Every time a pastor stands up in a pulpit to preach a sermon on stewardship, tithing, or money, just wait for it! You can almost hear the wave of groans from unbelievers and believers twisting in their seats. Why? It’s not unusual to have the preconceived idea that the church is after their money—or worse—that the pastor is stealing from the congregation.
The mainstream media feeds this view. Sitcoms of the past decade usually portray the clergy as greedy, money-hungry, and hypocritical—even preying on the vulnerable to line their own pockets. I’ve personally never met a pastor who fits this stereotype! But it’s caused many people to distrust this once-respected profession.
Let’s look at why your pastor isn’t stealing your money—and some red flags to watch out for if you have legitimate concerns.
Pastors are called to love God, not money. In 1 Timothy, Paul lists out qualifications of church leaders and says that an elder must not be a lover of money. This refers to being greedy or having a compulsion to hoard money and things. Why does this sin disqualify church leaders? Because greed corrupts. Jesus said you can’t serve both God and money. A pastor who’s in love with money is going to cater to the largest donors rather than seeking to please God.
But few pastors go into the ministry to hit it big financially. No—it’s because they have a heart for the gospel. Statistically, few pastors can survive on the tithes coming into their church alone. Many are bi-vocational or have another job outside the ministry to support their family. Also, many pastors’ wives work a full-time job so their spouse can dedicate their full schedule over to their church. Anyone in the ministry will tell you that it’s a sacrifice of money, time, and resources. It doesn’t come easy.
All pastors are to be held up to the standards in the Word of God. If someone is getting into ministry for the money, they’re out of alignment with God’s will and need to look elsewhere for a career.
Another reason your pastor isn’t stealing your money is that churches have safeguards in place. This means your church has strict procedures for counting and depositing the offering, including who can and can’t be involved. If you have concerns about where the money is going, reach out and ask your church for their budget, which is usually available to all members. Ask about their policies for handling church finances.
I’ve never heard of a church that doesn’t have some type of oversight and accountability for how the money is handled, where it’s going, and how it’s spent in different ministries.
Most churches have systems in place to stay above reproach. If you’re at a church that doesn’t, then I would be concerned. If your pastor is in the back counting up the offering, then you do have a problem on your hands. But I’d bet that’s not the case. Most pastors wouldn’t touch the offering with a ten-foot pole. They take their calling seriously. That means being a wise steward of the church’s tithe money and having safeguards in place that prevent abuse.
Accountability for Spiritual Leadership
Another reason your pastor isn’t stealing your money is that God will hold him accountable for his leadership. Pastors are called to disciple the body of Christ in their care into becoming like Christ.
God takes it seriously when those who are supposed to be loving his people end up leading them astray. We see this when Jesus warns his followers, “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18.6). There’s a heavy price to pay for anyone who exploits his people. I’d hate to see God’s judgment against a pastor who uses his congregation for his own financial ends instead of lovingly shepherding them.
What might this look like? If your pastor’s saying that God’s going to shower you with answered prayer, a new car, or health just for donating to his ministry, then you’ve got some huge red flags. There’s definitely a time and a place to preach about money and teach the whole counsel of the Scriptures. But if your pastor can’t stop asking you for money every Sunday or promises you an overflowing bank account if you give to his ministry, maybe it’s time to find a Bible-believing church. The prosperity Gospel is no Gospel at all.
In his last address to the elders in Ephesus before he was martyred, Paul says, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20.28). Jesus paid for each and every sinner with his own blood. Therefore, he’s jealous for his bride, the church. Paul says care for that bride. Any pastor will tell you that they bear the weight of that.
Ministry is not easy. It’s not lucrative. It’s not going to win you popularity contests. People are messy. I encourage you to start praying for your pastor instead of being suspicious. Have compassion for the burden that your pastor carries for your spiritual growth and the growth of others in your congregation.
If you are truly concerned your pastor is stealing money, report it! Report it to the church. Report it to the authorities. Attend a budget meeting. Meet with the elders to file a formal complaint. But if you’re using this concern as a way to weasel out of tithing altogether, it’s a poor excuse. Our job as believers is to trust and obey. That means we give wisely and generously with an open hand and let God distribute it to those who need it.
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