I was saddened recently.  Someone I have come to respect, for his willingness to seek and share truth, is seemingly being ensnared.  As I listened to him extol Donald Trump, his reverence for him was obvious.  It centered on the fact that Trump is a billionaire–and his apparent assumption that to be a billionaire implies that a person has attributes that we should admire.  (I’ll break it down for you–that fact that a person is a billionaire means that he has a lot of money–nothing more, nothing less.)

Yes, I will pray for this man.  As I’ve said before, we all have our ‘blind spot’ and our ‘Achilles heel’.  My intention here is not to criticize him, but to illuminate a way in which the thinking of many Christians does not line up with the perspective that God wishes us to have.  Instead, I would venture to say that most Christians have the same attitude toward money that ‘the world’ has.

Jesus made it clear that while we are on Earth we are stewards of what is God’s.   God decides how much to entrust to each of us.   If we prove faithful in little things, He will entrust us with more.  However, that does not mean that everyone who has a lot has proven himself faithful.

God chooses how much to entrust each of us with.  Not only does He entrust those who have proven faithful with more, sometimes He chooses to entrust a lot (at the beginning) to those who will merely squander it–or to entrust little to one who is worthy of more.

While God promises to bless those who are faithful, one cannot assume that all who are blessed are faithful–or that all who seem not to have  His blessing are not.  (And God’s blessings do not all involve money!!)

This reminds me of Jesus speaking about someone who was crippled from birth, and saying that some wondered who had sinned–the man, or his parents.  At that time, it was understood that those who sinned would see consequences, so this thinking was perfectly logical.  The problem was, that not everyone who had the ‘consequences’ had sinned–sometimes people are just ‘born that way’.   Although b may follow a, a does not always precede b . . .

At the risk of overstating it, here’s one more example: all apples are fruit–but not every fruit is an apple.

Many wealthy men have nearly (or literally) ‘sold their souls’ to acquire that wealth.  Many have trampled, oppressed, and exploited others along the way; cast aside their wife; and neglected or alienated their children.

We cannot assume that a man is good, merely because he has wealth.  Yes, you can ‘know them by their fruit’, but take care that it is the fruit you are examining!  Jesus was not referring to wealth as being fruit.  He was referring to how we treat God and other people!

My fear for this man, however, is that this wrong perspective towards wealth is only one aspect of the problem.  It seems to me that those in ministry have a tendency toward a particular temptation–and I believe it has been the root of destruction for many men of God.

After God gives them a ministry and blesses them with some measure of success, they begin to grow restless and think of how many  more people they could reach–if they just had more money.  Slowly, imperceptibly, their focus changes from seeing God as their source, to contriving ways in which they can obtain more money.

As they scheme for ways to raise more money, they begin to relate differently to people.  Suddenly, it seems prudent to them to make friends with those who are wealthy.  (The early church was admonished for showing favoritism to the wealthy.)  In wooing the wealthy, they seem to have a sort of tunnel vision, focusing on the best qualities in the other while being blind to things that aren’t convenient to see.

Of course, that is what we all tend to do when we make friends–but the danger of a Christian leader doing it is that they are giving spiritual credibility to the wealthy man, and leading their flock to do the same.  Often, because of wrong assumptions regarding wealth (as I first explained), and eagerness for a benefactor, they do not take the necessary time to get to know the wealthy man and prove his character.

Make no mistake, many who are wealthy are clever and have an agenda of their own.  Often they are willing to part with some of their money in turn for more credibility.  If they are strategic as to who and what they donate to, they can manipulate the assumptions that people make about them.

While it may be true that the average Joe donates to causes that are close to his heart, the same assumption should not be made about the wealthy.   Donations are a form of advertising, a means to marketing themself–a business expense, if you will.

Just because a wealthy man donates to a ministry, doesn’t mean he supports what they say or believe in.  He may be trying to purchase spiritual credibility in the eyes of men.  (Or, he may be trying to buy God’s favor.)

Whatever the case, a pastor who provides credibility for a man, without really knowing his character, may be allowing a wolf in sheep’s clothing into the midst of his flock.

As the old saying goes ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’.  Who Pastor, is really more valuable–the Christian man in the pew, whom God has entrusted to your care, or the man you might reach in the street?