Thursday, October 25, 2007

Finding Reliable Men: Not a Lover of Money

It's an ol' school O'Jays kinda morning in the Cayman Islands. Well, maybe not in the Cayman Islands, but in my office in the Cayman Islands.

When I turned to Paul's instructions to Timothy on finding qualified overseers, this morning's qualification reminded me of a classic O'Jays song called, "For the Love of Money." Here are some of the lyrics for the unitiated (I see the rest of y'all already bobbing your heads):

For the love of money
People will steal from their mother
For the love of money
People will rob their own brother
For the love of money
People can't even walk the street
Because they never know who in the world they're gonna beat
For that lean, mean, mean green
Almighty dollar, money

For the love of money
People will lie, Lord, they will cheat
For the love of money
People don't care who they hurt or beat
For the love of money
A woman will sell her precious body
For a small piece of paper it carries a lot of weight
Call it lean, mean, mean green
Almighty dollar

Perhaps one of the most frequent criticism I hear of Christian churches is the fear that "all the pastor/church wants is my money." And let's be honest, with the non-stop jingles and pithy promises of a big spiritual pay-off that fills the air on some television stations, one can understand how people might fear this. The Daddy Graces, Kenneth Copelands, "Cashflow" Dollars of the world have made this a real issue. And before the contemporary televangelists stepped on the scene, there were popes and their underlings selling indulgences and the like to finance their tastes in high-quality art and monuments to men.

Against all of this, the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy to find men who are "not a lover of money." The KJV does its usually poetic and lively job with language here. The man is "not greedy of filthy lucre." And this rendering gets closer to the compound word used here. Paul has in view an indecent, dishonorable gain, a person who is eager to gain even at the expense of moral character. Interestingly, the term is only used in 1 Tim. 3, 8 and Titus 1:7, where Paul describes qualifications for elders and deacons. It would seem that the Lord has a unique concern for an elders' attitude toward money, that he not be the kind of man that would sell his soul for a buck.

Paul is giving another negative quality. Greed and love for money is to be absent or negated in the potential elder's life.

Some Observations and Questions to Ask (Please add others)

1. Does the prospective elder give generously and sacrifically? One mark of independence or freedom from money and love for it is giving. We are to store up for ourselves treasure in heaven, not on earth, to serve the Lord and not money (Matt. 6:19-24). Prizing Christ and the things of His kingdom will result in sacrificial, generous and cheerful giving among other things. Does the prospective elder give generously to the work of the church? (which may also be a measure of his commitment to the church). Does he give to the needs of others as opportunity permits? Or, is he a horder?

2. Are his investments heavenward or earthly-minded? Surely it's appropriate that a man provides for the needs of his household (1 Tim. 5:8). But does his investments tend toward excess and a love for excess? Is he financially over-extended? What kinds of debt is he carrying (consumer debts or "necessary" debt like mortgages)? Does he purchase fancy cars when a more modest model were an option? Does he love large and expensive houses when a more modest home might have met his needs? Is his savings disproportionate to his giving? And beyond merely having a fancy car or big house, does he go away like the rich young ruler at the suggestion of giving it up, giving to the poor, and following Christ with a more basic lifestyle? Can a heart attached to the world be discerned in conversation with a prospective elder about his purchases and use of money?

3. This is a close cousin to item 2 above. What is the man's philosophy about gain in this life? What for him is the measure of success? Much of secular western philosophy tends to say, "Get all you can, can all you get, then sit on your can." Or the other, more mercenary slogan: "The golden rule: he who has the most gold rules." Does the prospective elder hold either of these outlooks. Is money power in his mind? Is the amassing of money the measure of success for him? Does he horde what he gets? Is his sense of self-worth built upon possessions and wealth? Contrast all of that with Paul's instruction just a little later in 1 Timothy: "Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that" (6:6-8).

4. Consider the man's professional and personal decisions, whether they are calculated to pursue gain. Does the prospective elder organize his life around the goal of monetary gain or pursuit of kingdom objectives? "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" (1 Tim. 6:9-10). The love of money will manifest itself in practical decisions and schemes, leading to temptation, ruin and destruction. Is the man given to over-work in the pursuit of gain, while his family or spiritual life suffers? Is he willing to bend the Lord's word or commands in order to justify pursuit of riches? Does he seem willing to make professional and family decisions (like moving to another area of town or accepting a promotion) to pursue gain at the expense of faithful involvement in the church?

5. What is his attitude toward church finances? Are there any ways that a love for money affects his outlook on the church's financial dealings? Perhaps he wants the church to stockpile cash. Or, maybe he thinks primarily about real estate value instead of whether the church's location facilitates an effective witness where one is lacking. Or, consider his participation in the approval of the church's budget. Does he seem to argue against increases in the budget because he would rather horde than invest in solid ministry? Does he approach the budget and the church's finances with faith or reliance on worldly wisdom?

6. Does the prospective elder show more regard for money than people? If there were a decision involving either serving people (even at great cost) and protecting or securing the church financially, which would he choose? Is he the kind of man that would rather be broke and serve the poor, or wealthy while surrounded by the hungry?

For a long time I resisted the urge to gospel ministry because I really didn't want to be associated in any way with the hucksters we sometimes see on TV. I thought, "Lord, let me be anything but a preacher. Too many of them seem only concerned about money." Well, the Lord will have His way... and apparently a good laugh, too. Here I am serving as a pastor in one of the largest banking sectors in the world!

The O'Jays remind me to pray this morning. They warn:

Don't let, don't let, don't let money rule you
For the love of money Money can change people sometimes
Don't let, don't let, don't let money fool you
Money can fool people sometimes
People! Don't let money, don't let money change you...

The good news is that the Lord gives us greater loves than money, which makes wings and flies away. And those loves are greater than our fear of being associated with this or that thing. He gives us greater delights in Christ... and the greatest delight of all, which is Jesus the Lamb. What a privilege it is, by God's rich grace, to preach Christ the Lamb to a world overrun with love for money. May the Lord make us all faithful and keep us from greed. And may He give to His church men who disdain the world's trinkets and serve the Master rather than mammon.

1 comment:

Logos Life Ministries said...

That'll preach Pastor T!