“If there is one who is irreproachable, a husband of one wife, whose children have faith, not open to the accusation of reckless living or undisciplined behavior, for it is required that the overseer is irreproachable as God’s steward, not intractable, not short-tempered, not violent, not greedy, but hospitable, a lover of good, prudent, upright, pious, disciplined, being devoted to the Word as taught faithfully, that he might be able to exhort people in doctrine that is sound and reprove those who deny it.”
An Elder must not be “shamelessly greedy for money,” as Danker’s lexicon defines the term. The word in question is αίσχροκερδής (aischrokerdes)…one who is greedy, one who is covetous, one who is materialistic, one who is avaricious, one who is acquisitive…one who is a greedy money grabber only interested in accumulating wealth (or influence) for himself. Oh, how the love of money is the root of all evil things in our society.
This kind of behavior tends to work it out in the life of God’s people in one of two ways. First, there are some who are made extreme spend-thrifts due to their love of money. They love to hoard it and gain a sense of satisfaction by the presence of the money in the bank or in its vaults. These are those reminiscent of Ebenezer Scrooge from the Charles Dickens’ story…and often they take great pride in bragging about their stinginess. To spend or use one’s resources is a painful thing to do unless there is a promise of a greater return.
The other behavior that tends to come out of this is that of being gluttonous. One need not be stingy to be a lover of money, but their money is simply a tool to acquire the material assets they desire…land, automobiles, food…things that glitter and shine in the sun. While the first group is usually associated with an ungenerous spirit, this group is seen as generous in a certain way, but at the same time, is quick to compromise any principle so as to acquire more.
How sad it is when the leadership in the church falls into either of the traps above…yet, how often it is that we see that taking place. Some church leaders are so stingy with the resources of the church that they would feign to give a beggar a day’s worth of bread. Others are so concerned with building projects and making edifices of men that will memorialize their names forever. Either way, the church ceases to function like the church is called to function.
Thus, the Elder is not to be a lover of money. As someone like John Wesley would say, “earn all you can and live modestly so that you can give all you can.” One not need be a pauper nor must one live a life of asceticism, but the Christian life is one of modest living because it is in heaven that we store up our treasures. The same must follow with the life of the church. Churches function as spiritual outposts in enemy (the Devil’s) territory, declaring truth and equipping the body to tear down the strongholds of hell in their midst. Stockpiles of resources do not do military soldiers any good if they are not allocated and employed in battle. Similarly, ornate edifices are likewise useless in the labor of the kingdom. And so, the Elder must be prudent with the resources of God, not wasting them away but also not hoarding them for himself or for the institution. Yet, look around us…have not many fallen into this trap?