Quality #6: A Godly Leader Does Not Use Ministry to Get Money


Editor’s Note: You can read our previous articles in the series “Genuine: Essential Qualities of a Godly Minister” below!
Genuine: Essential Qualities of a Godly Leader
Quality #1: A Godly Leader’s Ministry is Confirmed by the Church

Quality #2: A Godly Leader Perseveres through Suffering for the Gospel’s Sake
Quality #3: A Godly Leader Preaches the Truth from Right Motives
Quality #4: A Godly Leader is Approved by God
Quality #5: A Godly Leader Labors to Please God, Not Man

Paul’s conscience confirmed that his motives were pure as he ministered among the Thessalonians. He labored for the glory of God, not the praise of men, and he never resorted to manipulative tactics like flattery to win the allegiance of his people (1 Thess 2:3-4.). But Paul’s conscience also bore witness that he wasn’t conducting his gospel ministry to cash in on people’s religious inclinations. Calling God as his witness, Paul stated plainly that he and his fellow-workers did not use their ministry or message as “a pretext for greed” (v. 5). Paul wasn’t using godliness as a means of financial gain, as some religious charlatans were doing (see 1 Tim 6:5). There were no ulterior motives that were disguised by a veneer of love for God and love for the Thessalonians.    

It’s true that Paul was willing to exercise his apostolic right to receive provision from believers who wanted to support his ministry (Phil 4:15), but he also refused such provision at times in order to provide fellow believers with an example of hard work and demonstrate conclusively that he was not in the ministry for money (see 2 Thess 3:6-12).    

The Driving Motivation
While there are some preachers who are clearly in ministry for the money, a true gospel minister will have no thought of entering the ministry to secure a comfortable, affluent lifestyle. I say “no thought” because this is the biblical standard. A man whose heart is under the Spirit’s influence will enter into ministry because he desires to employ his God-given gifts to glorify God through preaching his Word and shepherding the saints. His driving motivation will be the kingdom, knowing his heavenly Father will provide everything he needs in order to live and pursue a faithful ministry (Matt 6:33). He lives to multiply the talents his Master has entrusted to him (Matt 25:14-30).

While there are some preachers who are clearly in ministry for the money, a true gospel minister will have no thought of entering the ministry to secure a comfortable, affluent lifestyle.

Yes, it is right for a man to have a concern as to he will provide for himself and for his family (1 Thess 4:10-12), and Paul instructed Timothy to make sure his congregation understood their responsibility to support their pastors (see 1 Tim 5:17-18). While there will always be some pastors who are, out of necessity, bi-vocational (they hold a full or part-time job while also serving the church as a pastor), the New Testament doesn’t require that pastors follow Paul’s example and earn their own living outside of the church.

Actually, it is usually best if a local congregation can fully support its pastor so that he can immerse himself in the ministry without concern about how he is going to make ends meet (see 1 Tim 4:15). Paul’s quote from Deuteronomy 25:4—“You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain”—implies that it is in the church’s best interest to make sure their pastor is fully supported. Just like an ox will work better and longer if he is allowed to eat some of the grain he is treading, so a pastor will be enabled to pour his whole life into serving the church if he doesn’t have to give his time to securing more income.

Ministry: More than a Paycheck
Nevertheless, a man should not view ministry merely as a means to lock-in a paycheck. Pastoral ministry is a worthy, legitimate vocation. But it is different from other professions because it cannot be viewed as a mere means to procuring a salary. While it is usually best for people in any profession to approach their work as more than a paycheck, it is sometimes the case that a person must take a job they don’t really enjoy or for which they feel no compelling calling because they simply need an income.

Pastoral ministry is different. The monetary motive cannot be at the forefront of a man’s considerations for ministry. This is not to suggest that a man cannot negotiate his salary when he interviews for a pastoral role, nor does it mean that a pastor cannot request more money because he is in serious need and his present salary doesn’t cover his financial obligations or allow him the freedom to give himself wholly to the ministry. But it is to say that the driving motive for why a man is in pastoral ministry must be first the glory of God and the good of God’s people, not financial gain.              

The Need for Regular Reminders
Now, I suppose it’s possible for a man to begin with godly motives and become greedy as his ministry grows. I’m not sure of the motivations of every man who’s entered ministry and fallen into financial impropriety, but, assuming they started better than they ended, we can see the need for constant reminders from the Word of God of the kind of character that should distinguish gospel ministers. Paul’s statement here that he did not preach to the Thessalonians as a “pretext for greed,” is a crucial reminder that we can never allow money to become the motivation for why we do ministry.

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