This is quite 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 some religious leaders in it for the money.
My reaction is … Really? Yes, really. Paul warns us in Romans 16:17-20
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Master the Messiah [Christ], but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Master Jesus the Messiah be with you.
English Standard Version. (2016). (Romans 16:17–20). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles
I know I am naïve. 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)
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 are not comfortable thinking this way.
What does Jesus say?