Root of All Evil: By-ends and Friends
As we continue our theme of the “bad guys” of Pilgrim’s Progress, we come to the characters By-ends, Save-all, Hold-the-world, and Money-love. These three talk with Christian and Hopeful on the road to the Celestial City. While they appear religious, we soon their their faith is nothing more than going with a fad of the times. Their real loves are money, comfort, and popularity.
Getting Started: Read all of the seventh stage of Pilgrim’s Progress.
1. Character Sketch of By-ends
a. His nickname: “By-ends” means ulterior motives.
i. The nickname was given to him by those who cannot stand to be around him.
ii. He thinks the name is undeserved: He believes it is luck that has allowed him to always side with the popular opinion of the times.
b. He is from the town of Fair-speech, a wealthy city.
c. He comes from a family of aristocrats.
i. His ancestors: Lord Turn-about, Lord Time-server, and Lord Fair-speech
ii. His close relatives: Mr. Smooth-man, Mr. Facing-both-ways, and Mr. Any-thing
iii. His uncle: Mr. Two-tongues, the parson of their parish
iv. His mother-in-law: Lady Feigning, from an honorable family of noble lineage
d. His occupation: By-ends has taken after his great-grandfather by being a waterman (someone who looks one way while rows another direction).
e. His religion
i. He believes Christian and Hopeful are too rigid and strict (this was how the Puritans and nonconformists were described in John Bunyan’s day).
ii. He believes it is wise to set out on a journey with fair tides, not in all weather.
iii. He believes it is wise to secure his life and estate, not recklessly pursue God at all costs.
iv. He believes it is best to pursue religion when the times make it safe to do so.
v. He believes religion is best in “golden slippers, sunshine, and applause,” not with rags and contempt.
vi. He thinks such a philosophy is harmless and profitable.
2. Christian and By-ends disagree
Christian refuses to let By-ends be their traveling companion unless he is willing to commit himself to religion that might be unpopular, might lead to rags, or might lead to persecution.
a. Matthew 8:20
d. Acts 4:23-31
3. By-ends is joined by three old companions
a. These were men with whom By-ends went to school in the town of Love-gain, a market town in Coveting County.
b. They all sat under the teaching of Mr. Grip-man, a master of clutching, who taught them the art of getting what they wanted by whatever means, even religious flattery (see 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8).
c. Mr. Save-all
i. Thinks Christian and Hopeful are “overly righteous” (quoting Ecclesiastes 7:16)
ii. Thinks their rigidity leads them to condemn everyone but themselves (thinking of Matthew 7:3-5).
d. Mr. Hold-the-world
i. He believes Scripture is on their side
1. He misuses Matthew 10:16, thinking “wise as serpents” means being shrewd not to lose what you do not have to lose.
2. He wants to take after wealthy men like Abraham and Solomon, but falsely believes they gained their wealth from “religion.”
3. He misquotes Job 22:24, thinking God wants them to lay “gold in the dust.”
ii. He believes reason in on their side
1. He takes his cues from secular proverbs: the bee only works when it is profitable, not in the winter.
2. He mistakes the presence of God’s blessings with the approval of God to enjoy those blessings no matter the cost.
e. Mr. Money-love
i. He thinks a minister should be praised for using the pretense of religion to advance himself financially.
1. Money-love confuses God’s providence with liberty: just because the opportunity is before the minister does not mean God wants him to do it.
2. Money-love confuses character with giftings: just because the minister becomes a better preacher as a result does not mean he is a better man.
3. Money-love confuses self-denial with people-pleasing: when a minister gives up his Biblical convictions for the sake of making others happy, this is people-pleasing.
ii. He thinks a tradesman should become more religious in appearance if it means it will increase his income or station.
1. Money-love attaches value to heartless religion: he thinks it if virtuous to be religious no matter the motivation.
2. Money-love focuses on outwardly lawful behaviors: there is nothing immoral about marrying up, but nothing is said of motives.
3. Money-love confuses outward religion with real character: being religious is not itself a “good.”
f. The name in this section of Bunyan’s story are very telling. All the residents of Fair-speech are examples of Proverb 26:24-25: they are gracious speakers who disguise their real intentions. By-ends is named for his ulterior motives. His close relatives names all indicate half-hearted, duplicitous, and self-deceived men. His wife is daughter to Lady Feigning, another name indicating deception. The neighboring town is Love-gain. There Mr. Grip-man tutored By-ends and his friends, whose names are all indications of being worshipers of wealth.
4. Christian refutes their gospel of prosperity:
By-end’s friend’s philosophy is the thinking of heathen, hypocrites, thieves, and sorcerers.
a. John 6:26-27 – If it is not right to follow Christ for loaves, how much less is using Christ as a pretense for financial gain.
b. Genesis 34:1-24 – The heathen men Hamor and Schechem used religion (circumcision) to gain possession of Jacob’s daughter and cattle.
c. Luke 20:45-47 – The hypocritical Pharisees used religion as a pretense for robbery of the poor. They will be judged severely.
d. John 12:1-8 – Judas was religious but his real god was the common purse of the disciples.
e. Acts 8:14-24 – Simon the sorcerer wanted to use religious power as a means to make more money, and his heart was not right before God.
f. Mark 14:10-11 – If someone like Judas is willing to become religious to gain money, then he will be willing to sell his Master for money.
Questions for Personal Reflection (please comment):
- Have you known others to misuse Scripture in a way that tries to give validity to the worship of money? What kind of passages or stories to they turn to?
- Jesus offers a proper perspective on worldly needs in Matthew 6:25-33. What does it mean to “seek first” the kingdom of God?
- Paul tells how the wealthy are to understand and treat their wealth in 1 Timothy 6:17-19. What principles do we draw out of this text?
- What worldly benefit are you most tempted to use religion as a means to get? What is something else, other than money, that men covet that might lead you to misuse faith for personal gain?