Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com
The Bible teaching about pastoral temptations is real. It is also somewhat unique in that they encounter things that regular Christians don’t experience – at least to the same degree.
I was a minister for eight years, and was on a regular preaching roster for another seven in the Kingdom of Tonga. Many of my colleagues are preachers, and we have sort of an informal “fraternity.” I have been teaching Christian leaders for years at the Bible school and seminary level.
Consequently, I am aware of the battles, heartaches, victories, and temptations in the lives of clergy. They are many enticements, but I think the serious ones are four. One leader called these temptations: girls, glitter, and gold. It makes for good alliteration. I would add another: careless. Let me show you what I mean.
Paul summarized the pastor’s life this way, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things” (1 Timothy 4:16). This is a good place to start. I hope my frankness does not turn you off, or disappoint your view of ministers or priests.
The heart of this pastoral temptation is sexual sin. Clergymen have a special role of leadership and power in the church. People look up to them, and sometimes view him in god like terms. Ministers are nice and kind in public – something many husbands are not – either in private or public. The result is that many wives think the clergyman is far better than their husbands. A romantic “crush” may result.
Some women are attracted to the aura of power and status surrounding the minister; sometimes they are attracted to his sympathetic kindness. They feel safe around the leader, because surely ministers are godly and never have sexual feelings.
Well they do. They are just like any other man. Intimate relationships do form, and can lead to sexual activity. Clergymen have free time, and can visit homes any time they want – even when husbands are away at work.
Paul spoke of this practice by some, “For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses” (2 Timothy 3:6). Paul was speaking of bad ministers, but it is a trap that innocent, well-meaning men of God can fall into.
By glitter is meant the pastoral temptation of pride. It goes with the status and adulation given to the minister. It can do things to our ego. I recall when I was a minister. When the auditorium was full, it would take me maybe half an hour to walk from one end to the other.
People wanted to stop and talk to me, asking questions, shaking hands, etc. I was the center of attention. A group of people talking among themselves would stop when I walked by, and they would switch their focus to me.
When I resigned that position, I started going to another church – which was in a distant town. I was shocked! It only took me about two minutes to walk from one end of that auditorium to the other! Nobody paid any attention to me. I was just another average person. What a blow to my ego! No one stopped me to get my advice. Even the women all looked the other way!
The point is that when ministers are the center of attention, there is the pastoral temptation of pride. Maybe you don’t fall prey to that noose, but many do. Some clergy begin to believe everyone should defer to their wise advice, and that only they know what is best for the congregation.
They refuse to listen to feedback, criticism, or suggestions from others. They want to control everything. Consequently, some very bad decisions are made which lead to very bad situations. Some clergy may believe the people are there to be used, and forget God has placed them there to be shepherded.
This pastoral temptation is money. Or, maybe the lack of it. Most pastors are not paid well considering the education they have. If you are a preacher, maybe you fall into this problem. You have a family to feed and care for. You want to send your children to college. You have a somewhat worn car. Sometimes wives have to work to make ends meet.
Maybe you look at the good wages of those who make more than you do. Consequently, you begin to look for ways to make money on the side. Actually, you may be working full time and lead a church on the side. But, the point is that money is tight, and you need more to survive. This pastoral temptation can bite hard.
Three things happen. One, you might begin to take risks on easy money schemes. This distracts from your focus on ministry and spiritual matters, and may cause you to end up in worst financial shape. Paul wrote, “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9).
The other pastoral temptation comes with the money of the church. It is easy for the minister to access church finances, charge large “ministry” expenses, and heaven forbid (it actually happens), pilfer money from the treasury. Remember, greed was the lure that snagged Judas (Matthew 26:14-16).
The third pastoral temptation is bitterness. When you see people in the community or your church that are financially well off, it can open the gateway for a seed of bitterness to creep into your heart. Your wife might even begin to be despondent and jealous.
I recall my missionary days when I needed to travel from church to church to raise money for the ministry in Tonga. We would sometimes stay with people whose homes were very nice. The self-pity thoughts would be there, “Lord, why do these people have so much, and we have a beat up borrowed car and no house of our own?” That is how our faith is tested. It is true; however, our reward is in heaven.
Having said this, I don’t mean that clerics or priests should necessarily choose to live in poverty. Churches need to pay you fairly. But, Paul also said he, “learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Philippians 4:11).
I know that you (if you are a cleric) are not careless with you time in your duties. Most pastors are hard working, dedicated, and focused on their work. However, even for you, there is the pastoral temptation to be idle. I know, because I faced that snare myself.
Here is how this pastoral temptation hits you. You are really on call 24/7, which means you don’t have a regular time to check into work and go home. People call you all hours of the day. Emergencies occur that you have to tend to. Consequently, you set your own time schedule. You can come and go as you please – and no one checks up on you.
I know myself, I found it too easy to sleep in when morning came, take too long a nap in the afternoon, watch too much TV, go to the sporting events whenever I wanted, take long lunches, waste time in visiting my friends, become lazy in visiting people in the congregation, or doing sermon preparation.
Now, I am by nature a self-starter, but with no one looking over my shoulder, and no time clock to punch, I discovered these are pastoral temptation traps I had to watch out for. Paul set the example, “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears” (Acts 20:31). Paul had an unimpeachable work ethic. So should pastors and Christian leaders.
John Wesley had this to say to his ministers, “You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work…Observe, it is not your business to preach so many times, and to take care of merely of this or that society, but to save as many souls as you can, to bring as many sinners as you possibly can to repentance, and, with all your power, to build them up in that holiness without which they cannot see the Lord” (Quoted by John Telford, The Life of John Wesley (New York: Hunt & Eaton, n.d.), pp. 229-230).
With this, Esmie and I wish you all the best in your ministry. May God richly bless you, your family, and your ministry. May you reap abundant spiritual fruit to the glory of God.
Dr. Willis and Esmie Newman
BIBLE STUDY QUESTIONS
1. How did Paul say to handle sexual temptation (1 Corinthians 6:15-20)?
2. What is God’s attitude regarding pride (Proverbs 16:18; Mark 7:22; 1 John 2:16)?
3. Explain how the pastoral temptation of greed can affect us, and write out the consequences (1 Timothy 6:9, 10)?
4. How should we respond to the pastoral temptation to get rich (1 Timothy 6:11ff.)?
5. What is the proper attitude toward wealth (1 Timothy 6:17-19)?
6. How should we use wealth?
7. Write a short paragraph about Paul’s attitude toward work in the ministry (Acts 20:18-35).
8. Write a short paragraph about Paul’s work ethic from 1 Thessalonians 2:1-9.
9. Take one week, and write down in a chart what you are doing every 30 minutes. At the end of the week, evaluate how you are spending your time. This exercise can help you identify many time wasters that you might not be aware of.
10. What stands out to you the most in this Bible teaching about pastoral temptation?
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