Wednesday, February 15, 2006

of men and mammon

Yesterday in my discipleship/leadership class one of my favorite professors was speaking on the temptation of pastors to let their greed for wealth destroy their ministry. It was refreshing to me that he did not just repeat the usual weak cautions concerning greed that we've all heard such as, "money is not the root of evil, the love of money is" or "have a budget to keep you accountable" or things along this vein. Not that those aren't valid cautions, it's just I feel they miss the point. My prof. went directly to the heart of the issue: the pastor's willingness to proclaim the Gospel. He took us to I Peter 5:2 where Peter says point blank, "shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness." Next he pointed us to Paul in Rom 1:15 who could not wait to get the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel in Rome. In light of these passages what happened next baffles me. My prof told the class that we should adopt the motto, "I will not seek to be paid to preach, but will be so eager to share the Gospel that I would pay others to preach to them". As my heart soared at hearing such faithful hutzbah, I looked around the class and noticed many of my classmates had a different expression on their faces: shock. People looked as if my prof had just turned into Che Guevara. Fortunately through more discussion, I feel most of the class was convinced that this was in fact a Biblical motto. But it just got me to thinking about what is it that would make such a statement sound radical, to a class of pastors in training no less. Of course all false ideaologies have their root in sin, but sin can manifest itself in different ways. Deepest of all these manifestations I believe is in the heart. This temptation to succumb to greed is a common denominator in all sinners, everywhere, in all times. Compounded with that common depravity is the apparent fact that the ministry tends to bring increased temptation to become greedy. Again I believe this is a temptation that crosses all cultural or historical boundaries. I have seen an Anglican priest in Uganda steal money from his starving congregation to line his own stomach, just as I have seen pastors in the States ruin their ministry because of misappropriation of funds. But I think the problem with some in my class was more subtle. Many have the mentality that there should be compensation for ministry when I believe in reality ministry is the compensation. True, God will provide the minister's needs (through various means, most of which include opportunities to work) those needs are just that: needs. They are given to the minister so that he can minister effectively. Look at II Tim 2:6. Paul tells Timothy that the hard-working farmer should recieve his share of the crops first. I believe this is an illustration of the pastor's relationship to the church. If a farmer doesn't eat, then he dies, then the crops die, then everyone else dies. The point of the farmer getting food is so he can get back to work and make more, so more people can eat, not so he can get fat. God gives us what we need to do His will. You may ask now, "well does that mean God only gives us what we need, and never more?" I believe the answer to that is: yes. If you find yourselves blessed beyond your needs, that merely means that God has chosen to enable you to use those blessings in way that glorifies him. The point is, wealth is not an issue, the Gospel is. If you are wealthy, use it to spread the Gospel (it is possible, I know many wealthy people who are powerful witnesses of Christ). If you aren't weatlhy then that means you don't need it to proclaim the Gospel in your context. Greed is a powerful enemy that we all have living inside us as well as assualting us from the outside. We must battle it. We must starve it. We must drown it in the Living Water of Christ. Please join me in prayer for those who minister (myself included) that they would not allow greed to bring impotence to their ministry as well as shame the name of Christ.

by His grace, for His glory
jrf

2 comments:

Tim said...

i also remember the pastor in uganda that wanted us to pay for a new roof for his house instead of the starving people in his province. when we got there and they realized we weren't going to just give them money, they just sent us to the poorest part of the district. there just seems to be a huge disconnect there, but then again, the position of pastors or reverends in Uganda are often just a social or political position that people seek for.

KosherChristian said...

“The point is, wealth is not an issue, the Gospel is. If you are wealthy, use it to spread the Gospel (it is possible, I know many wealthy people who are powerful witnesses of Christ). If you aren't weatlhy then that means you don't need it to proclaim the Gospel in your context.”
What a wonderful reminder of our position in front of an all powerful God who is sovereign. He is our provider and sustainer. Many times I feel like ministry is impossible without money and worry about being able to support my family. Thank you for reminding that it is the Gospel before all else. I Cor 9:12-27