Christ versus Religion, by Witness Lee

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From the church at Ephesus we go on to the church at Pergamos. Here in Pergamos we have the second step. All the steps are continuations: step follows step. If you take the first step, surely you will take the second step. And the second step is composed of two main items: 1) the doctrine of Balaam, 2) the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.

What is the doctrine of Balaam? Balaam was a prophet who worked for money. Thus, his preaching, his teaching, just became a job. Why? It was due to the excess of labor and work. When the church has an overabundance of labor and work, people surely will be hired to perform it. If we love the Lord first and foremost, not caring so much for the work, we need hire no one. The danger in Christianity has been and still is that of paying too much attention to the work without the love. Thus, so many Christian workers must be hired. In the church, all those who work for the Lord should do so not for money, but out of an intimate and burning love for the Lord Himself. We should serve the Lord because His love is burning within us. We simply love Him; we would like to give every drop of blood for Him. We want to serve Him, but this does not mean a kind of work or labor, but an expression of love. We care nothing for money.

Christianity is involved in altogether too much work. "Let us organize something," they say. "Let us open a mission field; let us send out so many missionaries; let us go to the seminaries and Bible institutes and solicit their graduates." This is just the doctrine of Balaam. Those who are hired, of course, must do the work according to their money. Thus, the service of the Lord is commercialized. This is not only religion, but something worse. If any of us ever conceive of hiring someone in the church to accomplish some task, we are taking the second step in forming a new religion. Whenever we talk about money, we are well on our way. Let us not talk about how many dollars we have, but about how many drops of blood we have. We would not work for money, but for the love of Jesus. We care not for the abundance of money or the lack of money. We serve for the love of Jesus—not with dollars, but with drops of blood. If we serve with a consideration of money we can never do the work of love. If we go out without money, but prepared to shed our blood for the love of Jesus, we will raise up a church with the first and best love, a church which could never afford anything to form a religion.

How is it that Christianity today has become such a dreadful religion? Just because of the matter of money, the doctrine of Balaam.

Inevitably following the doctrine of Balaam is the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. What is this? The word "Nicolaitan" comes from two words in Greek, niko and laos. The word niko means to conquer or subdue, while laos means people. Put together, these two words mean to subdue the people, or in other words, the clergy-laity system. Because the service of the Lord has been commercialized, the clergy-laity system spontaneously appears. This system annuls the function of so many members and kills the Body of Christ. It is a great evil. It has been developed to such an extent in some places that if any of the laity should pray, he would certainly be condemned. This is religion at its worst. Nothing offends the Lord so much as the clergy-laity system.

(Christ versus Religion, Chapter 12, by Witness Lee)