Pastoral Covetousness OT

Pastoral Covetousness

Pastoral Covetousness
By David Cox

Pastoral CovetousnessA false prophet is easily identified by their Pastoral Covetousness. Simply put, he desires a high life which he gets from his relationship with the church. In this study, we look at how the Bible requires the man of God to stand far off from covetousness.

This is the first article in a series of articles on money and the minister. See Tag: http://www.theologicalsystems.com/tag/money-and-the-minister/

Old Testament Passages

We must separate in our minds all money, including a just salary from people who seek the economic benefits first and foremost. In other words, it is not wrong for a person to serve God and be paid for doing so.

1Cor 9:14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

The principle is there. What is wrong is when a minister’s mind is constantly on the economic, the financial, the benefits, the pleasures, the advantages of being in the ministry in an economic sense (or any sense). He seeks to “get” all he can from his ministry. The correct, biblical idea is to sustain one’s self and give all he can instead of doing the minimal ministry and get all one can.

Exodus 18:21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:

Jer 8:10 Therefore will I give their wives unto others, [and] their fields to them that shall inherit [them]: for every one from the least even unto the greatest is given to covetousness, from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.

Isa 56:11 Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter. Isa 56:12 Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and to morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant.

Ezek 33:31 And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.

One of the primary requirements for men in the ministry representing God is that they hate covetousness. It is not that they are to live by secular work and not take anything for their labors for the Lord. No. What God requires is that the minister’s eyes are not set on personal gain, personal ownership of luxury items and many items, and not things outside of what would be natural and normal for such a minister. Here we need to understand that the best guide is that if a pastor of a church looks at the average income and lifestyle of the people in his church, then he should be satisfied with that. Having said that, even that can at times not be enough. Some pastors refuse to consider working with poorer people and go to the rich and wealthy. Again this is a manifestation of this evil desire of covetousness.

The difference is seen most acutely in a minister’s teaching, preaching, decisions, etc. as far as the personal benefit is concerned. A good man of God will preach against the sins of the people before him, and that means often (almost always) confronting sin in people who pay his salary. He risks his own pleasure, his economic benefit, and stability in order to correctly execute his job. This bears heavily on the rest of the congregation to support him if he is doing a good job. We are not talking about luxuries and high pleasures, but a normal salary as anyone in the congregation would receive.

Mic 3:11 The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us.

The prophet here denounces ministers that change and wander in their preaching and teaching, their condemnations and commendations depending on what would benefit the prophet personally.

Exod 23:8 And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous.

While it is totally natural that the church members that love their pastor will give him things, in general, such a pastor should try to not let these gifts turn his head, or affect his judgment. In other words, what he says and does, his actions, the content of his sermons and rebukes/exhortations should all be the same without regard to what his people do for him personally. If they get mad and stop being generous, or even leave the church, that must be acceptable and fine with the man of God.

Moreover, this (what a pastor should get for his work) is an equity and balance issue. Part of making this thing right before God is what the church can afford. If you look at how many people are contributing, what is their income, what would be their tithes and a little more in offerings, then that is a factor in deciding? Another thing is if there is a lot of money available, or should be according to the number of people and the money flowing through their hands, and the church is stingy with the pastor, then that is a factor. Also, what is the church doing towards their own poor? What are they doing for world missions? etc. These are all factors. None should be left wanting, and no one should be out of proportion with regard to the rest.

Deut 16:18 Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment. Deut 16:19 Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.

1Sam 8:3 And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.

Let me start off by making a distinction. When a member of my congregation gives me a loaf of bread they baked, I will receive it. When there is a judgment, church discipline, or other possible adverse thing hanging in the future over that person, I will not take it. When we are electing deacons or something similar and a person gives me something, presuming to sway my judgment, I do not accept the thing, and/or I will tell the person that I do what I do, and if I offend them by passing over them, it is because that is my judgment. Gifts do not affect the outcome of my decisions, nor do they move my preaching away from the pet sins of those who are generous.

1Sam 12:3 Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you. 1Sam 12:4 And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man’s hand.

One of the “boasts” (defense of his own integrity in the ministry before Israel) of the man of God here is that he had not let gifts sway his decision making from justice to corruption.

Ps 26:9 Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men: Ps 26:10 In whose hands is mischief, and their right hand is full of bribes.

In some settings, a lot of things are done on the basis of personal gain, power influence, and seeking fame (which is traded for money,  riches, privileges, and other such things). I call this the “Good Ole Boy System” or the religious mafia. Good and bad, help or ignore are all based not on inheriting merit, but on “what have you done for me lately“. As a missionary visiting churches, the majority of the churches out there refuse to even consider me because I am not in their group. As one pastor said to me, “Who do you know that is one of my friends? Because I don’t know you, and I only help those who are in our group, that are part of us.” His point is one of his followers, one of those who is under his control, that he can get gain from somehow. Merit, doctrine, experience, faithfulness are all lost on these good ole boys.

Isa 33:15 He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil;

The point of Isaiah’s condemnation is that there were many in positions of being able to do things for other people, and their judgment was all screwed towards what personal benefits they could get out of a relationship, and even “not seeing” bloods or violence, gross wrong-doing because those doing it were part of the good ole boys.

Ezek 22:12 In thee have they taken gifts to shed blood; thou hast taken usury and increase, and thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbours by extortion, and hast forgotten me, saith the Lord GOD.

Usury, or unusually high-interest rates (i.e. loan sharks) and greed in the workings of a person are condemned. Money is not the first thing, it is not the last thing, it is not the most important thing. If a pastor or somebody in power has this idea, then they should be disqualified and removed. (He should step down voluntarily but these kinds of people would never do that unless publicly embarrassed and pressured).

New Testament Passages

2Pet 2:3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.

The idea of “making merchandise of you” is very important. A false prophet is a person who “uses” you. He makes friends with people in order to get things out of those people. His relationship is for the purpose of his personal benefit.

Acts 20:33 I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel.

One of the keys to understanding why a man of God cannot have any kind of covetousness about him is that he, his life, is a moral pattern for the rest of the congregation to imitate. When he is covetous, then that allows them to be covetous also, and that basically causes a breakdown in the financial underpinning of a local church.

When the pastor is covetous, and he preaches hard on sacrifice (what the membership has to do), then he is hypocritical, and again the moral underpinning of the local church is broken down. The members can do anything they want basically, and as long as they hide it, everything is okay, (that is what the pastor does, so I am good).

1Tim 6:9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 1Tim 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 1Tim 6:11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

1Tim 3:3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;

Ministers of God have a very important purpose. They are local examples of Christ, (moral patterns to be followed), which in themselves state that it is possible to follow Christ and live a life pleasing to him. So our life orientation as individuals and as a church (community) is at issue here. The leader of this community must personally live an example by his own life.

Simply put, there is something more than this world. There is an afterlife, in which there are spiritual rewards and punishments (and even loss of rewards for the saved that do not take care of their life). That being said, we must believe in this afterlife, and the final judgments of God setting things right and condemning and punishing the wrong. It is a farce for pastors to preach that, yet live for the devil, grabbing unjustly what they can grab. By their lifestyle, they deny the fact of this eternal final judgment, and the fearfulness we should have of falling under God’s condemnation. True Christians live their life with an eye on eternity, not as though eternity is a lie.

See John Ankerberg – The Sin nobody talks about — Covetousness.

As a practical matter, I have found it highly indicative of a covetous attitude when you see a person (1) try to get things in this life (the covetous normally override any moral principles in order to achieve the getting), (2) the retaining of possessions and riches (the covetous will be very stingy, never generous as a good Christian should be, and will go to extremes to keep what he has), (3) the attitude and responses when things are lost by the covetous person (they always take it hard, as if it were the end of the world).

2Pet 2:14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: 2Pet 2:15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;

God highly condemns and is angry with ministers (true or false) that have a heart for covetous practices (lifestyle).

See also We Forgot Covetousness

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