Last spring, John Piper, pastor and leading author, addressed an embezzlement issue involving David Yonggi Cho, the founder of the world’s largest Pentecostal congregation in South Korea.
“My response to this is really not to pile on any additional condemnation…but rather to try to respond for the rest of us in a way that tries to prevent these kinds of things,” said Piper.
In his response, Piper included five precautions pastors should take related to the possible seduction of money. I’d like to pass them along to you here. Although these were shared in response to an embezzlement situation, they are good reminders for us all at any time.
1. Kill every desire to be rich and get rich
Don’t want this. If you see the desire in your heart take aim at it with the words of Christ and the words of Paul and put it to death with a swift blow with the sword of the spirit. Jesus said how difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom. In other words, don’t want this.
2. Pastors, if you see your income grow, set a governor on it
Keep away from accumulating more and more and communicating to your people that you lay up treasures on earth. One of the best ways to do this I think, is to grow the percentage of your giving. I’m not impressed with a pastor who gives 30 percent of a million dollar royalty check and keeps 70 percent of it to buy luxuries with. I’ve heard pastors boast that they give 30, 40 percent. I’m not even impressed with giving 90 percent of a $10 million royalty check and keeping a million dollars to play with. While you look like every other millionaire and think that you have done a virtuous thing. Money is insidiously deceptive. We’ve seen it over and over again and I’m pleading with pastors, be content with what the church pays you and give the rest away with joy and strategic wisdom.
3. Be totally transparent with your fellow elders about your sources of income
These elders should not be the wealthy powerful peers from outside the church. That is an unbiblical way to lead your flock. It has no biblical foundation and it communicates distrust for your local leaders and a kind of pride that you are above their local accountability. Let all the books of your income be open to any member of your church who asks the elders. Secrecy around money is deadly. It’s a sign that something is not right so work to give your ministry the flavor, ‘we’re not like peddlers of God’s word.’
4. Live simply to show that your treasure is in heaven and not on earth
Please don’t write this off as pauper theology. There goes Piper again with his pauper theology. That is absolutely ridiculous. The kind of distortion that makes of what I’m saying is a sign of fear that what I’m saying just might be true.
Get a car that works; that gets you where you need to go. Get a car that doesn’t break down on you every few months. I’m talking about a modest entertainment budget that doesn’t eat out every night. I’m talking about a refreshing vacation, not an exorbitant one. I’m talking about clothes that are unremarkable and undistracting, both for not being shabby and not being brand driven. I’m talking about a home that accomplishes your family and ministry purposes leaning towards ordinary folks in your congregation, not the wealthiest.
5. Put in place a leadership structure of a plurality of elders
A council of elders on which you the pastor have one vote. You are a chief among equals…not by having veto power over everyone else.
Wise counsel. He addressed it to pastors, but it’s applicable for us all, isn’t it? You can read the full article in it’s entirety here.