“You just agree with them because of their money!” a congregant once lashed out at me.
What nonsense, I thought to myself. I’m the son of a pastor—I knew there was never any money ahead of me way before I got into ministry. On top of that, I willingly and intentionally work in urban ministry as a part-time pastor at a small church in a fairly poor community. How can someone think I treat people a certain way because of their money? I’m the kind of person who would actually tell a church to pay me less if I felt their offer was too high.
Money has the capacity to turn all things sour, including (if not especially) ministry. I’ve heard stories from pastors of how rich congregants have reminded them of how much their tithe is, which is a very spiritually dangerous thing to do worthy of great rebuke.
When Philip the evangelist was sharing the gospel in Samaria, many got saved, including a man named Simon. Before this moment he had been a magician, well-versed in the arts of the supernatural and much appraised by his community. His backstory did not blend well with Christianity at first, because the moment Peter came to his town and baptized people in the Holy Spirit, Simon’s magic-sensor went off. He ran up to Peter and offered him money to receive the same power, as though he could buy the Holy Spirit. What was Peter’s response? “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!”
Some Charismatic churches have a massive Simon problem today: “Send us a donation of $49.99 and we’ll send you a prayed-over handkerchief for your healing!” But more often than not in our churches, people try to buy the direction of the church with their giving. But we are pastors. We do not sway with cash, but with the Holy Spirit and his beloved community. The Holy Spirit cannot be bought out. And if we lose money because someone doesn’t like that, then it’s money best spent elsewhere.
*This devotional was created out of the themes of Acts 8:14-25 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net.