The Lure of Wealth

“But, Gideon said to them, ‘Let me make a request of you. Have each man give to me the rings  from his spoil.” For they had gold rings because they were Ishmaelites.”

(Judges 8:24)

This is one of those events that you can pretty much see coming. Don’t make me king but do this for me. And when he asks for the golden rings (whether they were worn in the ear or in the nose we are not entirely sure; the culture used both), it should cause you to think back to Aaron’s request of Israel just prior to the forging of the Golden Calf. What follows becomes the downfall not only for Gideon, but for his children.

It seems an obvious observation at this point to talk about how many church leaders have been seduced by wealth and fame. And, as a result, entire ministries have fallen to the wayside, crushed under the weight of greed and sin. We need not go through a list of televangelists and their obscene salaries; we are all to aware that people like Joel Osteen and Kenneth Copeland are in the gig for nothing more than the money. And they hardly stand as examples of Christian pastors; they are snake-oil salesmen that have embraced heresy in the hopes of promoting their own brand. They come from hell and they smell like smoke to any discerning Christian.

The shame is that many theologically orthodox pastors have fallen into the same trap as well. Many of the big-name preachers whose names we all would recognize have salaries that are far greater than the modest livings of those they have been called to serve. A good rule of thumb is that a pastor and his family should be able to live on the average working salary of his congregation. Thus, if every family tithed (in principle), then for every ten families, one full-time minister could be hired to serve the congregation.

Even if you take Paul’s language in 1 Timothy 5:17 to mean that the pastor’s salary should be twice the average wage of his congregation (reflecting the value that the congregation places on the teaching and preaching of the Word of God), you still do not end up with salaries in the hundreds of thousands or in the millions that some of these well-known pastors put into the bank. As a side note, while timh/ (tim’e) can mean “compensation” in the case of worthy of double honor, it can also refer to the totality of the value that people place upon what one does. Thus, I would argue that the “double-honor” is best understood not as a double salary, but is best understood in the context of a fair wage plus the respect due to the office of those who handle the word of God for the good of the community.

Gideon oversteps his boundaries and also gives us a taste of the way kings in Israel’s history will abuse their power and influence when it comes to gaining wealth for themselves.

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