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Eternity 70 - The Danger Of A Profitable Ministry
Micah 3:11 LITV Her leaders judge for
a bribe, and her priests teach for pay, and her prophets divine for silver;
yet they will lean on Jehovah, saying, is not Jehovah among us? No evil shall
come on us!
What Micah is railing against here is the crass commercialization of ministry. [Now let me say at the outside that its OK to be paid for your ministry! A laborer is worthy of his hire! Fair remuneration for diligent ministry is a clear biblical mandate. 1 Timothy 5:17-18 LITV Let the elders who take the lead well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those laboring in Word and teaching. (18) For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox treading out grain," and, the laborer is worthy of his pay. See also Deut. 25:4}
The commercialization of ministry occurs when money becomes the motivation, the deciding factor. When a bible teacher goes to a church that will buy her tapes rather than to a poorer church that really needs her ministry. Or when the evangelist chooses churches on the probability of "a good love offering". This is clearly wrong. Jesus and the apostles and the great saints of God were totally unmotivated by money. It had no influence on their ministry decisions. Paul was just as content to minister to the Galatians in their "extreme poverty" as to the Corinthians in their relative wealth. Ministry is heavenly business not earthly commerce. Jesus says bluntly "No-one..can serve both God and Mammon" (Matthew 6:24). These are hard words and I struggle with them especially now that I am in mid-life with its natural desire for comfort and prestige. As human as these feelings may be they must not seize control of the direction of my ministry. I must not move out of my calling and away from those I am to serve - just for the sake of comfort.
Paul treats the topic at some length in 1 Timothy (just a few verses on from those quoted above) where he says:1 Timothy 6:5-11 CEV ...These people think religion is supposed to make you rich. (6) And religion does make your life rich, by making you content with what you have. (7) We didn't bring anything into this world, and we won't take anything with us when we leave. (8) So we should be satisfied just to have food and clothes. (9) People who want to be rich fall into all sorts of temptations and traps. They are caught by foolish and harmful desires that drag them down and destroy them. (10) The love of money causes all kinds of trouble. Some people want money so much that they have given up their faith and caused themselves a lot of pain. (11) Timothy, you belong to God, so keep away from all these evil things. Try your best to please God and to be like him. Be faithful, loving, dependable, and gentle.
True servants of God go where the Lord leads. In a few cases that may be to the elite, but for many it may be to the poor, to the slums, to those who cannot pay. As our ministry progresses this temptation increases. Early on we are content to minister to anyone! Just getting a chance to preach is an honor, and love offerings are the exception not the rule. But the years pass, and seniority and skill bring more regular appointments at larger churches. Until one day the idea of preaching to just 30 people in a poor country church seems....frankly "beneath us" now. That is an evil and wicked thought! Its pride, and it may even be greed. In the words of James 2 we "have become judges with evil motives" showing partiality for the rich over the poor. Its easy to rationalize this - we missed out in earlier years, we have to make up for lost time, they understand our message better, besides larger churches have more souls to minister to! (and so on). We need to carefully watch this encroachment of pride, elitism, greed and partiality for they are not Christian things.
Ministry must be above money. The gospel should never be part of the market, another commodity, bought and sold, where the rich have more of a chance of salvation than the poor. But this is precisely what has occurred. The poor nations have far less in the way of preachers and seminaries and ministry than say California has! And to add insult to injury their best clergy get a visa to the USA and vanish from their needy homeland. The most affluent nations have the lions share of bible scholars and the most senior and skilled ministers. On the other hand the inner cities are deserted by the clergy - who flee to the well-heeled suburbs. The poor do not have the gospel preached to them. There is one-third of this planet that has never heard the gospel, mainly because they cannot pay the preacher. If they paid well, the evangelists would be there in droves. A century ago people joked about being "as poor as a church mouse". Now we have gone to the opposite extreme with some millionaire ministers. The calling of God is being outweighed by the size of the salary. Ministry must be directed by the Lord alone, and guided by the Spirit alone. We dare not make the satisfaction of our financial needs a major factor in our ministry decisions.