Would a Christian pastor or leader ever deceive people in order to accumulate wealth for his church?

For many of those reading this, that has probably already happened.

But what did Jesus and the New Testament authors teach about riches?

What is written below is true, but you should look it up.

Wealth is dangerous. Warnings against it are numerous throughout Scripture—too numerous to list here. Worldly prosperity is rarely written about in a positive way.

Since it’s dangerous for people, it’s not a stretch to say that financial abundance is even more dangerous for the church. The combination of power and money throughout human history has rarely provided a good outcome. Is it impossible for wealth to be used for good? Of course not. Examples are abundant. Nevertheless, wealthy individuals and churches/religious organizations should be very careful about their accumulated riches and what they do to get it.

A year ago or so, a friend pointed out that Jesus’ account of the widow’s mite was more than just His commendation of a poor woman who had given “all she had to live on” into the temple coffers. It was a warning about the abusive use of law.

I pushed back against that interpretation, but after reading the story in context, I had to agree. This doesn’t mean the impoverished lady shouldn’t have been commended, but the main point of this account is that Jesus was going after the religious leaders and their need for wealth and significance, using Scripture and oral and written traditions to gain it and thus take advantage of people.

Before we look at the account of the widow, let’s read the passage that immediately precedes it:

“And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation’” (Luke 20:45–47).1

Then, the story of the widow follows:

“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on’” (Luke 21:1–4).

Do you see the word “widow” in both of those passages? Jesus is still on topic.

Let’s pause for a moment. Jesus warned about five things concerning the religious leaders:

They like to walk around in long robes.

They love greetings in the marketplaces.

They love the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at feasts.

They devour widows’ houses.

They make long prayers for a pretense.

In other words, these scribes desired to look important and powerful. However, they cared nothing at all about the poor, even penniless widows who should, instead, be supported and cared for. These leaders took financial advantage of such destitute people using religious admonitions in order to ensure their continuing status and well-being.

The need for importance, status, and wealth is intoxicating; yes, even for leaders in the Church.

Now look at the next verses:

“And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down’” (Luke 21:5–6).

The temple with its noble stones and offerings was beautiful, noble. Important people had given money to fund it. However, in spite of this, it would all be thrown down. All of its beauty, nobility, and importance would come to mean nothing at all.

The lesson for Christians?

Many Christian leaders and pastors admonish people to give. Tithe. Give of your first fruits. Sow a seed into a ministry.

The New Testament contains no admonitions whatsoever to give to a church. In addition, the tithe is Old Testament law. The only offering taken in the New Testament was for the poor in Jerusalem. Yes, pastors are to be cared for, but contributions to the pastor were voluntary. In fact, in the New Testament, all giving is voluntary. Christians are free from this law.

How dangerous is money in the Church? It causes Christian leaders and teachers to deceive people in order to get it.

However, someday, things that are built this way, although they may be beautiful and noble, will be all thrown down.

Judgment begins in the household of God.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.