stood still till they came up to them; but they concluded, as they went, that not Mr. By-ends, but old Mr. Hold-the-world, should propound the question to them, because, as they supposed, their answer to him would be without the remainder of that heat that was kindled between Mr. By-ends and them, at their parting a little before.

Money-love's Lesson

One of the great dangers of sin and folly is their ability to appear reasonable and right. Sin is a form of insanity that twists our thinking, deceiving and distorting truth, until actions and attitudes obviously contrary to God’s Word seem perfectly sound and sensible. Selfishness, greed, pretense, deception—these can all emerge in our minds as virtuous as we craftily excuse them and justify our need to indulge in them.

Bunyan offers a penetrating look at our propensity to rationalize sin as he unfolds the hypocrisy of By-ends and his friends. As By-ends affirms, they are all convinced that they are pilgrims. They claim to be seeking Christ’s kingdom, but their true aim is personal gain. They think they can have both a zeal for Christ and the riches of this world. And they think they can legitimately employ the former to gain the later.

To make his point By-ends puts forth a question. Is it right for a minister or a tradesman to use religion in the pursuit of personal gain?

Money-love elaborates the question, beginning with the minister: Suppose a minister has an opportunity to move to a larger church that can pay him more. To gain the position he will be expected to study more, preach more, and be more animated and engaging in his preaching. However, to be successful in this new ministry, he will need to avoid certain topics and adjust his stance on particular matters so as not to offend or upset members of the congregation. Is it right for him to make such a move?

Money-love quickly says yes. He sees no problem with the minister modifying his religion in order to pursue the higher paying position. He reasons:

  1. It is not sinful to desire more pay and, since the opportunity has come his way, it must be in the providence of God for him to pursue it.
  2. More study and more opportunities to preach will certainly make him a better preacher.
  3. His acquiescing to the sensibilities of the congregation is not wrong—in fact, it demonstrates deference and self-denial, affirming that he has such qualities that will allow him to excel in ministry.
  4. Moving from a small church to a large church is evidence of success, improvement and advancement and should not in any way be judged as covetous.

Money-love then expounds the question of the tradesman: Suppose a tradesman, who is not doing well in his business, has an opportunity to expand his market, tap into a larger customer base, and perhaps even find a wealthy woman to be his wife. All he needs to do is to join a local church, thereby gaining the confidence and trust of its large congregation. Is it right for him to join the church and become an active, zealous church member?

Money-love again sees no problem and he affirms the tradesman’s scheme. He reasons:

  1. It is always good and beneficial to go to church and engage in religion. Being religious is a virtue regardless of the motivation.
  2. It is not sinful for a man to convince a rich woman to be his wife, or convince potential customers to do business at his store—in fact, it demonstrates the he is motivated and hard-working.
  3. Since being religious is good, and getting a wife is good, and growing your business is good—getting a wife and growing your business by being religious must certainly be good. Such an endeavor is a “good and profitable design.”

Money-love’s answers are affirmed by all. By-ends has proved his point. In the company of Christian and Hopeful, he was rebuked and offended. But now he has found companions that answer to his liking. Foolishness thrives best in the company of fools and so they fail to see their own faulty reasoning. Rather than their hypocrisy being exposed, it is applauded and admired.

By-ends and his friends now devise a plan. They are so convinced in their own minds of the soundness of their reasoning, that they believe no one can refute them. Christian and Hopeful had earlier shamed By-ends when he was alone. Now they will catch up to the pilgrims and confront them as a group, with Hold-the-world acting as spokesman. And this time it will be Christian who will falter and be silenced. In the next post we will hear Christian’s response to By-ends and his friends.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2017 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.