Larry Wilde included a famous bit from one of Bob Hope's monologue: "Once I was flying in a plane that was hit by lightning. A little old lady across the aisle said, 'Do something religious!' So I did--I took up a collection" (Binghamton, NY, PRESS, 7/12/69, 15). We get the irony in his fictitious story about the lady's panic and Hope's greed. Yet, it is not funny when those in religion try to take advantage of people's fears and anxieties. The medieval practice of the Catholic Church was to allow people to "pay" for their sins by financial contributions called indulgences. Modern televangelists have tried to do the same, assuring that financial contributions to their "ministry" would aid in their listeners' forgiveness. It is outrageous that religious institutions and leaders would seek to extort through such disingenuous means, but equally pitiful that people would seek such an inadequate substitute.
Micah poignantly addresses this matter in his inspired book of prophesy. He writes, "With what shall I come to the Lord and bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves? Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (6:6-8).
We cannot pay for or earn our salvation. All the money in the world could not pay the debt of a single sin. Micah reveals the mind of God here. He wants our hearts. When He gets that, He will not get debates and disagreements about the need for our obedience in order to receive the benefits of His grace. Jesus describes the good soil as the one where the implanted word is met by an "honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance" (Lk. 8:15). Truly, let us do something religious! But let that be guided by Scripture!