“They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.”
False teachers are predatory (vv. 15,16). Peter gives Baalam as an illustration of someone who used religion for his own greed. He was a prototype of a religious predator.
They have forsaken the right way
These false teachers knew the “right [straight] way,” but they rejected the truth right in the face of it by their own volition. They were at the point of accepting the truth, but they rejected it. They abandoned it with finality. They forsook what they knew to be true.
and gone astray
The words “gone astray” come from one Greek word meaning deceive by leading into error, to seduce (Mt 24:4,5,11,24). False teachers love to twist the truth. They make what is false seem like truth.
following the way of Balaam the son of Beor
Balaam’s error was to make merchandise of his spiritual gifts. He sold his spiritual services for money. He held out for more money and got it. The story of Balaam is found in Numbers 22-24 and 31. Baalam encouraged the Moabites to trick Israelite men into illicit relationships with Moabite women (Nu 31:16). As a professional curser, he did his work so well that it put the entire nation of Israel in jeopardy. He placed a hex on Israel by waging psychological warfare on them.
Here is a man who got his name as an infamous character in the Bible. He now would like to remove his name from the Bible, but he cannot. No one ever called her new baby “Balaam.” This man got into a debate with a jackass, and the jackass won the debate (Nu 22)!! The jackass had more sense than Balaam.
The word “following” means to follow up or to follow out to the end. The idea is to follow extensively in a dependent manner. Following Balaam’s example, people use religion extensively for financial gain today.
who loved the wages of unrighteousness
Balaam was in the religion business for a fast buck. There is nothing wrong with a legitimate business. As well, there is nothing wrong with ambition. God does not put a premium on laziness. However, Balaam was in business to make a shady dollar out of religion. He loved the “rewards of divination” (Nu 22:7,11).
False teachers might get their financial rewards in time but will get another reward in eternity. The inordinate love of money causes some people to distort the truth. This is an issue of money motivation.
Look out for religious fakers who are in religion for money.
There are more fakers, phonies, and unregenerate preachers today than ever. Many churches preach almost anything but the gospel. You can hear New Age philosophy or how to become more successful, but not the gospel. They reject the Bible and the message of the Bible.
Today, some television preachers are in it strictly for money. It is apparent who they are. How so many evangelicals buy into their sham religion is amazing. Many evangelicals of our day are ignorant of the Bible but believe in preachers who promise them financial success and health.