When Greed Disguises As Ministry
The offering plate is nearly in your hands when the pastor says, “No cash or checkbook? No problem. Just drop any jewelry you’re wearing into the collection plate!”
Unthinkable? Nope. You and I both know it’s not. I’ve witnessed this, and you’ve likely seen some version of it. Cringeworthy, I know.
Still, it’s not always clear when greed poses as ministry — especially for paid ministry professionals. I once suggested to a funeral director that his standard pay rate for conducting a funeral service be raised. His curt reply: “I thought you did this for ministry.”
So, when does greed leach into ministry? Where’s the line, and how do we know it’s been crossed?
How about whenever greed muddies the view of God’s glory?
For example, there’s the time Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, told Namaan he needed money for two poor seminarians who didn’t exist. (2 Kings 5) This sounded like a worthy cause, and Gehazi knew the newly leprosy-free Namaan was eager to give. The door for cashing in was wide open, and all Gehazi had to do was walk through it. So, he did.
But Gehazi’s greed scrambled the miracle of Naaman’s healed skin. Previously, Elisha had refused any gift from Namaan, lest the impression be given of payment for services rendered. It was a line Elisha wouldn’t cross.
But Gehazi did, and the fallout was both immediate and far-reaching. Not only did his skin immediately turn leprous, but Israel’s unbelief was also amplified. Thousands of years later, Jesus pointed out there were many in Israel with leprosy. “Yet not one of them was cleansed,” he notes. “Only Naaman.” (Luke 4:27, NIV)
An important firewall between ministry and greed is understanding the times. Elisha pointedly asked, “Is this the time to take money or to accept clothes… ?” (2 Kings 5:26, NIV) Gehazi had no answer because of his greedy blind spot. He couldn’t see the overwhelming need for gospel ministry.
So, ask yourself: What is God’s greatest fame in this moment of ministry? How is it best proclaimed? And does any payment I receive eclipse the absolute miracle of new life in Christ? Honest answers now will keep you from crossing the line between greed and ministry later.