s136g97 MU Provincial conference Bible Study Melrose Centre

What is a pyramid scheme?

Teenagers have fairly innocuous things like chain letters exhorting the recipient to send this letter to five of their friends and send postcards to the five names on the list at the bottom of the letter. By adding one's name to the letter you will receive hundreds of postcards in return. Don't break the chain!

Adults have more sophisticated forms. Recently the "Advertiser" reported charges being laid against the Adelaide directors ... running ... the well known games Concorde and Golden Galaxy ... The games are based on an aeroplane seating plan, with four levels of players - a "pilot", two "copilots", four "crew members" and eight "passengers" ... Amounts paid to enter range from $10 to $5 million, with the most common amount being $2000 ... "Winnings" depend on the amount paid to enter ... Players were told they "must win", with the pilot pocketing eight times the entry "seat value" every time eight new players joined ... The game would then split into two new games, with each co-pilot becoming a pilot and other players moving up a new level ..." Such games are illegal in SA. (Advertiser Saturday 23 August p6)

The stakes are obviously high, and there are a number of such schemes regularly on the internet. But the stakes can be astronomical. The chaos in Albania is reported to be because of pyramid schemes.

Why don't we approve of pyramid selling?

- Because someone will loose.

- That someone might be one of our "friends".

- We might benefit from the loss one of our "friends" might suffer.

- Those first in benefit greatly while those late on the scene either loose or certainly don't benefit to the extent of the first in.

Inevitably a lot of people will loose and a few will profit.

It is good to know the lingo. Those involved in the Stock Market talk about a "window of opportunity". Why is this? After the window closes future investors are contributing to the profits of others with little likelihood of ever receiving a profit themselves. It is important to get in on the ground floor - so one needs to be close to the initiator of the scheme - and to make sure that not too many other get in on the ground floor too. You don't profit from those on the same level as yourself, you profit from those underneath. Indeed the best position is to be the initiator - with no one else with whom to share the profits.

Passages of scripture which show people currying favour to Jesus: (3)

1 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. (Mark 10:17-18). (I have my suspicions that this was Mark himself and that he came back later.)

2 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favour of him. (Matthew 20:20).

3 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." (Luke 9:57).

Passages of scripture which show people currying favour to Jesus at the expense (usually) of others: (13) (These are the spiritual traffic police and parking inspectors - with apologies to real police and paring inspectors)

4 When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, "He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us." (Luke 7:4,5).

5 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him -- that she is a sinner." (Luke 7:39).

6 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" (Matthew 9:11).

7 The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve came to him and said, "Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted place." (Luke 9:12).

8 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, "Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us." (Matthew 15:23).

9 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day." (Luke 13:14).

10 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. (Mark 10:13).

11 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" (Mark 10:47-48).

12 All who saw it began to grumble and said, "He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner." (Luke 19:7).

13 Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." (- and one each too for me and James and John?) (Matthew 17:4).

14 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" But he turned and rebuked them. (Luke 9:54,55).

15 Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, "Why this waste? (Matthew 26:6-8). => this precipitated the betrayal.

16 Peter said to him, "Even though all become deserters, I will not." (Mark 14:29).

Passages of scripture which show people currying favour with the authorities for advancement? (2)

17 When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, "Is that how you answer the high priest?" (John 18:22).

18 The chief priests answered, "We have no king but the emperor." (John 19:15).

Passages of scripture which show people currying favour of God usually / often at the expense of other people: (7)

19 He answered, "I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away." (1 Kings 19:14).

20 He prayed to the LORD and said, "O LORD! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. (Jonah 4:2).

21 "And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. (Matthew 6:5).

22 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. (Luke 18:11).

23 'These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' (Matthew 20:12).

24 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? (Mark 11:15-17).

25 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. (Matthew 23:1-4).

Obviously religion has its moral / spiritual devotees.

Interestingly at the recent Adelaide Synod there was a promotional film for the Franklin Graham Festival in Adelaide in 1998. The reaction of one to their involvement in the Brisbane event was: "I'm only sorry I didn't get involved sooner ..."

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" And they answered him, "John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." He asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Messiah." And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things." He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." (Mark 8:27-38).

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. This is what superior officers do - they don't rebuke inferior officers in front of the troops.


Do we wear name tags to make it easy for people to remember our names, or to delineate who is "in"?

What a friend we have in Jesus! Is our friendship with Jesus more important than our friendship with our neighbour? (Good Samaritan?) What about our friendship with Jews, Hindus, Atheists, Agnostics? Do we convert others to make ourselves feel good about ourselves?

Is not the real question not "Can God accept an Aboriginal person into the kingdom if that person is not a Christian?" but "Will we accept an Aboriginal person into the kingdom if that person is not a Christian?" (Or "Was Jesus deranged giving the keys of the kingdom of heaven to Peter?" or "Are we more merciful than God?")

Would Simon the leper today be Simon the AIDS sufferer?

What does "Be a friend ... Make a friend ... bring a friend to Jesus" say about our motivation to be a friend and to make friends with others? (Cursillo)

Is Jesus actually interested in whether we call him Lord. Who needs magnifying? Jesus or our neighbour? Or the neighbour closest to ourselves - us!


For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.

divine things = all including me. human things = me over others.

It is only as I perceive the "all" that Jesus speaks that I have no fear and I cannot be ashamed of him. When the Church fails to live up to the "all" of Jesus, I continue to be ashamed of her.


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