Five Conclusions about Money to Pastors from Paul
We’ve been doing a series on financial conclusions from different parts of the Bible this year. So far we’ve explored conclusions from the Old Testament and from Jesus. This month, we’ll examine five conclusions from the life and teaching of Paul especially as relates to pastors. What we’ll continue to see is how consistent the Bible’s witness is when it comes to how our faith and our finances play themselves out in our lives and ministries. Dr. Craig Blomberg’s book, Neither Poverty nor Riches, is a tremendous resource in exploring these biblical conclusions.
- Everyone is called to help the poor. Helping the poor was central to all of Paul’s ministry. He was not shy about asking everyone to help however they could. In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul commends a poor, persecuted, and downtrodden church for their extreme generosity toward the poor and confronts a rich and comfortable church for their lack of generosity toward the poor (2 Cor. 8-9). Throughout Paul’s letters and ministry, there is a distinct and recurring emphasis on helping the poor (Gal. 2:10; 1 Cor. 8-9; Rom.15:24-28). How are you helping poor believers around the world? Would you be willing to give as generously as the Macedonian churches did in 2 Corinthians 8?
- Hold loosely to your material possessions. Paul presents a nuanced view of our material possessions. “He is calling not for a renunciation of material possessions, but for people who own or acquire them to ‘sit very loose’ with respect to them” (p.185). He calls attention to his own experience with wealth and poverty and concludes that in the end his focus must remain the same – Christ (Phil. 4:10-13). A loose hold on our possessions and a fixed gaze on Jesus are the keys to moving into a Pauline-type perspective on what we need to be content. Do you feel content in Christ instead of things? Where do you seek to find contentment when you are discontent?
- Greed and covetousness are fatal to your relationship with God. Simply put, if greed or covetousness are the markers of our lives, we demonstrate that we are not God’s people. Paul is very harsh in his assessment of greedy people and repeatedly concludes that greed and covetousness aren’t just sins to be battled, rather they are wounds that are fatal to our faith (1 Cor. 5:9-13; Col. 3:5-6; Eph. 5:5; 2 Tim. 3:2-5). Do greed and covetousness still reside in your life? If so, how can you take these sins more seriously?
- Generous giving is the way to battle against the dangers of wealth. Since greed and covetousness are so detrimental to our walk with God, Paul provides us with a way to fight against them – generosity. In 1 Timothy, Paul tells the rich to not “set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. . . . to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share” (1 Tim. 6:17-18). Generosity flowing from a gaze fixed on Jesus and love is the antidote to greed and covetousness running amuck in our lives (1 Cor. 13:3). What practices of generosity do you regularly practice? How can you make generosity a regular part of your life?
- Avoid appearances of using your ministry for financial gain. “Paul does whatever he can to prevent the gospel from falling into disrespect through charges either of ministry for the wrong motives or of the misuse of funds received” (p.186). Paul was convinced that if his receiving payment was going to be a hindrance to another person receiving the gospel, then he would just rather not be paid (1 Cor. 4:8-13, 9:12; 2 Cor. 2:17, 6:3, 10; Titus 1:10-11). He does balance this with instructions to churches to provide wages for their ministers (1 Cor. 9:11; 1 Tim. 5:17-18). So, in essence, he puts a burden on both parties: one to pay (the church), and the other (the minister) to use wisdom and discretion to ensure that their reason for sharing the gospel can’t be called into question by well-intentioned people. Could anyone honestly call into question your motives for serving in ministry? What steps can you take to protect against the charge of ministering for personal gain?
To learn more about what the Bible says about a theology of money see the following resources:
Blomberg, Craig L. (1999). Neither Poverty nor Riches: A biblical theology of material possessions. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Blue, Michael (2020). Free to Follow: Discover the riches of a surrendered life. Austin, TX: Thirsty Land Press.
Financial domain contributor: Michael Blue serves as the executive director and general counsel for The Ron Blue Institute for Financial Planning. firstname.lastname@example.org
Executive editor: Russ Gunsalus
Curator of content: Dave Higle