Some time ago my kids and I listened to the audiobook of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and Chocolate Factory. I had never read this book as a child and was quite taken aback by some of the sinister plot twists.
Charlie Bucket and four other kids win golden tickets to tour Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, where he invents new types of exciting candies. As the story progresses you realize that the novel candies can have a lethal side to them. If the kids don’t obey Mr. Wonka and stray from the designated route, they disappear from the scene. The reader is not sure what has become of them.
Each of the children in turn gives in to temptation and disobeys Wonka, and pays the price. Miss Verruca Salt goes near to the squirrels after being told not to—and she ends up in the incinerator as a “bad nut.” Violet Beauregard chews the gum she is not supposed to eat and morphs into a giant, inflated blueberry. Augustus Gloop gets sucked into a pipe after falling into the river of chocolate, and Mike Teavee gets shrunk down to the size of a chocolate bar after disobeying Wonka. I had not realized quite how macabre this children’s story is.
But the same can be said for inventing your own religion. If we don’t stick to the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints—the results can be lethal. This is the message of the Book of Jude. Both Dahl and Jude teach us that if we stray from the path set before us —destruction is swift.
Jude uses three Old Testament characters to teach his readers about the consequences of wonky worship of God.
3 Worrisome Woes of Wonky Worship
1. Personalized Religion
Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain … (Jude 11)
Personalizing is our way of taking something is that is generic or one-size-fits-all and changing it to what suits us.
We tailor our suits, renovate our kitchens, monogram our shirts, customize our motorcycles, and personalize our iPhones. We want to make them our own, not exactly like everyone else’s. This isn’t harmful in the field of interior decorating, but it gets dangerous when you apply it to the theology and the practice of the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
Jude is warning against teachers who try to tweak the way God wants to be worshipped to suit us more than to suit God. This is what Jude calls the way of Cain.
You remember the story of Cain’s customized sacrifice in Genesis 4:2-5. His brother Abel brought a lamb, but Cain brought crops he had grown – and God rejected Cain’s sacrifice.
God’s rejection of Cain’s vegetarian offering presupposes that God had revealed to them that they should bring a blood sacrifice. The point of sacrifices was to symbolize that the wages of sin is death and that an innocent animal was dying in your place so you could be forgiven.
But Cain was a farmer of plants. So, instead of trading potatoes for a lamb, he just offered what he had on hand. He tweaked what God had revealed to suit him, to be more convenient, to be personalized to his own style of religion. “I’m a tiller of the ground, not a raiser of livestock, so God will understand when I offer something that suits my lifestyle better.”