by Jamaal Williams
Before I became a lead pastor, I was in school, serving as a youth and young adult minister, and working in retail. During this time, I received a call to be an interim pastor for the church where I was serving. The response from my retail co-workers birthed some new, immature thoughts in me. While we were all talking one day, one of my co-workers said to me and the others, “Now that you’re a pastor you have to go get you a new Cadillac.” The group laughed and affirmed the caricature and stereotype that “black pastors drive Cadillacs.” Surprised by the conversation, I smirked and said something to the effect of, “That’s why I will never own a Cadillac.”
Though I said it with a sarcastic tone at that time, in my heart I was serious. Since then my perspective has come a long way. I no longer fear feeding into that stereotype. Here are some thoughts that help shape where I land on the question, How does a pastor know when he is enjoying too much luxury?
First, the Bible says that pastors must not be lovers of money.
In 1 Timothy 3, in what is referred to as the “qualification for pastors,” Paul states very clearly that pastors must not be lovers of money (v. 3). In 2 Timothy 4:6-10, in the context of teaching about a pastor’s need to cultivate a heart of contentment, Paul states:
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
Pursuing money as the ultimate treasure of one’s life is futile and dangerous. This especially includes pastors.
Second, remember that “luxury” is relative.
What one person sees as luxurious may not seem to be to another.
The circumstances in which a person is raised have a lot to do with how someone defines luxury. The average American, dare I say even poor Americans, are living better than an overwhelming percentage of the world’s population.
It’s important to remember that context is key. If an affluent pastor is leading a congregation facing poverty, he should be sensitive to this fact and may need to sacrifice some luxuries before his congregation.
Third, the answer is wrapped in a six-letter word.
What is this six-letter word? Wisdom. When thinking about these questions, a pastor should be most occupied with gaining wisdom from the Lord. There are some scenarios where pastors should live below their means in order to relate or minister to those he shepherds.
Perhaps we as pastors should pray like Agur in Proverbs 30:8-9. Agur prayed, “Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”
Or we should pray like David in 2 Chronicles 1:10, “Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this person, for who can govern this people of yours, which is so great?”
Both prayers are needed. One is that the Lord would give us what we can handle, and best glorify him. The other shows concern for how we conduct ourselves among God’s people.
The question isn’t what constitutes being too luxurious in general as much as what constitutes being too luxurious for a pastor and the specific people he shepherds. This is a personal question of the heart that a pastor must wade through with those who know him best and a multitude of counsel.
Regardless, a $65,000,000 jet for personal ministry should always be seen as too luxurious.