When Church Leaders are Getting Rich from “Ministry,” Evil is Present

1 Peter 5:1-3 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: (2) shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; (3) not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

1 Timothy 6:9-10 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. (10) For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

1 Corinthians 9:14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

The Pharisees were lovers of money (Luke 16:14). They used their position as religious leaders for personal gain. Their associates, the scribes, shared in the same wickedness:

Mark 12:38-40 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces (39) and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, (40) who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

We see then a very clear pattern throughout Scripture. Leaders in the visible church who are growing wealthy from “ministry” are corrupt or well on their way to becoming so. An elder is required to be a man not given to the love of money (1 Tim 3:3). Therefore, I pose a serious question:

How is it that the mass of Christians today are being largely taught by celebrity leaders in the visible church who are growing quite wealthy from the proceeds of their “ministry”? The ones who are writing the books we read, who publish the study Bible notes, who make the Christian conference rounds as featured speakers, who pastor the “notable” and mega churches? Why are we not insisting that their incomes be made public?

Our Lord Jesus Christ was not wealthy. The Apostles were not wealthy, nor did they grow wealthy. The most pathetic “church” addressed by the Lord was that at Laodicea of which Christ said:

Revelation 3:15-17 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! (16) So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (17) For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

A minister of the gospel is deserving of a living. There are churches who intentionally and unnecessarily keep their pastor in poverty so the “pillars” can more easily keep him under control, and that is an evil sin. But here we are speaking of the opposite wickedness – a minister gaining fame and fortune from the ministry. Pride is dangerous. Wealth is dangerous. And wealth stockpiled from doing “the Lord’s work” simply cannot be justified.

It is long past time for Christ’s people to insist on full disclosure in regard to the financial status of the pastors, theologians, and authors who are teaching them. In most local churches this is already done annually in the published church budget. But there are celebrity leaders who are writing the notes in our study Bibles, the books that we are told are “must reads,” who are speaking regularly on the “christian” conference circuit, who are selling their sermons and taking salaries from their “non-profit” ministries that so many people listen to unquestioningly who are not being held accountable.

Do you really want to be taught by and do you really think you should trust the teaching of someone who has grown rich and continues to do so as a result of their stated “ministry”? How much of the “Bible truth” we are being fed has been polluted by the influence of money and the love of it? How many decisions in local churches and other Christian ministries are void of justice because money has swayed the verdict? No matter who a person is, no matter how soundly they appear to have begun in the service of Christ, wealth remains a danger and we are very foolish if we think that it is not having an effect on these people.

They won’t hear me, but I will ask the question and issue the challenge myself. I call on such leaders in the church to full financial disclosure in regard to monies earned from any and all of the entities they are involved with that claim to serve Christ. And I would go further. I would challenge them to stop receiving wealth that they do not need. Any ministry entity that is paying large sums to their leaders, beyond what is really necessary and commensurate with the culture they are in, is working to the corruption and destruction of those leaders. Human beings are human beings. Wealth and fame corrupt.