Not greedy of filthy lucre, I Timothy 3:3.
Some years ago, I was approached by a preacher who believed that the King James Bible had been translated errantly when the Apostle Paul said; For the love of money is the root of all evil which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows, 1st Timothy 6:10. He reasoned that when a man was tempted to fornication, gluttony, drunkenness and pride that money had no part in those things. According to his wisdom, money was not the root of all evil and the King James Bible should have said it differently. It was misleading people.
What he missed while trying to reason in languages that he could barely read and certainly not think in, was that the Apostle Paul was making a comment on the fall of the anointed cherub. By thy great wisdom and by thy traffick hast thou increased thy riches, and thine heart is lifted up because of thy riches, Ezekiel 28:5. The Apostle Paul pinpointed the exact time and place wherein evil took root.
The anointed cherub took his eyes off of the God that he had been anointed to glorify and began to look at the riches that his God had so graciously granted to him. In the fall of Adam, that was transferred to man's nature. Part of my sorrow in pastoring among poor rural people in a very fallen America is that without having any of the trappings of wealth, they have the sorrows of wealth.
Without having two cents to rub together, they covet money. They often live in shabby rusted trailers at the end of muddy driveways and dream of taking their next welfare payment and buying a winning lottery ticket. They can be seen at convenience store counters huddled over a string of lottery tickets slowly scratching away hoping to end their poverty. Their schemes and shading of laws by lying to social services and ex-spouses keep them in perpetual misery and sorrow.
In the early 1970s I left rural Western New York and began to meet city people my age from New York City and Long Island. I remember being shocked at how many of them came from broken homes, hated their own siblings and needed antidepressants. They were sustained by rich parents who sent them all of the latest toys and gadgets and saw to it that they had sufficient party money. I had seen sorrow and broken homes in Cattaraugus County, New York but never had I seen such a level of hopelessness. Those homes were by far the minority and those who came from them coped on a higher level.
Thirty years later, I returned to Western New York. Due to the blessings of socialism, the general despair that I had seen on the faces of the rich spoiled kids was now on the faces of the poor. Now the poor came from broken homes. They hated their siblings. They all have smartphones and party money. They are on antidepressants. They are pierced through with the sorrows of coveted wealth without even getting a sniff at the money itself.
God seeks for men in such circumstances. He seeks for men who can handle wealth or handle poverty. He looks for men who will not be blinded by lack, or blinded by plenty. The Apostle Paul was to say; Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content, Phillipians 4:11. Paul found contentment in saying; Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace, 1st Corinthians 4:11. But he also found contentment in a hired house with servants. And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Acts 28:30.
Paul's last days in Rome are often depicted as a man chained to a dungeon wall eeking out epistles. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was a Roman citizen under house arrest wherein his only chain was his legal obligation to report to Cesar. He had just saved the life of one of the richest citizens of the Isle of Melita (Malta) and earned the gratitude of the Roman governor. You can be sure that the post of being governor on such a lucrative trade route was not held by any poor man.
Paul came to Rome with unexpected riches to write those last epistles and to wait to make his case to Cesar. We know from 2nd Timothy that the wealth did not turn Paul's head. He knew that the answer that he was about to give Nero would cost him his head. For those who find the plain truth of Acts 28:30 to be strange and contrary to what they have always heard, read the book, Roman Society and Law in the New Testament (Sarum Lectures 1960-1961) by Sherwin-White AN. You will see that Paul's chain was a legal chain.
When a man is ordained as a bishop, he cannot be greedy of filthy lucre. We often think of that as gambling money or bank robbery proceeds, but the sad reality is that filthy lucre is any money held by a man through covetousness. I have heard more than one missionary or evangelist tell me that he was promised all of the money from a particular meeting only to receive far less than that as a pastor secretly shifted funds.
I am reminded of the old joke about the preacher who told his wife that he had received an offer to pastor from another church. He told her that he would need to pray about it. She asked him if the new job had a larger salary. When he said that it did, she told him that while he was praying she would be upstairs packing.
One thing that I see in the blighted landscape of broken and fallen American churches is the sorry results of pastors who have continually moved on in discontent. As a pastor makes a few good moves, and as his people seem unthankful over them, he gets the feeling that he should have a larger church. I heartily agree. I tell them to make the church they have larger. Since they don't really have a clue how to do that, they get into the musical chairs game.
I have the honor to serve with a man who started an Independent Baptist Church in a small impoverished Pennsylvania town. They built their sanctuary in a corn field miles from anywhere. After 39 1/2 years of laboring in one spot, they had a regular attendance of over 150 people and a mission budget measured in 6 figures. They launched men and women to foreign fields and domestic pastorates. There is no limit to what God can do with a man who ignores the lure of filthy lucre but channels everything back into the work of God.
He spends his retirement as a janitor in a local library. I often wonder at the people who see him sweeping floors or cleaning bathrooms if they know about the eternal mansion that Jesus Christ has built for that man. It has been to our honor at the Black Creek Baptist Church to call him Pastor Emeritus and to learn from his experience. The love of money is where evil took root. A man must be measured long and hard to see that he does not covet after filthy lucre before he is ever ordained as a Bishop.