Is it wrong to be a mega rich pastor?

Opinion Ashley Thaba

I LOVE when people ask me questions about life and wonder what the Bible says about it. It gives me a reason to seek God and study my Bible. As I will be writing these weekly motivational columns, I encourage you to feel free to write to me. I am not saying I have all the answers, but I do serve a God who has all the answers and promises “we have not, because we ask not”.

So, let’s search the scriptures together and see if God is giving us answers to the common questions many of us are asking. This week, I want to tackle a question I get asked often: “Is it wrong to be a mega rich pastor?”

The answer is not as simple as yes or no.

I would like to answer this as objectively as possible, so let’s first define who the pastor is from a biblical perspective.

In the Bible, a pastor is an elder in the church. As such, there are clear guidelines laid out as to what type of character he should have. This list, outlined mainly in 1 Timothy 3:1-7
and Titus 1:6-9, is a practical guide to help church members choose as their leader a man worthy of that position.

Among others, these qualities include not being quick tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain, hospitable, self-controlled, disciplined, able to teach, not lovers of money, faithful to their wife, and to have a good reputation with outsiders.

Let’s define what the pastor is supposed to do. In a column like this, I will need to summarise. In summary, a pastor is to prepare God’s people for works of service (Ephesians 4:12),
to lead them to a knowledge of the truth, and to encourage them to stay faithful to the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:15) and to walk in the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22).

The word, “pastor”, comes from the Latin word which means shepherd. When the word began to be used, it described a church leader treating his people like a shepherd would treat his
flock – leading them to a place where they would be well fed and safe. Following this analogy, according to the Bible, the only way to be “well fed” is found in John 6:35, which states: “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’.”

The only way to be safe is to surrender to God’s sovereign protection over us. Literally, thousands of verses promise us refuge and shelter in God, so I won’t attempt to list them all.
Instead, I will choose one. Psalms 46:1 tells us: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

We can deduce, therefore, that the main goal of a pastor is to lead people to Jesus, for in worshipping and focusing on Him, all the needs of those in his congregation will be met.
Furthermore, it can also be deduced that if a man is leading people to worship him, then that would be wrong. And it wouldn’t be the first time.

1 Timothy 6:3-5 is derived from a letter, where the Apostle Paul is writing to a pastor named Timothy, who is dealing with other area pastors. This is what Paul tells him: “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4] they are conceited and understand nothing… and who think that godliness
is a means to financial gain.”

Coming back to the original question: Is it wrong to be a mega rich pastor? To answer that, we would need to examine how he is becoming wealthy. The Bible teaches over and over that we
are to trust God with our financial needs and simply seek Him first, trusting Him to be our provider. Therefore, it is neither the absence nor the presence of wealth that is the
problem. It is the pursuit of money and the willingness to manipulate people to accumulate it. It is greed, selfishness and the desire to store up treasures on earth instead of in
heaven as scripture advises that becomes the sin.

It is amassing great wealth through exploiting those who are far less privileged that you are called to “shepherd” and take care of that is bad.
We see that the pastors of the Bible gave sacrificially to take care of their “flocks” in Acts 4:32-35, 1 Corinthians 9:13-18, Hebrews 13:16, Acts 20:33-35 to name a few references.

1 Corinthians 9:11 assures us that a pastor who sows spiritual seed is able to reap a material harvest, so there is nothing wrong with a pastor earning an income. The problem becomes
when he earns that income by dishonest and self-centred practices.

I would encourage you to study the scriptures and observe the character of the men/women of God who you are allowing to “shepherd” you. Do they possess the biblical characteristics laid
out above? Are they leading you to put your focus on Christ or themselves? That is not a question I can answer. Only you can and you would be wise to do so, lest you be led astray and
find yourself swindled out of your hard-earned money.

If you would like to hear more of my thoughts on this topic, I did a TV interview, where I was asked many questions on this topic in depth. Go to YouTube and search for Ashley Thaba.
Look for the interview done by Dichi, or some of you might know him better by the character he plays, Seretse, on the TV soapie, Muvhango!

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