Posted by: watchman | August 20, 2009

First Timothy 3: No Money Lovers

not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money
-I Timothy 3:3

“You only married for my money” I told my wife once.

Her response: “BAHAHAHAHAHA! That’s funny!”

Well, I was being funny, but I did not expect the response to be SO obnoxious. Her point was clear, though: she knew that marrying me meant life in a minister’s family, which is usually equated to poverty. In fact, some members of her family warned her about this before we got married!

The first church I ministered at paid me $400 a month. Honestly, I spent far more than that in the work of ministering. But I received so much in the way of love, encouragement, prayer, and the joy of serving God’s people. There was a care-free liberty in not receiving a stipend from the church. We were able, as a community, to focus our monetary resources in more effective ways.

To me, it is a reasonable assumption that serving God comes with poverty. The church is not there for me to fleece, it is there for me to serve.

Apparently, this is not the assumption made by some. Today, Evangelical leaders are more likely to be wealthy entrepreneurs. Average compensation for American pastors is above the national average for a middle class American worker. Such compensation figures do not include the extra perks many pastors get including – parsonage, vehicle, expense accounts, etc.

I have heard of ministers who got into the ministry because of the schedule and salary.

“Where else could I make so much without having to work too hard?”


Then, we come to the big extravagant preachers. For the past several years, Senator Charles Grassley has been looking into the expenditures and incomes of several mega church televangelists (read more here). The examination found little that was illegal, but much that was scandalous, especially for ministers:

Grassley said there have been complaints about the pastors’ extravagant lifestyles and questions about whether the churches’ tax-exempt status is being abused. That includes the personal use of Rolls Royce cars, private jets and multimillion-dollar homes. Grassley is also looking into exorbitant salaries, so called “love offerings” or cash payments to ministers; a justification for layovers in Hawaii and the Fiji Islands; and in one case, the purchase of a $23,000 commode with a marble top.

I suppose it is fine to believe in Christian Capitalism. I suppose, finding someone who is dumb enough to hand you their money is good business. Apparently, there are plenty of dumb people out there.

It seems to me, however, that the glamorous decadence displayed by clergy is a result of directly disregarding Paul’s words here in I Timothy 3.

Money is not where the person of God finds happiness.
Money is not where the person of God finds freedom.
Money is not where the person of God finds blessing.

The Christian leader should never act in such a way that leads people to find God and money in the same place. Such monetary spirituality is antichrist and robs the church of its very soul.

Well, I have nothing
I have no one
I’ve been so quickly set free

– Noah and the Whale



  1. Excellent post. Thanks. One thing to think about when you talk about $400 a week.

    Assuming you worked 45 hours a week, your hourly rate of pay (40 hours straight time plus 5 hours overtime paid at 150% of your hourly rate) would have been around $8.40 per hour.

    Assuming that you had this job before July 2009, the federal minimum wage could not have been more than $6.55 per hour, and depending upon when you worked, it might have been much less.

    Thus, on the assumptions above you would have been paid 28% above the federal minimum wage.

    Further consider that for hourly workers, there is often no paid vacation time, little or no paid sick leave, and they clock out for breaks (which makes the estimate of 45 hours a week for your work seem more reasonable).

    I’m not suggesting that you were overpaid, or that you were getting rich. I just think that the compensation paid to some workers in the U.S. bears thinking about, both in light of your comments about certain ministries above and in a more general context.

  2. Well, I must have been way underpaid, because I was actually paid $400 a MONTH!

    But, yes, I see what you are saying. Minimum wage is far too low and we need to raise it. Perhaps rich pastors will give a share of their golfing expenditures or lavish toilet expenditures to raise the min wage.

  3. The Pastor had said that God does not let us to talk to anyone who drinks wine, but this is a rather distorted, extreme interpretation of the Bible. The Bible clearly says WE ARE NOT TO FELLOWSHIP WITH A CHRISTIAN PERSON WHO GETS DRUNK.. now that is really different from not talking to any of the people who drink wine.. and why is this pastor so ready not to talk with others now too? so ready to smite them, to kick them out of church? If you have love for someone you are willing to talk with them, but if you do not have love for them, especially if, when you know they do not support you, do not agree with your presentation, do not agree with your point of view, you as a pastor too no can personally can instead refuse to love them, you refuse to talk to them, you find any excuse to reject, ostracize, divorce them basically to deny, to cover up the unacceptable reality that you yourself the pastor actually do not have any love for them.

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