Do Gospel-workers Love Money?

Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him.
— Luke 16:14
© The Navigators. Do not use without permission.

© The Navigators. Do not use without permission.

It was not Jesus who said the Pharisees were lovers of money. It was a parenthetical comment by Luke stating what everyone knew! What’s puzzling is that the Pharisees were the religious leaders of Jesus’ day—teachers of the Old Testament law (Torah). And the great commandment was to “love the Lord your God with all your heart.” So we assume they loved God deeply. 

Even so, they were also lovers of money. Jesus Himself said the Pharisees “devoured widows’ houses” (Matthew 23:14).

We easily think of wealthy business tycoons as being lovers of money, but gospel-workers? It happens. The daily news gleefully reports about Christian leaders living lavish lifestyles or embezzling donations for exotic trips or gifts to family. 

This is a stiff warning for us. Could lovers of money also become our reputation? Just as the spiritual leaders of Jesus’ day drifted toward loving money, so can we. Being called to ministry does not immunize you from the temptation to love money.

Back to our text.

The Pharisees were scoffing at Jesus—literally “to turn up the nose.” Jesus had just finished teaching the parable of the unjust steward with the words, “You cannot serve God and wealth” (16:13). Scoffing at a sermon about putting God before wealth gives us a glimpse into the Pharisees’ values.

But the Pharisees were not reprobates—like you, they honored the Scriptures. Starting in 597 BC with the Jewish exile to Babylon (present-day Iraq), zealous scribes defended the Torah while Israel was overrun in turn by Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and finally in Jesus’ day, the Romans. These zealous scribes became the Pharisees—“separated ones.” They championed the law of Moses while Israel flirted with Greek and Roman morality.

Perhaps the love of money is a disguise for love of power. Money can surround Gospel-workers with shiny electronic gadgets, fly you to faraway mission meetings, and take you to expensive restaurants to meet donors. And wealth seems to prove to family and peers that you have finally made it.

As a former Pharisee, the Apostle Paul understood the lure of money. Is he speaking biographically when he says, “Those who want to be rich fall into temptation and a snare…” (1 Timothy 6:9)? Paul is not writing to money-loving pagans but to money-loving Christians! 

In like manner, the writer of Hebrews warned: “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5, quoting Deuteronomy 31:6).

We are not to be free from money itself, but from the love of money. The antidote to loving money is the promise that God will never desert nor forsake us. Friends may forsake us, family may forsake us, and even our stock portfolio can say goodbye—but God will not forsake us. 

Albert was a wealthy businessman in Abuja, Nigeria. And he had a reputation—not as a lover of money but as a lover of people. He regularly invited Christian ministries to use his modest home for meetings, and he provided their meals. When asked why he was so generous Albert replied, “If God owns me, He owns my pockets.”

How about you, friend? Does God own your pockets?

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, owner of all, I like nice restaurants! And tech gadgets! And I want to be up to 100% of budget. Please help me see money for what it is—a medium of exchange and not the measure of my worth. May the phrase lover of money not become my reputation. Amen.