What would you wish for if you had a “genie in a bottle?” Surely all of us at one point or another have day-dreamed about that question. Just how would we use our “three wishes?” If we were to poll people on the street, I would guess that almost universally, the wishes would go something like this. Wish #1 – Good Health. Wish #2 – Inexhaustible Riches. Wish #3 – An Infinite Number of Additional Wishes. It’s amazing how much we all think alike.
However, I know of one man who was quite different than most of us. He wasn’t given “three wishes,” and he didn’t have a genie in a bottle, but he did ask God to grant just two wishes for him before he died. Here’s what he wished for, “Two things I request of you (deprive me not before I die): Remove falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches – feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny you, and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:7-9).
Did you see that? “Give me neither poverty nor riches!” Amazing! It’s almost unbelievable that one would wish for such a thing. But how incredibly wise and insightful this man was. He understood the power that money could wield over one’s life, and thus sought to avoid the pitfalls of both riches and poverty.
The apostle Paul warned us of both extremes, teaching us to be content with what we have (1 Timothy 6:8). Such a command seems difficult to master. If we lack riches, we can easily be plagued with greed, and misplaced priorities (1 Timothy 6:10-11). If we possess riches we can find ourselves struggling with pride, arrogance, and misplaced trust (1 Timothy 6:17). Thus I see the wisdom in the two wishes made by the man in Proverbs.
The following are ten suggestions and observations, specifically for elders and preachers that will assist them in effectively handling and having the right attitude toward money.
- Elders, the money you pay a preacher is not benevolence, but wages earned (1 Corinthians 9:7-14). A preacher is not indebted to you because you give him a pay check, rather you give him a pay check because you’re indebted to him.
- Elders, be careful how you figure “the house” as part of the preacher’s salary. Having a house provided by the church isn’t as big a chunk of the preacher’s salary as some may think. Sometimes a preacher’s salary is significantly lowered because “after all, we’re giving him a house.” Yes, that house can be helpful, but don’t overlook these factors. The preacher still has to pay taxes on that “free house.” Also, consider this fact…if the house is to be considered part of the preacher’s salary, it’s salary that has to be given back when he moves, including any equity built up while he was living in it.
- Elders, pursue every tax advantage available for your preacher. I’ve heard countless preachers complain because they have to needlessly pay thousands of dollars in taxes because their elders refuse to comply with federal tax cuts offered to preachers (some of which require nothing more than a signature on a letter). Not only does this lack kindness, but it is also poor stewardship (2 Corinthians 6:1).
- Elders, don’t trivialize the preacher’s salary by jovial, light-hearted banter. While you may mean no harm by saying such things as, “I wish I got paid that much money for only working one day a week,” etc. – it sets a tone. This tone chips away at a preacher’s respect and authority, and more importantly, God’s divine arrangement (1 Corinthians 1:18).
- Elders, surprise your preacher with occasional monetary gifts. To unexpectedly show appreciation to your preacher for his good work by giving him a gift certificate for a book, or a meal with his wife, etc. will be a great encouragement to him. The good will created by these small gifts will be worth much more than the couple hundred dollars spend on these surprises in a year’s time.
- Preacher, live within your means. The only thing you should owe the church and your community is love (Romans 13:8). Outstanding debt will destroy your influence and harm the cause of Christ.
- Preacher, don’t waste money moving. Paul commanded preachers to preach with “longsuffering” (2 Timothy 4:4). Think of how many thousands of dollars are spent by churches shuffling preachers each year because of a lack of patience and longsuffering on the part of a preacher.
- Preacher, don’t allow money to dictate where you’ll minister. While money is a factor, don’t allow it to be “the factor.” Life doesn’t consist in the abundance of the things we possess (Luke 12:15). Minister where you can do the greatest good, not receive the greatest good.
- Preacher, don’t appear greedy or as if you’re in it for money. If you receive a salary, then you don’t have to receive pay for every additional thing you do. Consider refusing money for a funeral, wedding, or gospel meeting at a small, struggling congregation. Such a practice disciplines your self-control, checks your greed, and builds good will that will bless you more than the money ever could have (2 Corinthians 11:8).
- Preacher, be a good steward. If you receive a full-time salary, you’ve been blessed to be able to dedicate all your time to your ministry without the distraction of secular employment. Don’t abuse this blessing through laziness and trivial pursuits. Spend your day in fulfilling your ministry (2 Timothy 4:5).
May God help us to have a proper relationship with money. We can’t avoid it. It’s necessary to function in our society. It need not harm us, but if we don’t stay on guard, keeping our attitudes in check, it will harm us. Money is powerful! Therefore, I pray that we may all develop the contentment to be able to truly say, “Lord, grant me neither riches nor poverty.”