The Fatal Flaw in Spiritual Leaders

Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him.
— Luke 16:14

It was not Jesus who said the Pharisees were lovers of money. It was a parenthetical comment by Luke, who was stating what everyone already knew!

Jesus had just finished teaching the parable of the unjust steward with the words “You cannot serve God and wealth (16:13). And the Pharisees ‘were scoffing at Him’—literally ‘to turn up the nose.’ Theologian Frank L. Cox wrote, "No one scoffs at a scriptural lesson on giving but the lover of money."

Lest we be too critical, starting in 597 BC with the Jewish exile to Babylon, it was the Pharisees who stood up for the Torah (law of Moses) while Israel was overrun in turn by Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and finally Romans.

They painstakingly taught that Moses was to be literally obeyed. Where the Torah was vague, they created 640 additional laws for clarity. In addition to teaching, they presided as judges in legal issues. And, they were givers! Luke 11:42 says they tithed even the smallest garden plants.

But despite their zeal for the Bible and their meticulousness in giving, the 6000 Pharisees of Jesus’ day became lovers of money. Jesus said they “devoured widows’ houses” (Matthew 23:14).

This is a stiff reminder for mission-workers. Just as the serious Bible teachers of Jesus’ day drifted toward loving money, so can we—the serious Bible teachers of our day. When a person is called to ministry leadership, he or she is not suddenly immunized from the temptation for money.

The problem is not wealth but the desire for wealth. The Apostle Paul said, “Those who want to be rich fall into temptation and a snare…which plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). Paul is not writing to greedy pagans but to greedy Christians! You don’t have to be rich to be money-hungry.

Perhaps love of money is actually love of power. Money can surround you with shiny electronic gadgets, fly you first class and take you to expensive restaurants. And it seems to prove to family and peers that you have ‘made it.’

A wealthy businessman in Abuja, Nigeria was known for his generosity. He invited Christian ministries to use his modest home for meetings, and he provided their meals. When asked why he was so generous his replied, “If God owns me, He owns my pockets.”


  • Does wanting to be up to budget’ mean you are a lover of money?
  • Martin Luther said there are three conversions—the head, heart and wallet. Has your wallet been converted?

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, owner of all, I confess that at times I am hungry for the things money can buy. Help me to see money for what it is—a medium of exchange and not the measure of my worth or success. May the phrase lover of money not become my reputation. Amen.

Scott MortonComment