This is very common. I don’t think of it that way naturally but it is when you start looking below the covers. The first thing the Apostle Paul suggests is that there are many religious leaders in it for the money.
My reaction is … Really? Yes, really. Paul warns us in Romans 16:18 “For such people are not serving our Lord the Messiah, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” I know I am naive. I like to believe the best about people.
“Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in the Messiah we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.” | 2 Corinthians 2:17 (NIV) For more, see here.
Jesus himself, warns us on multiple occasions, to be careful about our religious leaders. Jesus says (Matthew 24:24-25) “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.”
Many days it will pay off for us to know who not to believe so as to know what not to believe. Again, Jesus warns us “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.“
How do we know if our leaders are peddling the word of God for profit? In the era of the mega-church, it may feel safe to go with the crowds. Nothing against crowds. Jesus attracted multitudes. The correct thing to do is to look for the money before getting too enamored with the messenger. How much does the minister (and the leadership team) make and from what sources (think book royalties, videos, conference speaking, etc.)? Where do they live? What kind of car do they drive? Where do they stay when they travel? I know, we aren’t comfortable thinking this way.
This is a real story. There is a ministry I am very fond of. It is in California so it isn’t around where I live. I’ve heard a lot of their ministers over the years and trust me, he is very good. As Paul said: “By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” I’ve traveled to conferences to hear the main minister speak. I began to hear that some considered him to be teaching heresy. I didn’t want to think that is true. Even though there was evidence “his fruit” i.e. doctrine was faulty, I had heard him myself. He is good at what he does. I decided to dig under the covers. There is more than enough evidence he is in it for the money. He even brags about it now and is on the way to becoming a “prosperity minister”.
For more, see here.