Today is just a “short” little rant that comes from something I read in the Bible recently. When I look at so many of these preachers and ministries out and about today and see how they charge money for their so-called revelations and spiritual giftings, I am continually impressed at how bankrupt they are of truth when their activities and the nonsense some of them preach are compared with the doctrine and example of Scripture.
I was recently reading the book of Daniel (chapter 5) where King Belshazzar was seeking a prophet to bring God’s word to him. He called upon Daniel and offered him wealth and power. But I love Daniel’s response:
Daniel 5:16-17 – (the King said unto Daniel) “Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing on the wall and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.” Vs. 17 – Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.
I dare say that just about any other modern day preacher or prophet would jump at the opportunity for such a grand “love offering” from such an important person. But Daniel didn’t.
It should be obvious to most people, by even a casual reading of Scripture, that the New Testament especially reveals no such design for using the Gospel as a means for acquiring wealth.
1 Peter 5:2-4 – shepherd (i.e. care for) the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain (i.e. for the purpose of making money), but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
John 10:12-13 – A hired man (“hireling”) is NOT a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him.
In John 10, Jesus said that a hireling is not a true shepherd. I’ve mentioned that one a number of times before. The word hireling (in the Greek) simply refers to someone who takes a paycheck… and the Greek word for shepherd is the same word for pastor. Jesus calls Himself the Good Shephered (who FREELY laid down His life for the sheep) and says that His sheep know His voice and won’t follow another – and that it is intended to be one flock and one Shepherd (vs. 16). Not thousands of flocks with thousands of professional (hireling) shepherds. Indeed some have argued that they don’t believe it is fair to apply this passage to the role of pastor, because they believe it only applies to the Pharisees of Israel who rejected the Messiah. I disagree with that narrow conclusion because Jesus is consistent when He deals with matters of money versus ministry. Remember what Jesus also told His disciples when he sent them out to minister:
Matthew 10:8 – “…You received without paying, now give without being paid.”
The apostle Paul echoed this same mindset when he highlighted the fact that he worked a secular job to pay for his own expenses and did not make himself chargable to ANYONE for the sake of the message God gave Him to preach. Not only did he work to pay his own way, but also to pay the way of those he brought along with him to minister. He never made himself a financial burden to those he was called to preach to… and he wept because he knew the day would come when what he referred to as “vile wolves” would come in, not sparing the flock of God; in other words, they would take advantage of them and distort the Gospel as a means to make money!
Acts 20:29-35 – I know that after I am gone, others will come like fierce wolves to attack you. Some of your own people will tell lies to win over the Lord’s followers. Be on your guard! Remember how day and night for three years I kept warning you with tears in my eyes. I now place you in God’s care. Remember the message about his great kindness! This message can help you and give you what belongs to you as God’s people. I have never wanted anyone’s money or clothes. You know how I have worked with my own hands to make a living for myself and my friends. By everything I did, I showed how you should work to help everyone who is weak. Remember that our Lord Jesus said, “More blessings come from giving than from receiving.”
Paul also said to those who presumed to be spiritual teachers among the people:
2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 – “We also gave you the rule that if you don’t work, you don’t eat. Now we learn that some of you just loaf around and won’t do any work, except the work of a busybody. So, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, we ask and beg these people to settle down and start working for a living.”
We know that Jesus told the religious leaders that it was not possible to serve two masters and that a person cannot serve God for money and think that he is also serving God.
Luke 16:13-15 – “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” The Pharisees, who dearly loved their money, heard all this and scoffed at Him. Then He said to them, “You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts. What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God.”
To these religious leaders, Jesus makes the case clear that either money is their master or God is their master. The choice of God or Mammon is not to say that money can never be touched by a minister or that material possessions are absolutely evil, but if a person makes ministry their profession, then the profession is actually the master because it is what is being served in order to maintain the individual’s wealth. That doesn’t necessarily translate to greed or avarice, but when God calls a man to service and that man agrees to obey God, any prospect of material gain by such is irrelevant!
I’ve known pastors who gave up their so-called “calling” to pastor others because the church organization could not afford to pay them enough. In that moment, they left because they determined that their calling could only be fulfilled so long as they were paid adequately for it. Of course, they never put it in such black and white terms, but this is exactly what happened. I truly believe that Jesus offers the same strong comment to such individuals, “You cannot serve both God and money!” They often reply, “But I am not serving money… I’m serving God… You make it sound like I’m greedy and just using God to get money…” My answer? You might not be greedy, necessarily, but if you can tell me that you cannot serve God unless you are guaranteed a paycheck for it and even that you will leave your post to go search for another organization or person or groups of persons that will pay you sufficiently, how is that not making money your master? How is it that not claiming that you can be a shepherd and a hireling at the same time? It may not be comfortable to consider this, but who ever said that this was about you being comfortable?
There is much we can say about all this… Even under the Old Covenant, God REQUIRED that those wise who teach the others NOT take monetary gifts from those they speak to lest their message become tainted (the way a bribe persuades someone to do whatever necessary to bring profit).
Exodus 23:8 – And thou shalt not receive gifts* (the Hebrew word for “gift” here means “donation, present, reward, payment” or even “bribe”); for gifts blind the eyes of the seeing, and corrupt just words.
Deuteronomy 16:19 – You shall not pervert judgment; you shall not respect persons, nor take a gift* (donation). For a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous.
The Hebrew word for “gift” in these passages (meaning “payment” or “donation”) is derived from the word that means “to hire”. It is, therefore, clear that the concept presented in these passages refers to the act of paying someone, either by wage, donation or bribe, as a reward for services rendered or information received. The point being that God has never had in mind that men should charge or become accustomed to taking money for sharing a message – He gave them – with others.
Many of us already know this is true and even many of those who have become accustomed to violating the example of Scripture and ignoring it so that they may continue pretending this isn’t that big of a deal, even they (I believe) know in their hearts what is true. Sadly, I’m certain there are some whom have allowed their conscience to be seared and that means those who are the recipients of their words and actions are in a most dangerous place.
I actually had a pastor tell me one time that he could judge the spiritual condition of members of the church according to their monetary giving record (i.e. tithes and offerings). How different is this mindset from what the Lord required of His leaders who ruled Israel; for they were NOT permitted to judge people based on their financial status, nor did God allow these leaders to accept donations for their service of leadership.
2 Chronicles 19:7 – And now let the fear of Jehovah be on you. Be careful and act wisely, for there is no iniquity with Jehovah our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts. (The Hebrew word for “gifts” here means “donation”)
You know, as a side point here, I’m amazed at how even the old Law of Moses shows the love and goodness of God to the poor among His people. I remember, back in my 20’s (living on my own), I was going through a season of financial struggle and I didn’t know how I was going to make ends meet. My job barely paid enough to cover even my basic bills. I needed some money so that I could purchase the down payment for a house I was attempting to rent (I needed only $500). At the time, I was a believer in tithing and I was also a faithful servant at the church organization. I participated in everything. Church was my whole life. I decided to go to the church and request financial help so I could get into this house. I figured that I had given so much of my time and finances freely over the years that this was a small thing to ask. I also was not asking merely for a hand-out but only a loan. I intended to pay it back. The request was denied; however, one of the brothers I was friends with, gave me the money so I was able to get into the house. Now, when I contrast this to how God commanded His people to treat those who were struggling financially, it is night and day! Look at the following passage:
Leviticus 25:35-40 – And if your brother becomes poor and is not able to make a living, then you are to keep him with you (in your neighborhood), helping him as you would a man from another country who is living among you. Take no interest from him, in money or in goods, but have the fear of your God before you, and let your brother make a living among you. Do not take interest on the money which you let him have or on the food which you give him. I am the Lord your God, who took you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, that I might be your God. And if your brother becomes poor and gives himself to you for money, do not make use of him like a servant who is your property; But let him be with you as a servant working for payment, till the year of Jubilee…
From this passage we see how God intends that even the poor be treated with dignity. Someone who was struggling financially was not to be treated as a low life or burden, but as a guest. They were also not to be treated as a slave but as a fellow worker. Most interesting of all is that their requirement to work and pay toward their debt only extended until the time of Jubilee (the seventh year) in which ALL DEBTS were to be forgiven! How radically different this is from how we treat people today in the religious club… I see this example in Scripture and then I remember back how a financially successful church institution that had a pastor making $60,000 a year (and a host of volunteer workers, like myself) couldn’t loan a guy (who was a long-time member of “the family”) a measly $500 bucks so he could get a roof to cover his head. Sadly, I’ve found through my conversation with many other people, this is typical behavior, not the exception! The Scripture is full of example, showing how godly leaders were not professionals but humble servants. They generally worked secular jobs just like everyone else and God commanded them not to be in the habit of taking donations or a paycheck for their service to God’s people. Jesus told His disciples to flee the use of titles and to not position themselves over one another in hierarchical fashion like the corporate world does, yet the modern church system and pastoral structure does exactly the opposite of what Jesus commanded and demonstrated!
Luke 22:25-26 – So Jesus told them: Foreign kings order their people around, and powerful rulers call themselves everyone’s friends. But don’t be like them. The most important one of you should be like the least important, and your leader should be like a servant.
Matthew 23:4-12 – They (the religious leaders) pile heavy burdens on people’s shoulders and won’t lift a finger to help. Everything they do is just to show off in front of others. They even make a big show of wearing Scripture verses on their foreheads and arms, and they wear big tassels for everyone to see. They love the best seats at banquets and the front seats in the meeting places. And when they are in the market, they like to have people greet them as their teachers. But none of you should be called a teacher. You have only one teacher, and all of you are like brothers and sisters. Don’t call anyone on earth your father. All of you have the same Father in heaven. None of you should be called the leader. The Messiah is your only leader. Whoever is the greatest should be the servant of the others. If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honored.
Then we have these preachers that go around basically using God to make money. Most church leaders and even those attending don’t like to think of this as applying to the many programs they engage in to promote “spiritual growth”, but consider this… I cannot count how many programs I was exposed to in church world that all came at a price. In order to learn how to grow in the Lord in some area, you had to buy book and syllabus, or enroll in a full program, which sometimes cost quite a bit of money. I remember some of the religious conference we went to as well; where you’d walk in the door and there were literally table after table of “Christian” merchandise, featuring the logo for whatever program you were enrolled in – so that not only were you there to discover how to increase your “spiritual knowledge” in this area, but now you could pay money to advertise it on a mug, a t-shirt, a bumper sticker, etc. While most church folks don’t generally focus in on these details, they are still boldly apparent. Only those who can pay are privileged to gain these “special insights”… Does that really sound like anything God would endorse?
Acts 8:18-23 (the Message version) – When Simon saw that the apostles by merely laying on hands conferred the Spirit, he pulled out his money, excited, and said, “Sell me your secret! Show me how you did that! How much do you want? Name your price!” Peter said, “To hell with your money! And you along with it. Why, that’s unthinkable–trying to buy God’s gift! You’ll never be part of what God is doing by striking bargains and offering bribes. Change your ways–and now! Ask the Master to forgive you for trying to use God to make money. I can see this is an old habit with you; you reek with money-lust.”
Ouch! I don’t know many “pastors” today that would react like this to money being offered for revelation and gifting. Everything is totally and completely upside-down in today’s religious system. I do not point this out to suggest that we ought to “reform” it, but to suggest that we LEAVE IT BEHIND! It is NOT our kingdom, but resembles more the kingdom of Babylon. It is a fraud church system. It does not bear in mind the teachings of Christ, but manipulates and distorts them for its own benefit. It makes slaves of free men and women and blinds them from the truth. It is divisive, deluded, and many times demonic! Not everyone in these walls is overcome by this wickedness and I thank God for this. I also pray that God will continue drawing people to Himself and away from these false concepts of religion. What I’m talking about is the mindset that causes this wholesale manipulation. It’s not so trivial as just worrying about whether or not someone employs a religious title or whether people meet in a “church building” and give offerings. The deeper issue is what’s in the heart that is motivating these things and is God’s Word being side-stepped and exchanged for these religious obstacles? No one should fear dismissing them because they do not come from God to begin with and they are NOT essential to faith in Christ or membership in His family.
My intent by sharing this (what I have, admittedly, shared many times before) is not to encourage everyone to just live suspiciously of everyone bearing the label of “pastor” or “prophet” (though we ought to always be discerning), or to think that everyone who currently takes money for ministry is intentionally violating Scripture. On the contrary, I do believe there are some well-intentioned people who love the Lord and mean to serve God but are operating under some level of deception and ignorance because they have been raised in this error themselves. God is able to set them free – just as He has set so many of us free! That is good news! My prayer is that God will open their eyes and that He will send folks to befriend them and encourage them with love and truth to see rightly. But above all else, YOU WHO HEAR WHAT THE SPIRIT OF GOD IS SAYING, YOU CONTINUE TO BE FREE IN HIM!!! Don’t let anything or anyone distract you from that freedom! Don’t ever let any religious thing or person pull you back into legalism, bondage, and error. STAY FREE!!!!
Even Jesus told His followers you can listen to the Pharisees insofar as they accurately declare the Scriptures to you, but do not do as they do! And we also must be on our guard for those vicious wolves that Paul talked about because they are out there too. God will give us discernment by His Spirit if we will listen. For some, He will tell the people to just flee (to get as far away from these wolves in sheep’s clothing as possible). For others He may give them words to speak out and confront those wolves; to expose them… and still for others, He may call them to be a voice to their brothers and sisters in Christ who have been led astray by false shepherds.
We whom God has revealed truth to, have a responsibility to that truth… and only God can tell you how to engage that responsibility. May His wisdom guide you and His love encourage you.