Ah, Money! We desperately need it, we make everyday use of it, we try all kinds of trade secrets for stashing it away, and we often feel the sting of having misused it. Jesus spoke volumes about the use and potential abuse of money and possessions. John MacArthur’s summary of the data is helpful:
Sixteen of Christ’s thirty-eight parables speak about how people should handle earthly treasure. In fact, our Lord taught more about such stewardship (one out of every ten verses in the Gospels) than about heaven and hell combined. The entire Bible contains more than two thousand references to wealth and property, twice as many as the total references to faith and prayer. What we do with the things God has given us is very important to Him.
Money itself is amoral, but ruin and destruction await those who love it (1 Tim 6:9-10)! For those in spiritual leadership, the urgency of corralling materialism cannot be overemphasized. Again, Peter adds strong words about serving “eagerly” rather than “for shameful gain” (1 Pet 5:2). If begrudging leadership could be deemed “forced care,” then serving to gain a profit is the worst kind of “false care!” Stated another way, where obligated service lacks sincerity, greedy service lacks integrity. Spiritual leadership becomes jealous, envious, spiteful, and partial when rooted in a desire for possessions at another’s expense. A good shepherd—devoted and honest—looks to the needs of others and carefully uses resources for the good of all. Peter describes the Christlike leader as full of zeal for the highest spiritual ideals (“eagerly,” 5:2— literally, a “devoted zeal to serve”), willing to make personal sacrifices wherever it is optimum for the flock.
Leaders in the church are frequently ensnared by the lure of riches, in spite of Paul’s unmistakable link between greed and conceit: “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim 6:17). Pride and money-love go hand in hand. Big ministry, huge budgets, and cultural relevance can quickly inflate a leader’s view of himself, making it difficult for anyone to challenge them with truth. How many churches have watched their once down-to-earth pastor morph into an aloof snob who can’t be bothered with ministry needs because they cramp his book-signing schedule or weekly tee time? Dealing with this sin while surrounded by the temptations of a culture engrossed in materialism is challenging. It requires honest evaluation and a humble spirit to see our areas of weakness clearly. How do you know whether you lead with eagerness or greed? The following ten questions can help you get to the heart of it:
- Are you a careful steward of your personal finances?
- Do you faithfully, joyfully, and sacrificially give to the Lord’s work?
- Do you secretly resent the inconveniences of ministry because you “aren’t paid enough for ministry beyond a normal work day?”
- Do you find yourself befriending the more well-to-do folks in the congregation?
- Are you easily consumed with worry and frustration over unforeseen financial trials?
- Do you nervously hover over attendance and giving statistics?
- Are you attracted to get-rich-quick schemes?
- Does your ministry demonstrate a vulnerability to church growth fads?
- How much do you talk about your material possessions and financial portfolios?
- Does receiving gifts thrill you more than giving them?
All of the above areas signal the presence of materialistic interests. The love of money has so saturated Western culture that wanton avarice is no longer a vice but the single greatest virtue of the ambitious and executive. We are called instead to strive for wealth in “good works,” and “to be generous and ready to share” (1 Tim 6:18).
Jerry Wragg is one of our ten TES campus pastors, having served as the Pastor-Teacher of Grace Immanuel Bible Church in Jupiter, FL since 2001. Jerry also serves as Chairman of The Expositors Seminary Board of Directors. This article was adapted from his book, Courageous Churchmen: Leaders Compelling Enough to Follow (Kress Biblical Resources, 2018).