I have just finished reading ‘Cold Case Christianity’ by J Warner Wallace and I hope to post a review here soon. For now I’d like to comment on a passage I recently read in the book.
The passage below so stood out that it deserves a post on its own. Wallace is showing how the motive of the Apostles was not financial. Crime has at least one of three motivations says Wallace. They are Money, Relational / Sexual and Power. If the Apostolic writing was false it would reveal itself through a motivation to fabricate the truth by any or all of the above. Wallace clearly showed there was no hint of financial motive (or the other two). This is in stark contrast to popular so-called Christian ministries that we see today. The whole motivation is clearly financial. If these ‘Jet-Setting’ ‘Evangelists’ were the writers of the New Testament the charge of a financial motive would be easy to make. Thank God the New Testament writers were men motivated by a love for Jesus Christ and the Truth of the Gospel instead of money.
There’s much more, but here’s a lengthy paragraph from Cold Case Christianity exonerating the Apostles, but at the same time condemning much of what passes for Christian ministry today.
There are many ancient accounts describing the lives of the apostles following the period of time recorded in the book of Acts. Local believers in a variety of ancient communities wrote about the activities of the individual disciples as they preached the gospel across the region. None of these texts describe any of the disciples as men who possessed material wealth. The disciples repeatedly appear as men who were chased from location to location, continually abandoning whatever property they owned and vacating whatever homes they were borrowing. The disciples were accustomed to living in this manner; they decided to leave their homes and families when they first began to follow Jesus. Peter acknowledged as much when he told Jesus, “Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You” (Luke 18:28). The disciples rejected all material wealth, believing that the truth of the gospel provided eternal life, something that was vastly more valuable. Paul described their impoverished financial condition many times, reminding his listeners that the apostles were “both hungry and thirsty, and [were] poorly clothed, and [were] roughly treated, and [were] homeless” (1 Cor. 4:11). The apostles lived “as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things” (2 Cor. 6:9–10). If the disciples and apostles were lying for financial gain, their lies didn’t seem to be working. Those who watched Paul closely knew that he was dedicated to spiritual life rather than material gain; he “coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes” (Acts 20:33). Cold Case Christianity p. 241. (Kindle).
It’s a common accusation that Ministers of the Gospel are in it for the money. This is partly why many congregations have stopped having an offering that passes round the ‘money-bag’ – and rightly so in my opinion (But, we ought o incorporate thanks to God). We do not want the un-believer or visitor to think we want their money. I believe we ought to be careful not to give the wrong impression. I definitely do not believe the Ministers or Pastors of our churches should be on the edge of poverty to have any credibility, but neither should they be living in the lap of luxury. I remember some years ago our Pastor (not my current Pastor) went to Australia to minister and the people I worked with saw this as proof that he was in it for the money. It took some doing to persuade them otherwise – but it can be a hard case to make. Ministers or Pastors if at all possible should not be overtaken with cares for the phone bill or the electric bill or car repairs or other bills in order to concentrate on ministering the Word of God to the local Church. Dealing with people on a regular basis and expounding the scripture is care and responsibility enough, without having to be forever worrying about the next bill to drop through the letter box. We should care for our Pastors.
It is challenging. But in the circles I move in, I can’t think of a single Gospel Minister that I personally know who is in it for the money, but are zealous for the Gospel, have a heart for the lost, care for the people of God and are workmen that need not be ashamed (2 Tim 2:15), are worthy of their hire (1 Tim 5:18) and are not lovers of money (1 Tim 3:3).
What the contrast shows is that the wealth & health prosperity preachers and their acolytes at best have completely misunderstood the Gospel, or at worst are charlatans, pretenders, distorters and blasphemers: and may not even be Christians at all! Didn’t Jesus say ‘Depart from me, I never knew you’ (Matthew 7:21-23) to those that claimed to be doing wonders for God. Terrible words. Be sure it isn’t said of any of us. All of us need to hold onto what the Lord have given us with a loose hand – and by His Grace we will.