S15 - Run after money (lovers of money)
1 Timothy 6:10 says,
‘For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.’
It is through this craving that some have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
‘Love of money’ is a ‘disease’ that infects many of us, whether the person is a minister of the word or a homeless man. Luke 16:14 calls out the Pharisees as being ‘lovers of money’ and Mark 3:19 calls it out as being ‘the deceitfulness of riches.’
We can tell where our priorities lie by observing how we respond to money situations. Do our actions follow the money even though they do not seem like the right things to do? Can a judge, for example, be bought to look ‘the other way’?
Someone said that money is an amplifier – it makes us more of what we already are. If we are generous, more money will make us more generous. If we worry, with more money, we will worry more. And if we are arrogant, having more money will make us even more arrogant.
Money by itself is not ‘evil’ but it is the ‘love of money’ that is sin.
S16 - Accumulate wealth as an end goal
Luke 12:21 calls out a rich fool ‘who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.’
This sin is targeted at the rich, and not necessarily famous, believers.
All of us needs money to survive; it is the currency of our society. But some sees money as an end to itself. Accumulation becomes a sport. The Bible calls these people as those who ‘lay up treasures on earth’.
We have, for example, read about how some political leaders have generated so much obscene wealth but yet continue to do so. The late Robert Mugabe, the previous strongman of Zimbabwe, for example, had been reported to possess more than £ one billion and he was then already 95 years old; incidentally, he died a short while later. In such an impoverished country as Zimbabwe, his youngest son posted on Instagram a photograph of his $60,000 watch which was doused with champagne from a bottle of Armand de Brignac gold champagne, reportedly retailing at $400 a bottle. Why did you think Mugabe has chosen to accumulate?
But it is not just political leaders. Many sufficiently well off people suffer from the disease of wealth accumulation and neglect to ask God what he would like them to do with what they already have.
The issue with wealth is that we can never take it with us when we die.
S17 - Spend wastefully and carelessly (bad stewardship)
Matthew 14:20 says,
‘And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.’
Jesus had just finished feeding the five thousand. But the Bible also recorded this mundane event of clearing and cleaning up. Was Jesus an environmentalist or was he emphasizing the importance of not wasting?
There were other incidents when he miraculously turned a few fishes and loaves of bread into much food in order to feed his traveling congregation.
In John 6, Jesus turned five barley loaves and two fishes into enough food to feed more than five thousand people. Again, he got his disciples to ‘gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted’ (John 6:12). They collected twelve baskets of fragments.
Consistently, Jesus taught us the importance of good stewardship. In the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30), Jesus praised the servant who traded his talents to gain more talents. And in Luke 16:10, Jesus said that he who was faithful in a very little, could also be faithful in much. In fact, he concluded in Luke 16:12, ‘If you have not been faithful with the belongings of another, who will give you belongings of your own?’
Jesus detested waste. As believers, we have to learn how not to be wasteful – with our time, money and energy.
S18 - Accept bribes
Luke 3:13 says,
‘Collect no more than you are authorized to do.’
This came from John the Baptist. He emphasized that it was critical that if we were custodian of money or related, we were not to be corrupt. During those days, the soldiers could have collected more money and pocketed the difference.
Another important consideration is the perversion of justice. Proverbs 17:23 says, ‘The wicked accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the course of justice.’
We can always rationalize and adjust accordingly to justify a bribe. Whichever way we look at it, corruption is a sin.
Please see S15 – Run after money (lovers of money)
NB: This is not to say that believers cannot give gifts. In fact, it is encouraged. Proverbs 18:16 says,
‘Giving a gift can open doors; it gives access to important people.’
Similarly, in Proverbs 17:6, it reads, ‘A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it; wherever he turns he prospers’. The word ‘bribe’ here is the Hebrew word shochad and may be translated as a ‘present’.
S19 - Swindle money from others
1 Corinthians 6:10 uses the term ‘swindlers’. The Greek word is ‘harpages’, like a robber or an extortioner. Here again, we are referring to a person who collects (or cheats) money that is not his, as an illegal activity.
The Apostle Paul made it clear that it is a sin.
NB: If you have been engaged in swindling someone else’s money, consider the experience of Zacchaeus who professed that he would make more than a full restitution to those he had abused while in his office as a Roman tax collector.
S20 - Fail to provide for the family
1 Timothy 5:8 says,
‘If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.’
Those are quite heavy words. It is even more problematic as people in some countries choose not to work and rely on the government for welfare grants. It is equally tragic when certain man impregnates a woman and then moves away without supporting her or acknowledging the child as his own, leaving her and the child to be cared for by the state.
Choosing not to provide for one’s own household is a major sin, enough for Paul to say that this person is ‘worse than an unbeliever.’.
S21 - Profit from preaching the Gospel
Luke 16:14 says,
‘The Pharisees who were lovers of money.’
Surprisingly, it is not that difficult to accumulate money through sharing the word of God if one is charismatic and speaks messages that appeal to the audience.
2 Timothy 4:3 highlights that ‘the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.’
Inherent within us is a yearning to be spoken to and preachers can use that to their advantage. Many pastors may start off with the best of intentions but money is a great tempter, and there is a lot of money to be made in religions, and ‘speaking to their customers’.
In the US, for example, religious organizations are given tax exemptions. Churches are considered to be public charities under Section 501(c)(3). As such, they are generally exempt from federal, state, local income and property taxes.
On top of that, megachurch preachers can also make money from selling books and audio messages since they already have a receptive audience.
Of course, the question to ask is, what and how should these preachers be rewarded? Jesus had this to say in regard to preachers who benefit financially from the preaching of his words,
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations but you have made it a den of robbers’ (Mark 11:17).
Matthew 6:24 says, ‘No man can serve two masters: either he will hate the one and love the other ….. You cannot serve God and money.’
It is a sin that all preachers of the word must be careful of. As shepherds, their responsibilities are greater as James 3:1 says,
‘Not many of you should become teachers for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.’
Just like the Prophet Micaiah when addressing Kings Jehoshaphat and Ahab in the battle against Ramoth-gilead, a preacher must stay focus and speak only what the Lord wants him to speak (2 Chronicles 18:13) and it may not necessarily be a word of encouragement (2 Chronicles 18:12).
See also at B371 – Keep an eye out for false teachers.
Having said this, in order to get a balanced perspective, read also B65, Honor church elders
S22 - Profit from leading a group of believers
2 Peter 2:15 reads,
‘…. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing.’ Jude 11 talks about the people abandoning themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error.
Who is Balaam and what did he do?
Balaam was a non-Israelite and a special prophet of God; in fact, God spoke to Balaam directly.
He must had been a very reliable prophet because Balak, king of Moab, approached him with money to curse Israel when they were advancing toward Moab. Balaam did not manage to pronounce his curses because God prevented him from doing so. But he provided the key to the Moabites to weaken Israel in the sight of God; he suggested to Israel’s enemy to use women and sex to compromise their strengths (Number 31:16).
Here, it shows that even a very credible man of God can cave in to money. It is a warning to God’s servants to serve God rather than mammon (or money).
The problem lies with the fact that we don’t even know our own heart – Proverbs 16:2 says,
‘All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes but the Lord weighs the spirit.’
Pastors are really under-shepherds of our great Shepherd. Their leadership is critical because it directly impacts the state of the people and the church.
Bad-shepherding can ruin a people and potentially a nation; we have read a few of these cases with men of God who had gone awry. Elements of bad shepherding can be found in Matthew 23:13-36 when Jesus described the Pharisees of his days.
If we are unsure of our hearts, shall we not remind ourselves on the importance of contentment like the Apostle Paul?
‘Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.’ (Phippians 4:11-13)
‘Keep your life free from love of money and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ (Hebrews 13:5).
Hence, will it be wise to err on the cautious side?
S23 - Profit from selling things relating to the Gospel
‘In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”’
Outside the temple, people were taking advantage and doing business transactions. As a result, people forgot their real reason for being at the temple.
Again, there is lots of money in religion. It could be a gold ornamental cross, a special piece of ‘blessed handkerchief’ or a USB containing the teachings of the speaker. The key point: Does it distract a believer from worshiping God?
Is the church the same as the temple? Many churches also set up auxiliary businesses like cafes, child-care centres, and potentially counselling services. These are profit centres. How would Jesus react to our current business model for our modern church? There are some churches that divide their operations into different entities with the business arm under a different name run by a dedicated CEO.
It is a sin when the business becomes a distraction because the deceitfulness of riches creep in without us realizing it. It is a warning to church leaders.
S24 - Become a burden to the congregation
A leader should never be a burden to the congregation that they are serving. Paul was very careful not to be a burden to the church of Corinth when he was there. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:9,
‘I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way.’
In Acts 18:3, it was mentioned that Paul supported himself by making tents while living and preaching in Corinth.
A leader who burdens a group of his/ her members is no Christian leader at all.