And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. (2 Peter 2:3)
Another sure sign of a false teacher is greed. You don’t have to go far to see that. Just turn on the local “religious” channel and you can see it for yourself: the false teacher who always seems to have a crisis that needs funding, or a blessing they want to send you — for a donation. Some are probably a little more subtle than that, but at the end of the day, a false teacher’s motive is clear: They don’t care about you as much as they do about your wallet. If “feigned words” are what it takes to get you to open your heart by way of your wallet, they’ll do it.
The word translated “feigned” is the Greek word plastos. It’s the word from which we get the word “plastic.” It refers to something that can be formed, molded, made up or fabricated. So, Peter is telling us that these false teachers will use “plastic” words to get at your paper money (or your plastic credit cards). Later in this chapter, Peter says that these false teachers will also use “great swelling words” to impress their hearers (v. 18). That puts them in the same company as another well-known false teacher in the New Testament: The First Beast in the Book of Revelation:
“And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.” (Revelation 13:5)
But how can people fall for these false teachers and their plastic words? It goes back to the nature of the false teacher’s message. They flatter their hearers with ego-building words and things their audience wants to hear rather than what their audience needs to hear. What does Proverbs say? “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:6). Compare that to the way Paul ministered to his hearers:
“For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness.” (1 Thessalonians 2:5)
Paul ministered to his hearers needs even when it was not popular: “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved” (2 Corinthians 12:15). By this, he meant he was spending himself up to meet the spiritual needs of the Corinthian church which at the time was unreceptive because they were too busy listening to false doctrine! Paul did not “plasticize” his words in order to appeal to his hearers because he was not interested in their approval or their wealth. He was concerned about the welfare of their souls.
Perhaps the most repulsive thing about false teachers is that their reputations as swindlers and charlatans do damage to the reputations of teachers who speak the truth. Why? Because people who are not taken in by the false teachers and who are only observers, come to assume that everyone who preaches the name of Christ must be up to no good and because of false teachers’ unscrupulous practices, “the way of truth [is] evil spoken of” (2 Peter 2:2b).
False teachers might amass large followings and much of this world’s goods but the accolades and money they are following after will not be following them into eternity. If you really want to know what a preacher is all about, figure out what he’s after. Is he after your money, or are is he concerned about your soul?