“… not for shameful gain, but eagerly …” (1 Peter 5:2).
In the States, ministers are thought of about as well as lawyers and car salesmen—that is, not very well. Because of the numerous scandals of so many prominent televangelists, the thought is that the majority of ministers exist because they want to take people’s money to line their pockets. And some do this.
I heard the other day about a man who claimed to be a man of God who was approached by a woman who was dying and asked him to pray for her. He said he would—for TT$60,000. And she paid it!! And she was not the only one. When she recovered, he was going to tell her husband about the healing—but she begged him not to because of the amount of money. So we agreed not to say anything—but only if she paid him more money!
Now, is this to say that ministers shouldn’t be paid? Not at all! In 1 Timothy 5, we read that pastors and shepherds are worthy of double honor or double pay—in other words, those who labor in preaching and teaching the gospel are ones who deserve their wages (1 Timothy 5:18).
The problem is when this becomes the motive. While it is the responsibility of the local church to provide a proper living for their minister so he is free to study, minister, and spend adequate time ministering to his family—the minister can slide into the notion that he by his gifts, talents, influence—and even in his faithfulness that has brought growth.
But once it comes out that your motivation was not people but profit; not the souls of your flock but the size of your bank account—this will leave such a sour taste in so many people’s mouths and develop a distrust of all ministers!
One must say that this is not simply from rich charlatans but also to poor ministers who find themselves discouraged because they are struggling financially. The wear and tear of fulfilling the calling of pastor, spouse, and working an extra job can develop a resentment toward God for calling him to this and toward a church that may or may not be able to pay.
In Acts 18:3, we see that Paul was a tentmaker by trade, doing this so that no accusation of being a charlatan could be levelled against him or those with him. This was Paul’s choice in the matter and it may well be ours, too. But Paul also said that those who labor at preaching and teaching are “worthy of double honor!”
The point is that the eagerness comes from the call and from the Christ that gives the call! And this calling also comes to the church to make that call joyous. Remember in Hebrews 13:17 that in the midst of obeying the leaders who have authority over you and have to give an account for you, to “let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
Dear churches, do you realize that your pastors are a gift of God to you? Ephesians 4:11-12 says that “he gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers, to equip you for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.” Pastors, beware of taking that gift and thinking that it’s all because of you—it’s because of the God who out of his mercy and grace gave it to you. Churches, know that God provided someone to teach you, to equip you, to speak to you the truth in love, to help you grow to maturity, and to bring us together in unity!