When I was about ten or eleven, I was a bit of a con. I got in serious trouble giving my younger brother Jon sunflower seeds to amuse me by kissing the neighbor girl. And I didn’t fare much better better when I tried to con my dad. I remember it going something like this:
“Hey, dad, here’s your favorite chair and I made you a sandwich. Here, let me turn on the television for you so you can watch that really interesting news show you like so much. And I brought you some extra chips. Let me take off your shoes and I’ll shine those up for you in a second. How about a little neck rub? You look tense.”
He didn’t buy it for a second.
“What do you want?”
Usually it was something dumb like going to spend the night at a friend’s, but the point was I had bad motives. If I was doing something nice for you, then buyer beware. I was a bit of a punk.
I think–and most of my experience bears this out–that most people in the church have good motives. I think most are genuine, honest and doing their best to love God and others. Some, not so much. I have been a part of campus ministries where guys would show up and you knew from the minute you laid eyes on them they had one goal: get themselves a girl. Paul called those guys “worms.”
But I still think it is surprising when Jude pens this warning to the church:
For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord (Jude 4).
If you’re like me you wonder who these men could be. One thing is obvious, they have enough power and control to influence the congregation. My guess: they ain’t the volunteer Sunday school teacher.
I think Jude is warning us about pastors: some of them may have bad motives and try to twist their power into more license and power for themselves. It sounds crazy, I know. But pastors sometimes have bad motives. And sometimes they leverage their position for their own selfish gain. They change grace to license, they deny the authority of Christ in place of their own.
Jude was so upset about this trend, that he felt compelled to write to them about these kinds of leaders, instead of the Gospel. Read verse 3.
As I wrote about last week, we have a responsibility to contend for our faith, and I think that means we have to know the motives of our leadership. If we don’t, certain men will secretly slip in among us.
So how do we do this? How do we test motives?
I think there is one, pretty fail-safe way to to do that. When Jesus taught, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” I think he was getting at motives. Our money reveals our motives. How we make it, protect it, use it, hoard it, share it, it all shows our heart, our motives.
When Jesus was in the temple he saw a bunch of rich dudes giving a bunch of money and making a big show of it. Their motives were obvious. Then a poor widow dropped in a couple coins, all she had to live on. And Jesus said she gave so much more.
So here’s what I am suggesting when it comes to knowing the motives of your pastors and leaders. Take a look at the financial records, including salaries, for all of your church staff and elders. Everyone, but especially pastors, should be held to high levels of accountability. And frankly, I think you should be suspicious of any leader not willing to fully disclose his and the church’s financial information.
If there is nothing to hide then there’s nothing to hide and we don’t have to worry about motives. We can move on to “the salvation we share.” And that’s a lot more fun.