Wednesday, June 15, 2011
“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife…Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;…” (1 Timothy 3:2,3 KJV).
Today’s Scripture lists a few qualifications of the bishop, the overseer of the local church. One of the qualities of a bishop (sometimes called “pastor”) was that he be “not greedy of filthy lucre” (cf. Titus 1:7). The deacons were to also be “not greedy of filthy lucre” (1 Timothy 3:8). What is “filthy lucre?” Extorted money. Considering those qualifications, many preachers and deacons would be out of a job!
The Apostle Peter instructed leaders of the Jews, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof… not for filthy lucre” (1 Peter 5:2). Titus 1:11 speaks of many Jewish religious leaders who were “unruly and vain talkers and deceivers… who subvert [overthrow] whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.”
Religion is the world’s most profitable business, and for good reason. As long as someone occasionally reads from the Bible and mentions the name of Christ, no one would ever suspect the person would be guilty of extortion. Unfortunately, this very thing took place during Christ’s earthly ministry. Israel’s religious leaders “devoured” whole houses—all for the sake of money! Jesus called Israel’s Temple a “den of thieves” (Matthew 21:12,13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45,46; John 2:14-17).
Notice Jesus’ rebuke: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation” (Matthew 23:14; cf. Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47). The Pharisees and scribes had a good outward appearance, but they ministered under false pretenses—all for money. Just like today, if you pay enough, churches will pray for you.
Grace is not against giving, but it is against covetous preachers who extort money. Never let someone force you to give, such as binding you with Israel’s tithe. Beloved, beware of the money-hungry preachers!