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Of Poverty, Pastors and Their People – Part 1

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And He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece” (Luke 9:3)

Poverty and Tithes

Copeland admires jet
Rev. Kenneth Copeland

It was a discussion about the lavish lifestyles of modern pastors. The contributor of Luke 9:3 was insisting that these modern prophets were dubiously skimming their congregations of tithes to covet ostentatious wealth and lavish lifestyles for themselves. He insisted that tithes were not required in the church in the first place, therefore, for a pastor to continue to demand and force their congregants, the people, to pay tithes is simply a deceptive money-making scheme that must be decried. Seems reasonable in view of scandals and some incredulous examples gladly paraded in the media. However, the assertion is flawed and not supported by quoted reference.

He was insidiously suggesting that pastors had no business being rich since Jesus sent His disciples out clearly deprived. Further, that these apparently jobless people – the pastors were acting in kind, criminally fleecing working people from enjoying the fruits of their hard labor. His premises are totally wrong because if someone was told not to take more than one piece of an item, it suggests that they had more than one, may be, a lot of those items. Secondly, if they were to be provided for by their potential host, then, the host must have in excess in excess for his house before he can accommodate strangers. With regards to tithes, I truly that this is a separate discussion that contributes little to a pastor’s personal prosperity. Clearly, there is no evidence that compels a pastor or prophet to poverty as they go about ministering the gospel of salvation.

What The Bible Says

Even if you do not totally trust the Bible for its instructions in modern living, you are likely to agree that it has worthwhile history lessons in place. Therefore, regarding the behavior of pastors of prophets, it is a good place to take some guidance. Let us start by dismissing the issue of tithes with this disclaimer. I had the opportunity to counsel a colleague recently. She was worried about certain elders threatening to leave their small church because the pastor apparently withdrew the church credit card from the Secretary and the Treasurer. Therefore, only the pastor had access to church accounts and hence, people's money. Essentially, they were accusing the pastor of using the church money irresponsibly to care for himself without oversight.

I made it clear to my friend that if she could pay her dues and not pursue the details of how the money was spent, just trusting the leaders to be honest, then these complainig elders also need to learn that lesson. If you were not comfortable with the system, there is no point in forcing yourself to pay; and it is voluntary anyway. How do you know what the elders were doing with the cards to start with? If they were leaving because they lacked access to the money, that raises eyebrows. the true motive becomes questionable because that is not a request or even a challenge as it were for accountability.

Apostle Johnson Suleman

Secondly, church members must be careful around pastors because they have a godly kind of authority and responsibility. Therefore, unless my friend was truly sure about the allegations, it is dangerous to get involved. As Christians, we all believe that a judgement day is imminent, and truths will be revealed. It is best to leave the fraudulent pastor alone for God to handle because they will not only account for themselves, they will also account for those that they force out of church (Hebrews 13:17). However, should she continue to support criminality if in fact the allegations have any merit? By no means, no. It is not that reasonable because an erring pastor also needs to be preached to, and if not relenting, disciplined.

There must be systems set up to manage such issues in their church and it is her responsibility to exploit solutions that bring peace to the Body of Christ. Tithes is God’s money, church money, not pastors money. Equally, every church has laid down guidelines on how to manage that. A pastor may be paid for their services by laid down guidelines, but it is not for the local pastor to choose what to do with church money.

Can Pastors Be Rich?

Nothing in the scriptures condemn pastors or prophets to poverty. Any suggestion in that line controverts the wish of God (3 John 1:2). If for instance, a prophet comes into wealth by inheritance or personal effort must he waste to prove chastity? There is no indication that even Jesus was poor. His emphasis was not on wealth acquisition but on ministering salvation. Yet, he had a purse, Judas was his church treasurer.

Jesus was born in a manger not because his father was necessarily poor but because the hotels were full. There is no evidence that Joseph and Mary were turned away because they lacked the ability to pay. His father had a job and he apprenticed as a carpenter. There was no indication that they lacked however far the journey was. I submit that Joseph was not slothful in his business and he would have thought Jesus the same. The point about Jesus was His concern about reconciling people to God not impoverishing them or minting them for money. But He had a trade and never discouraged anyone from being wealthy. He mingled with poor who were always around Him and the rich alike (Luke 19:5).

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Pastor John is the author of The Player: Target – The Executive Suite and Director of Media Services for Omega Fire Ministries, Dallas, Texas.

This is Part 1 of a series of three articles. 

Part 2 - The Scriptures

Part 3 - Pastor & People