Closing out the discussion of money and John MacArthur...

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As we've said before, we're fans of John MacArthur and don't want our questions concerning money to detract from God's people looking to him for leadership and wisdom. It's often the case that particularities of our leadership can scandalize sheep who like to think of their pastors as perfect fathers, unlike their own. This is how the celebrity business works and different commenters under these posts have noted the tendency of individual Christians to compare their own local pastors to national celebrities to the detriment of their trust of their local pastors. After all, the sins of their own pastors are obvious whereas the sins of their pastoral heroes are not.

We hope to make it clear that no pastor is above criticism. As Dad used to say (and we doubt it was original with him), "Christians grow best in the manure of criticism." Some sins are public, others more private, and others secret awaiting God's Throne.

Doug Wilson, Lig Duncan, C. J. Mahaney, Mark Driscoll, and John Piper, are...

men with feet of clay. Those who live with famous pastors day by day know the ways all pastors fail, and many of our failures are sin. Unfamous pastors the same; David and I have regular opportunities to ask our own wives, families, sessions, and members of our congregations to forgive us.

So, with that said, two final things: first, please understand that God could have sent angels to preach to and shepherd us. Calvin makes this point over and over, reminding us that it's good for us to be fed and cared for by sinful men because it humbles us to have to learn from and submit to our "inferiors." David and I are your inferiors, but please don't let that scandalize you. God set it up this way.

Second, we're going to conclude this post with an excerpt from a 1986 sermon preached by John MacArthur concerning the danger money poses to all pastors. With that excerpt, this discussion will be closed. (We've shut down comments under all posts on this subject.)

We've heard from friends of John MacArthur that we are wrong in our concerns. We may be. We wish God's blessing on John's ministry and commend him to each of you as a faithful servant of God.

And then finally in verse 3, "not covetous," aphilarguros, the two‑part word, three‑part word really with an alphaprimitive makes it a negative, but the two main parts mean to love silver, not be a lover of silver.  What a corruption that is in the ministry to love money.  And you see people as means to getting money, everybody you look at becomes simply an avenue for you to get rich.  That is such a temptation.  And that's why in 1 Timothy 6 Paul says in verse 6 to Timothy, "Godliness with contentment is great gain, Timothy."  We brought nothing into the world, it's certain we're going to do...what?...take nothing out.  That's why I'm always so happy when they get that casket in the funeral home and everybody leaves the room and the guy starts taking off all the jewelry.  I don't see why they want...some people want to leave it all on the guy. I mean, he's not going anywhere with it.  Take nothing out.

"If you have food and raiment, be content, but the people who pursue riches fall into temptations, snares, foolish hurtful lusts that drown men in destruction and perdition."  Why?  Because the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.  And some people have coveted after money, they have erred from the faith, they have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

I remember an evangelist that came to the valley years ago when I first came to Grace.  He was all over the valley preaching crusades and evangelism and, boy, everybody was hoopla‑ing this guy and people were giving me his tapes.  And it was a few years later that I saw him on television and they were doing a special on him, I think it was "60 Minutes," and his shirt was unbuttoned to his stomach and he had gold chains hanging around his neck and gold rings on his fingers and he said, "I'm out of that business, I'm into riches."  By the way, someone told me last week he's back in evangelism now, so maybe he got tired of his money, but...that's the kind of thing that is such a prostitution and such a temptation, very often.

Just to give you close to home.  A few weeks ago I got a letter from someone that said, "I'd like you to speak at a banquet we're having."  I said, "I can't do that."  We wrote back and thanked him very kindly and said I wouldn't be able to do that.  Wrote me back again and said, "We'd like you to come and be our speaker and I'll give you a $5000 honorarium."  Well I've never ever had a $5000 honorarium or anything remotely related to that.  And so I realized I was in a very difficult position, right?  If I say yes, the guy knows that I will speak for money.  If I say no, I'm nuts.  I mean, it was only across town, too, see.  So, I'm saying to the Lord, "Now how do I do this."  And so I wrote him and said if you would allow me the privilege of taking the money and giving it to someone other than myself, then I'd be happy to do that because I can think of some areas of ministry where there's some great need and it would be a joy for me to be able to know that that was provided for those ministries.  So I said I'll do it on that basis.  But you have to guard yourself very much, very cautiously.

Anyone of you who was offered $5000 for a 40 minute message could probably think of something to say.  And it would be a very small problem for me to come up with something.  And so it's easy to get tempted and those things are tests of where your heart is.  One of the things I've done in my own life, I write a lot of books and so publishers would want me to write a book and you can get into a negotiating situation with royalties on books and things like that. I've always had a simple policy and that is I never negotiate a contract.  If I want to write a book and I feel the publisher's committed to publishing it, I'll accept whatever they offer.  It doesn't matter what it is.  If I don't seek it then I can accept it from the Lord.  As soon as I get into the negotiation, then I'm in the struggle to see how much money I can get.  So that's something I will never do, have never done and I've told the publishers I work with that, that's probably why I get such low royalties.  But that's all right.  I don't want it to be any different because I feel that as one who serves the Lord Jesus Christ and whose needs are met by the church and by your gracious and kind generosity to me, I never want to get into a situation where I am trying my best to get certain amounts of money.  I don't want to do that.  That's not something that I am interested in.  I want to keep myself clean from that kind of involvement.  But that kind of temptation can be there.

There's a simple principle I've used and that is this, if you seek for nothing you can take whatever comes as from the Lord.  So I don't ever seek...people say, "How much do you charge for this?"  I don't charge anything for anything.  That's something that's up to the ministry, if they want to give me something fine, if they don't, fine, it doesn't matter to me.  But when you go out and pursue money, you corrupt everything.  And if you can sit back and say whatever the Lord gives I'll take and it's up to Him, you know.  If someone gives you something and you didn't seek it, then it comes from the Lord and you can say thank you and you become a steward of it.  As soon as you start to pursue it, then it's something that you've grasped after and you've got it but you don't know whether its yours because it's what you wanted or yours because God gave it to you.  So it's very simple for me in the ministry to just draw the line at the bottom and say I don't seek anything.  Whatever the Lord provides, I thank Him and praise Him and He's been very generous.

Free from the love of money.  This is the kind of person morally who's qualified to serve in the leadership of the church of Jesus Christ.  He doesn't have any earthbound desires.  You see, earthbound desires and a covetous spirit clip the wings of faith, clip the wings of love and clip the wings of power, believe me.  He's not greedy, he's not stingy, he's not indulgent, he's not ambitious.  That's the sum of verses 2 and 3, the moral character of the man who leads the church.

My prayer is that God will give us such men, that God will make us such men because we're not all we ought to be.  And we thank God that in His grace He's allowed us to lead in His church who are still pursuing the fulfillment of all those things.  You pray for us and for the church around the world.  Let me say in closing, I believe it is becoming increasingly more difficult in our culture to find people like this because our culture is so insidiously corrupting.  To find men so qualified becomes more and more difficult.  What a challenge.  Well, let's bow in prayer.

[From John MacArthur's sermon on 1 Tim. 3:3, "The Call to Lead the Church--Elders, Part 5" (May 11, 1986)]

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

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