Eternal Reward: $10,000

One of the best ways to get my attention is to be a crazy person standing on the street corner handing out fliers and shouting at people about being saved. No matter how busy I am, I will always pause to take some of your reading material and peruse its contents.

It was by this method that I recently acquired an item in the shape of a piece of paper money, only larger. On the front, it was made to look more or less like a $10,000 bill, with the Mona Lisa’s head in the middle. (When was SHE president?!) On the back, it says this:

“$10,000 DOLLAR OFFER”

At that point, my attention to the flier became undivided.

Then it says this:

“One of the most amazing claims of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ is that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and she then became the most important of the apostles. If this is true, then the New Testament cannot be trusted, and its entire inspiration is in question.”

I agree that it’s good to start your sermon with some logical fallacies and hysterical proclamations. But if you always start with, “THE SKY IS FALLING!!!!,” your congregation gets wise to you after a while, so it’s important to vary it up. They’ve done a good job of that here.

First of all, I don’t think anyone, even people who think “The Da Vinci Code” is the best book they’ve ever read (i.e., people who haven’t read any other books since high school), believe it is a work of non-fiction. Yes, it mixes some true history with some speculation and flat-out imagination, but it is ultimately just a novel. I think even the stupidest of readers understand that it is not meant to supersede the Bible.

But more to the point, let’s say Jesus DID marry Mary Magdalene and that she DID become an important adviser to him. So what? Why would that render the New Testament untrustworthy? The New Testament doesn’t say he DIDN’T marry her. It doesn’t say anything about it.

Now, if the Bible said, “And lo, verily, the mother of Jesus said: Jesus, why is it thou art now in thy thirties yet thou hast not married? What is wrong with that lovely Magdalene girl? Why dost thou not marry her? And Jesus sayeth unto her: Woman, the day I am wed to Mary Magdalene is the day I eat a pork chop wrapped in bacon, for verily, I shall never marry her nor any other woman, for lo, that is how I roll” — well, then yes, we’d have a problem if it turned out he actually did marry her. Then we’d have reason to call the New Testament’s believability into question. But since the Bible is silent on the matter of Jesus’ marital status, I think we’re OK.

Then the flier goes on for a while with the usual stuff about being born again and accepting God and so forth, none of which has anything to do with “The Da Vinci Code” or the $10,000. Then it comes back to the subject by saying if you “believe the fantasies of ‘The Da Vinci Code'” instead of the Bible, you’ll go to hell. Which, again, I don’t think is a problem, since people don’t generally take novels to be doctrinal, and since the book doesn’t teach much that contradicts the Bible anyway, unless the Bible forbids outrageous plot devices and weak characterizations.

And then finally, at the very end, there’s this: “By the way, if you want to cash in on the $10,000 offer, go to”

Grr! Why didn’t you say that to begin with?! You made me read all this claptrap about “The Da Vinci Code” for nothing! WHY DO YOU TAUNT ME, FLIER?!

The Web site is where it gets good. “$10,000 to anyone who has kept the Ten Commandments,” it proclaims!

It continues:

“This is a legitimate offer. If you have kept the Ten Commandments, we will give you $10,000 cash. This is a legally binding contract. In other words, if you can prove you haven’t violated the Ten Commandments, we are legally obligated to give you $10,000.”

Awesome! I could totally use $10,000. And all I have to do is prove I haven’t worshipped any graven images or committed adultery? Not a problem!

So I took the test. It starts with the 10th commandment and works its way backward. “You shall not covet. Have you ever desired something that belonged to someone else?” You check yes or no and continue.

Never mind that “covet” doesn’t just mean to WANT something. I mean, everyone WANTS things, and there’s nothing sinful about it. To covet something means to want it enviously or inordinately or jealously. But I can see why the Web site has taken this exceptionally narrow view. They have to make it harder to collect the $10,000!

Nonetheless, I checked “no,” indicating I had never coveted.

I went through the rest of the questions. Most of them also take very narrow views — e.g., on “thou shalt not commit adultery,” we are reminded that even lusting after someone in your heart counts as adultery. (Read: Sexual desire is evil.) In each case, whether it was true or not, I answered that I had always obeyed the commandment.

Commandment #1 turned out to be the most severe. “You shall have no other gods before Me. That means that God should be first in your affections. Have you always loved God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength? Have you loved Him to a point where all your other affections (for your mom, dad, brothers, sister and you [sic] own life) seemed like hatred compared to the love you have for the One who gave those loved ones and your life to you?”

I have to love God so much that all my other affections seem like HATE in comparison?! Holy crap! That is some hardcore doctrine there, and a rather alarming exaggeration of anything the Bible actually says about it. But still, I answered that indeed, I am so fond of God that by comparison, the sight of my own mother makes me vomit with revulsion.

I submitted all my answers and eagerly awaited the Web site’s instructions on how to collect my $10,000. Boy, did I ever have some plans for that money! But then it took me to a page that said this:

“Perhaps you said that you have kept the first of the Ten Commandments [to have no other gods before God], but the Bible says, ‘There is none that seeks after God’ (Romans 3:11). So no one has kept that Commandment. So one of you is lying — either you or God.”

Busted! The Romans verse says that all humans are imperfect; we all sin. By taking that to mean that everyone puts other gods before Him and thus everyone violates the first of the Ten Commandments, the people at this Web site have ensured that NO ONE can collect the $10,000! Sneaky! And, I have to say, a little dishonest and thus a violation of the ninth commandment. SEE YOU IN HELL, LIARS!!

I recall being handed this flier sometime during Labor Day Weekend. I remember it because I had a friend in town visiting, and I said to him, "I bet I can write a column about this." And then I put the flier somewhere and completely forgot about it until last week.

If I had a scanner, I would scan it in so you could see it.

This column was the first one to be recorded for podcasting purposes. As luck would have it, I had a bit of a sore throat when I performed it, and that made my "Bible voice" even deeper.