Down through the years I have had people try to manipulate the church because of finances. Probably every pastor has had a person threaten to quit tithing because of some dumb reason. When pastoring in the early 90’s in Michigan (FYI: we build cars in Michigan), I had an auto worker parishioner threaten to quit paying his tithe if I drove a foreign car (I’ve never owned a foreign can, wasn’t thinking about buying one, and probably my auto worker dad would have written me out of his will too). Still I didn’t like that he tried to hold God hostage to my automobile preference. I resisted the temptation to tell him that the Bible says the early disciples drove a Honda. It’s true. In the book of Acts, Luke says they were “all in one Accord.” (That’s a dumb joke, even if you think robbing God of His tithe is a legitimate form of protest). Another time a man wanted to give his nephew $10,000, but his plan was to give the money to the church (so he could get a tax write off) and then have the church give the money to his nephew. He was going to toss the church a few hundred dollars for our troubles. Can you say “money-laundering,” boys and girls? I did not ask if he would also start calling me “Rev. Al Capone” if we agreed to his plan. I simply told him, “Thanks but no thanks.” Moreover, we have all heard tales of TV preachers who went on the air begging for money from the gullible viewers with promises of God blessing their “seed money,” only to be discovered living a lavish lifestyle off of the money given. I saw that one such preacher recently drove to church in his $325,000 automobile, that’s a far cry from Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. No wonder Paul told Timothy “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”(1 Timothy 6:10).
There have always been con-artists and profiteers who have tried to make a buck off of the church. In Acts 8, there is a crazy story about a guy named Simon who is described as a “sorcerer.” Some versions call him a “witch doctor.” The basic facts are: he offered to pay for the ability to lay his hands on people so that they might receive the Holy Spirit. As you could imagine, Peter was less than enthused by his offer and replied, “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” (Acts 8:20-23). Take that as a great big “No” from Peter regarding Simon’s scheme. God’s blessings weren’t for sale.
How we handle the money and blessings God provides are important. The question for us is what are we doing with what God has given us? Are we using his blessings for His glory or ours? Are we praying “Thy kingdom come” or “My kingdom come”? I’ve seen too many people like Simon get their eyes on money or other things instead of Jesus, and have also observed how bad behaviors or attitudes like Simon’s that can lead to a dangerous or wicked place. The bottom line is this: Seek the Lord, not money. Seek the Lord, not glory. Seek the Lord, not even happiness. Seek the Lord, not the approval of others. Seek the Lord, not some supernatural abilities and gifts. Seek the Lord, not anything else and He will supply everything you truly need!