31 May, 2007

Preacher For Sale: Cheap

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God puts a great premium on personal integrity. Righteous Job told his accusers, "Till I die, I will not put away mine integrity from me" (Job 27:5). Of all men, preachers must be men of integrity. Truth and honesty are the stock and trade of their profession. Hence they must "buy the truth and sell it not" (Prov. 23:23). Like Paul, faithful minister will speak the truth and lie not (I Tim. 2:7). Not only will they preach truth, they will be examples "to them that believe, in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity" (I Tim 4:12).

Satan often tempts preachers to compromise their integrity for the sake of money. Most ministers are not tempted to steal and the Adversary knows that. But he also knows that the "love of money is a root of all kinds of evil; which some, reaching after, have been led astray from the faith..." (I Tim. 6:10).  A missionary to Asia told of a young Adventist preacher who approached him, wanting a job as a minister with the Church of Christ. The missionary reminded him of the vast doctrinal differences between the two groups and asked how could he make such adjustments? To his question, the job seeker replied, "I can preach it anyway you want it." We smile at this bizarre example of a man selling his soul, yet this same type of conduct is sometimes seen in our society.

Some preachers desire to be rich in the material things of this life. Paul warned that "they that are minded to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and hurtful lusts, such as drown men in destruction and perdition" (I Tim. 6:9). This ambition for the fatter salary drives them from congregation to congregation looking for a bigger paycheck. The good that can be done or the harm done to a church by a premature departure is of little concern. "What do they pay?" is the central question. Such brethren soon learn that they can gather more gold in the business world and so most of them will eventually become "former ministers." Those of this category do not serve God out of love, loyalty and conviction, but for material reward. Jesus called such men "hirelings."  Like hireling shepherds who abandon their sheep when the wolves come, hireling preachers abandon God's flock when a larger paycheck is flashed before them, because they care "not for sheep" (John 10:11-14). Hirelings have put a price tag on their souls: "For Sale to the Highest Bidder".

There is yet another way in which Satan tempts gospel preachers to sell themselves. There will occasionally be situations where sin springs up and faithfulness demands that a class or sermon be devoted to dealing with the error. When a minister contemplates doing his duty, he is reminded that people of power and influence in the congregation don't want to hear such a lesson. Should he proceed, he may well lose his job. Suddenly the preacher is torn between his duty to God and his financial security. A man of integrity will "preach the word," he will: "be urgent in season, out of season," he will "reprove, rebuke and exhort" (I Tim. 4:2). He trusts God to protect and provide for his family. The Holy Spirit tells him, "Be ye free from the love of money, content with such things as you have: for himself hath said, I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee." When faced with such temptations to compromise, God's man responds, "The Lord is my helper, I will not fear: What shall man do unto me?" (Heb. 13:5-6).

The same type of temptation may confront a man when he is interviewing for a job that he very much wants. When asked about his convictions on controversial issues, he may be tempted to tell the questioners what they want to hear rather than what God wants him to say.  When such temptations come, we must resist the devil and he will flee from us (Jas. 4:7). When Racoon John Smith, the pioneer gospel preacher, broke with the Baptists, his friend and fellow-preacher, Jeremiah Vardeman urged him to reconsider. He warned that he would have no income, from his preaching and that he might lose his farm. To which that noble man of God replied: "Conscience is an article that I have not brought into the market, but if I should offer it for sale, Montgomery County with all its lands and houses would not be enough to buy it, much less that farm of 100 acres."

In Mark chapter 8, Jesus asked two of the most heart-piercing questions any man will face: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mk. 8:36-37 KJV). Every gospel preacher should have these words engraved upon his conscience. What would we be profited if we gain wealth and fame, honor and power from men, but lose our souls because we sold them to the highest bidder? If we were paid $100,000 per year to preach a man-pleasing message (Gal. 1:10), it would be a paltry pittance when compared to our eternal loss.

To preachers, as to all, Jesus says, "Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee the crown of life" (Rev. 2:10). What earthly reward could possibly compare with this glorious reward?


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