In over fifty years of Bible teaching and preaching "Ten Shekels and a Shirt" is the only message that I feel constrained to explain how it came to be preached.
During a Bethany Fellowship Summer Conference in the mid sixties I was preparing to speak at the Tuesday morning Bible hour. Upon returning to my room after breakfast to meditate and pray about the message for that morning hour, I felt strangely impressed that I could not deliver the message that had been prepared for the session. Instead, I felt that there was some other message that was needed which I was to bring.
After prayer, the message that came to mind was one on which I had begun preparation for the ministry at the church in New York City of which I was pastor at that time. My notes were not with me, but were in a file folder in my study. An empty envelope was on the desk in my room, on the back of which I wrote the scripture texts to be used and one or two ideas that came to mind. With the envelope in my Bible marking Judges, Chapter 17, and my self utterly cast upon the Lord, I went to the auditorium where between four and five hundred people waited to hear from the Lord through me.
I remember praying, "This morning I am utterly cast upon You because I am not really prepared." In my heart I seemed to hear His response, "Well is that so bad, already" (being from New York City it was given in an idiom I would understand.)
I delivered the message and gave an invitation. Shortly the altar across the front of the auditorium was filled with broken people seeking God.
The summer conference was soon over and I returned to New York City and the ministry there.
About ten years later, one of the Bethany Fellowship staff was in Washington, D.C., where we had moved and from where we still minister. His word was, "Paris, I want to tell you that God has repeatedly used your message "Ten Shekels and a Shirt" in my life".
I didn't really know to what he referred, for I had never preached that message again. The substance of it occurs in other messages, but the exact message itself was preached only that once.
A week or two later Harry Conn from Rockford, Illinois was in Washington. He invited me to have dinner with him. In the course of the meal he said, "I buy that message of yours 'Ten Shekels and a Shirt' by the dozen to give to people. God is really using it in lives". My response was that if you have a copy, I would like to have it sent to me so that I can find out what it is I have said. In a few days the cassette arrived.
Since I don't have a tape player in my office, I put the tape into the Sony dictating machine on my desk and listened through the little playback on the hand-held microphone. The element of distance in terms of time, and the distorted sound through the miniature speaker, let me listen to the message with no real awareness of who was speaking. From time to time I felt like exclaiming, "That's right! I wish I had said that!" Then it dawned on me that it was I.... no, not really. I realized that on a Tuesday morning during a summer conference, God had been able to get His message across because of my utter and complete helplessness.
Be sure of this, I take no credit for anything and everything that is good and a blessing from the message. In the past sixteen years several thousands of taped copies of this message have been sold and many more thousands of copies have been made from the ones purchased.
I have never preached this message again, nor will I. This message has not been transcribed and printed, nor will it ever be. Here is the message just as the Lord, Who chose to use Balaam's donkey, was also able to use another who was utterly dependent upon Him.
September 20, 1993
Mrs. Paris Reidhead
Dear Mrs. Reidhead:
I am sorry to learn of your husbands' going to be with the Lord last year. I was hoping that I could have spoken to him directly. I acquired a copy of his tape "Ten Shekels and a Shirt" from Rare Christian Books in Decatur, TX** about three months ago. I bought it simply because their catalogue said it was their most popular tape. This fact struck me, considering they have many tapes of sermons from the likes of A.W. Tozer and Leonard Ravenhill.
Well, I got the tape and listened to it and thought it had a good message, but not one that I would have thought would out sell all the others listed in Jack Morrison's catalogue. Then about two months later I listened to the message again, driving in my car. The message became clearer and stronger, and over a one week period I must have listened to it twenty times. It truly is one of the most powerful messages I have heard if not THE most powerful and needed in Christ's church today.
My request of you is a simple one. I would like to transcribe the message on my personal computer and hand it out at my church (I am the librarian). I know Mr. Reidhead, in his message how the tape came about, stated that the message would never be transcribed. But the message is so vitally needed in the present church that I wonder if you might reconsider his request.
What ever your decision is I will abide by it. My prayer is only that you would give this request prayerful consideration.
In Him with you,
William T. Evanochko, Ph.D.
p.s. I am presently reading Getting Evangelicals Saved.
Mrs. Reidhead's Letter of 9/28/93 Paris ReidheadBible Teaching Ministries
September 29, 1993
Dr. William T. Evanochko
Dear Dr. Evanochko:
Thank you for your recent letter in regard to transcribing the message, "Ten Shekels and a Shirt." I am indeed grateful that the truth of this powerful tape has gripped your heart.
My husband felt that this message, preached at Bethany Fellowship years ago, had been inspired by God and given under the unction of the Holy Spirit. Paris was a perfectionist; he felt that if the message were to be transcribed that he might discover errors in grammar and syntax, and that in his zeal to correct the grammar he might lose the spirit of the message. He felt that he could not subscribe to that procedure.
I know that you have given this request prayerful thought. I do not feel that your request to transcribe the message is out of order. It is surely a message which is vitally needed in the present church. When you have completed the transcription will you please send me a copy for the Bible Teaching Ministry files.
I trust that "Getting Evangelicals Saved" will be of equal blessing.
In His service,
Marjorie N. Reidhead
November 17, 1993
Dr. William T. Evanochko
Dear Dr. Evanochko:
Your letter of November 9, and the parcel containing the transcription of "Ten Shekels and a Shirt" arrived several days ago. May I commend you on the excellent piece of work. It is truly a labor of love for our Lord Jesus Christ. With the variety and size of print in the booklet form you have captured the expression and voice emphases. Thank you for a job well done.
I would be happy for you to send Jack Morrison a copy of the transcription. I have friends who have also requested copy. We pray that God will bless and use the printed word as He has the spoken word, of "Ten Shekels and a Shirt."
Thank you for your concern about having this sermon published as a booklet. At the present time I am working to get the book "Getting Evangelicals Saved" reprinted. My youngest daughter, who is an editor for W.W. Norton, Inc., is helping me with the presentation to publishers. Please pray with us that this will be accomplished.
Yours in His Service,
Marjorie N. Reidhead
And today I would like to speak to you from the theme "Ten Shekels and a Shirt", as we find it here in Judges Chapter 17. I'll read the chapter and then I will read a portion also from the 18th to the 19th chapter as the background might be clear in our minds. "And their was a man of mount Ephraim who's name was Micah". A little background if you please. There was a situation where the Amorites refused to allow the people of the tribe of Dan to any access to Jerusalem and they crowded them up into mount Ephraim. It is a sad thing when the people of God allow the world to crowd them into an awkward position. So they were unable to get to Jerusalem and we find, out of this comes the problems that we are about to see.
There was a man in the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Micah. He said to his mother, "The eleven hundred pieces of silver that were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse, and even spoke it in my hearing, - that, silver is in my possession; I took it; but now I will return it to you." And his mother said, "May my son be blessed by the Lord!" Then he returned the eleven hundred pieces of silver to his mother; and his mother said, "I consecrate the silver to the Lord from my hand for my son, to make an idol of cast metal." So when he returned the money to his mother, his mother took two hundred pieces of silver, and gave it to the silversmith, who made it into an idol of cast metal; and it was in the house of Micah. This man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and teraphim, and installed one of his sons, who became his priest. In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.
Now there was a young man of Bethlehem in Judah, of the Clan of Judah. He was a Levite residing there. This man left the town of Bethlehem in Judah, to live wherever he could find a place. He came to the house of Micah in the hill country of Ephraim to carry on his work. Micah said to him, "From where do you come?" He replied, "I am a Levite of Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to live wherever I can find a place." Then Micah said to him, "Stay with me, and be to me a father and a priest, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year, a set of clothes, and your living." The Levite agreed to stay with the man; and the young man became to him like one of his sons. So Micah installed the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah. Then Micah said, "Now I know that the Lord will prosper me, because the Levite has become my priest."
In those days there was no king in Israel. And in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking for itself a territory to live in; for until then no territory among the tribes of Israel had been allotted to them. So the Danites sent five valiant men from the whole number of their clan, from Zorah and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land and to explore it; and they said to them, "Go, explore the land ." When they came to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, they stayed there. While they were at Micah's house, they recognized the voice of the young Levite; so they went over and asked him, "Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? What is your business here?" He said to them, "Micah did such and such for me, and he hired me, and I have become his priest." Then they said to him, "Inquire of God that we may know whether the mission we are undertaking will succeed." The priest replied, "Go in peace. The mission you are on is under the eye of the Lord."
Then the five men who had gone to spy out the land (that is, Laish) said to their comrades, "Do you know that in these buildings there are an ephod, teraphim, and an idol of cast metal? Now therefore consider what you will do." So they turned in that direction and came to the house of the young Levite, at the home of Micah, and greeted him. While the six hundred men of the Danites, armed with their weapons of war, stood by the entrance of the gate, the five men who had gone to spy out the land proceeded to enter and take the idol of cast metal, the ephod, and the teraphim. The priest was standing by the entrance of the gate with the six hundred men armed with weapons of war. When the men went into Micah's house and took the idol of cast metal, the ephod, and the teraphim, the priest said to them, "What are you doing?" They said to him, "Keep quiet! Put your hand over your mouth, and come with us, and be to us a father and a priest. Is it better for you to be priest to the house of one person, or to be priest to a tribe and clan in Israel?" Then the priest accepted the offer. He took the ephod, the teraphim, and the idol, and went along with the people. So they resumed their journey, putting the little ones, the livestock and the goods in front of them.
Well there's the story. This isn't part of the actual history of the Judges, this is a gathering together of some accounts that enable us to see the social condition in that period when every man did as seemed right in his own eyes and there was no king in Israel. So we understand that Micah was unable to get to Jerusalem and perhaps for some kind of devote reason he decided he would build a replica of the temple on his own property. He built what he thought would be an appropriate building and he made the instruments of the tabernacle, for these are part of the furnishings the ephod included among them, but then he also gathered some of the things from the people around him; the teraphim, the images which God had forbidden.
But you see nevertheless there was a desire to get along as best he could. So he took a little bit of the world and a little bit of Israel, that which had been revealed by God, and he sort of mixed them up, until he had something that he thought might please the Lord. Then of course he was delighted beyond words when a wandering young preacher came along from Bethlehem, Judah. He was a Levite, his mother was of the tribe of Judah. Though he himself was a Levite, God had given permission through Moses that the Levites might marry into other tribes and they might join themselves to other tribes.
So this young man didn't like the living, and every Levite was provided for, but he had wanderlust and an itching foot and so he started off to see if he couldn't do better for himself than was being done. He felt that being a Levite was good but there should be opportunities associated with it, and so he came to the house of Micah. There he waited and there he was invited in and asked to become the priest. And Micah made a deal with him, he said "You'll be my priest, be my father and priest, then I'll give you ten shekels and a shirt." It says a suit but you understand that the people of the day wore what would be called a gelavia, a long sort of an outsize, well I was going to say a nightgown, I don't know if that is exactly what it is but it is appropriate at least, something like that. And he gave him a suit of clothes or a change of apparel and his food and ten shekels a year.
This was a pretty good living for him and so he decided that he would stay there and enter into the mixture of idolatry and so on that was in the house of Micah. But the people of Dan came along, they were suppose to have driven out the Amorites but the Amorites were too difficult, and they wanted to find someone that was a little easier to get out. And they came to, as you've read, to Micah's house and the Levite told them to go ahead. Then you find that they discovered that there were people after the manner of Zidonians at Laish. They were peaceful and no one was there to protect them, and so they figure this would be a very good place to take some land for themselves. When they came with the men that were sent to conquer this area they figured that since they found the land through the young Levite, it would be splendid to have his assistance.
And so they went into the house of Micah, took all the things that he had made and it cost a good bit of money, because at least two hundred shekels had been given for this one piece of furniture. And so they just took it all, made it theirs and took the Levite. Rather hard on Micah, but you'll notice the young Levite was able to adjust himself to this. It was amazing how flexible he was and how easily he could accommodate himself to such changes when there was a little rationalization along the way. As soon as he could begin to see that it was far more important to serve a tribe than one man's family. And he could minister to so many more, why he could see the wisdom of this and he could justify it. With no real strain of conscious he could make the adjustment, hold his hand over his mouth while they took the furniture out of the little chapel that Micah had built. But he was a wise man nonetheless, rather than go along at the front which put him in a place of danger or at the rear which put him in a place of danger, I say he was a wise man, he put himself right in the middle. So that if Micah had sent any of his servants to get him he was safe with soldiers on every side.
What can we call this and how will it apply to our days generation. Would I be out of line if I were to talk to you for a little while about utilitarian religion and expedient Christianity? And a youthful God? I would like to call attention to the fact that our day is a day which the ruling philosophy is pragmatism. You understand what I mean by pragmatism, pragmatism means if it works it's true. If it succeeds it's good. And the test of all practices, all principles, all truth, so called all teaching, is do they work? Do they work? Now -according to pragmatism, the greatest failures of the ages have been some of the men God has honored most.
For instance, whereas Noah was a mighty good ship builder, his main occupation wasn't ship building, it was preaching. He was a terrible failure as a preacher. His wife and three children and their wives are all he had. Seven converts in 120 years, you wouldn't call that particularly effective. Most mission boards would have asked the missionaries to withdraw long before this. I say as a ship builder he did quite well, but as a preacher he was a failure.
And then we come down across the years to another man by the name of Jeremiah. He was a mighty effective preacher, but ineffective as far as results were concerned. If you were to measure statistically how successful Jeremiah was, he would probably get a large cipher. For we find that he lost out with the people, he lost out with royalty, even the ministerial association voted against him and wouldn't have anything to do with him. He had everything fail. The only one he seemed able to please was.... God, but otherwise he was a distinct failure.
And then we come to another well known person, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was a failure from judging all the standards. He never succeeded in organizing a church or denomination. He wasn't able to build a school. He didn't succeed in getting a mission board established. He never had a book printed. He never was able to get any of the various criteria or instruments that we find and are so useful, I'm not being sarcastic at all, they are useful. And our Lord preached for three years, healed thousands of people, fed thousands of people, and yet when it was all over there were 120..., 500 to whom he could have revealed Himself after His resurrection. And the day that He was taken, one man said "If all the others forsake you, I'm willing to die for you." He looked at this one and said "Peter you don't know your own heart. You're going to deny me three times before the cock crows this morning." So all men forsook Him and fled. By every standard of our generation or any generation, our Lord was a single failure.
The question comes then to this, what is the standard of success and by what are we going to judge our lives and our ministry? And the question that you are going to ask yourself, "Is God an end or is He a means?" And you have to decide very early in your Christian life whether you're viewing God as an end or a means. Our generation is prepared to honor with single honor anyone that's successful regardless of whether they settled this problem or not. As long as they can get things done or get the job done or well it's working isn't it, then our generation is prepared to say well you've got to reckon with this.
And so we've got to ask ourselves at the very outset of our ministry, and our pilgrimage, and our walk, "Are we going to be Levites who serve God for ten shekels and a shirt?" Serve men perhaps in the name of God, rather than God. For though he was a Levite and performed religious activities, he was looking for a place. A place which would give him recognition, a place which would give him acceptance, a place which would give him security, a place where he could shine in terms of those values which were important to him. His whole business was serving in religious activities so it had to be a religious job. He was very happy when he found that Micah had an opening. But he had decided that he was worth ten shekels and a shirt, and he was prepared to sell himself to anyone that would give that much. If somebody came along and gave more, he would sell himself to them. But he put a value upon himself and he figured his religious service and his activities were just a means to an end and by the same token God was a means to an end.
Now in order to understand the implications of that in the twentieth century, we've got to go back 150, 100 years at least, to a conflict that attacked Christianity. Just after the great revivals in America with Finney, the Spirit of God having been marvelously outpoured onto certain portions of our country, there came an open attack on our faith in Europe under the higher critics. Darwin had postulated his theory of evolution, certain philosophers had adapted it to their philosophies, and theologians had applied it to the Scripture. And so about 1850 you could mark the opening of a frontal attack upon the Word of God. Satan had always been insidiously attacking it. But now it was open season on the Book, open season on the Church, and Voltaire could declare that he would live to see the Bible become a relic and just have it placed only in museums; that it would be utterly destroyed by the arguments that he was so forcefully presenting against it.
Well, what was the effect of this? The philosophy of the day became humanism. And you could define humanism this way, humanism is a philosophical statement that declares the end of all being is the happiness of man. The reason for existence is man's happiness. Now according to humanism, salvation is simply a matter of getting all the happiness you can out of life. If you're influenced by someone like Nietzche who says that the only true satisfaction in life is power and that the power is its own justification, and that after all the world is a jungle. And it is therefore up to the man to be happy, to become powerful, and become powerful by any means he can use. For it is only in this position of ascendancy or as we saw in the worship of Molech that one can be happy. This would produce in due course a Hitler who would take the philosophy of Nietzche as his working operating principles and guide and would say of his people that we are destined to rule the world. Therefore any means that we can use to achieve this is our salvation.
Somebody else turns around and says, "Well no, the end of being is happiness, but happiness doesn't come from authority over people, happiness comes from sensual experience." So you would have the type of existentialism that characterizes France today, that's given rise to beatnicism in America and to the gross sensuality of our country. Since man is essentially a glandular animal who's highest moments of ecstacy come from the exercise of his glands, salvation is simply to find the most desirable way to gratify this part of a person. And so this became the effect of humanism, that the end of all being is the happiness of man. John Dewey, then an American philosopher influencing education, was able to persuade the educators that there were no absolute standards. Children shouldn't be brought to any particular standard, that the end of education was simply to allow the child to express himself and expand on what he is and find his happiness in being what he wants to be. So we had cultural lawlessness, when every man could do as seemed right in his own eyes and we had no God to rule over us. The Bible had been discounted and disallowed and disproved according to what they said. God had been dethroned, He didn't exist, He had no personal relationship to individuals. Jesus Christ was either a myth or just a man, so they taught, and therefore the whole end of being was happiness. The individual would establish the standards of his happiness and interpret it.