Minute Meditation on Using God for Financial Gain: A Personalist View of Ministry and Money

I Timothy 6:10

Like virtually anyone else, Christian leaders may make a living from their vocation or “calling” to ministry, for Jesus, the Founder of Christianity, taught that “the worker deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7, NIV). However, Christian ministers may not abuse their right to financial support, living immoderately, luxuriously, because Jesus himself, for the sake of the kingdom of God, renounced worldly riches, saying, “[T]he Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58b, NIV).

In fact, in his day, Jesus was critical of religious leaders, because they worshiped money. Jesus’ teaching was clear, unequivocal: “You cannot serve both God and Money” (Luke 16:13b, NIV). “The Pharisees,” however, were bothered by Jesus’ teaching, because they “loved money” (Luke 16:14, NIV). Following Jesus’ teaching, the sacred author issued a warning to believers, namely, “Keep your lives free from the love of money” (Hebrews 13:5a, NIV).

Ministers, then, are to love God, not money, realizing that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (I Timothy 6:10a, NIV). The love of money, not money itself, can exercise a morally and spiritually corrupting influence on religious leaders, causing some of them to wander “from the faith” (cf. I Timothy 6:10b, NIV). 

Augustine of Hippo taught that it was a perversion of the Christian faith to “enjoy money and use God,” “worshiping God for money’s sake.” The apostle Paul, too, warned against those who equate godliness, say, in a so-called “successful ministry,” with making lots of money, supposing “that godliness is a means to financial gain” (I Timothy 6:5b, NIV).

Therefore, Christian leaders should not use God to make lots of money, becoming rich from ministry. In personalist terms, God is a “Thou,” not an “it;” someone, not something. God is not merely a means to an end, to be worshiped for financial profit. Rather, God is an end in himself, to be loved and worshiped as God, not used and manipulated as a religious object or thing.

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