Sex, Money, and the Church

I've seen it repeatedly in more than thirty years of public ministry: there are two sins that will compromise and probably utterly ruin a pastor's ministry. They are often so serious that a man or woman who falls in one of these two ways will be unable to recover or return to ministry. They are, of course, sexual sin and financial sin (such as embezzlement).

Over the years, I've taken steps to guard myself against both, knowing that these are the most common ways our Enemy brings down otherwise good pastors. But only recently have I pondered why those sins are so ruinous to those in ministry. A pastor or elder can sin in many other ways and their sins may be excused, overlooked--certainly forgiven. Church leaders may exhibit hypocrisy, arrogance, self-righteousness, resentment, bitterness, rage, and dishonesty without being disqualified from ministry. Gossip, grudge-holding, and greed are generally responded to with patience and tolerance. After all, we are all sinners in need of the grace of God and the forgiveness of all.

But not in the areas of sex or money. Those sins (or even the mere suspicion or rumor of such) are commonly elevated above all others in the church, and perhaps more so among evangelical or fundamentalist churches. And, now that I think about it, it's not hard to discern why that may be.

Money and sex are the most prevalent idols in our culture...and in the culture of the American church. Just as preachers tend to preach against their own pet sins, so the church in general (and church leaders in particular) tend to lose all sense of perspective or proportion when sex or money enters into consideration. We will respond quickly, even viciously, to the slightest whiff of impropriety in those areas while winking at leaders' sins in other areas.

I heard recently about a capable, godly pastor of great accomplishment who thought it prudent to report to his church's elder board that a woman in the church had made a pass at him. He had not reciprocated, he had not sinned, he had not even come close to improper behavior. But a key elder nevertheless took the offensive and eventually drove this pastor out of the church.

It is not hard to believe that those events reveal more about the elder's spiritual state than the pastor's.

And so it will be with us. I'm not suggesting that we should wink at any sin. But we must not tolerate idols in our lives--and in our churches and culture--and especially when they lead us to condemn some sins and not others, and uncharitably judge our brothers and sisters. Because that itself is sin. And also because, in so doing, we will reveal more about our spiritual state than anyone else's.


  1. I agree that ALL sin should be condemned but I also feel that it is appropriate to have different consequences for the different degrees of sin. Sure you can counsel pastors who exhibit bitterness, arrogance, hyprocrisy, etc., but these hardly seem reason to dismiss them of their duties. Some of these are even considered more of a personality trait. But, I suppose that too would depend on the degree and whether or not it interferes greatly with how they do their job. Financial sin, however, would most likely be embezzlement and that is breaking the law. I think that is a no-brainer as far as the consequences for that sin. Sexual sin involves another person (or people); sexual sin destroys marriages, lives and families, sexual sin can be dangerous. Sexual (and financial) sin are secretive and create a sense of mistrust when they are exposed. This is compounded even more when it is kept secret by others who are aware that it is going on. Some of the other sins you mentioned are clearly on the surface and you know what you're dealing with, unlike financial and sexual sins, which are secretive. About others "judging" someone who committed either one of these sins as you mention in the last paragraph. I don't think it's a matter of judgement when someone does something, they are caught (or admit it), and some form of consequence is administered. Pretty straight-forward. No one is judging them - they are paying the consequence for that particular sin as they should. As far as the "godly pastor" you mention, there just might be more to that story than you are aware. And, how was he "driven" from the church? Did they fire him or did he resign?

  2. Thanks for the comment, "Anonymous." 'm sure there's always more to that pastor's story than you or I are aware. I think all sin creates mistrust and destroys marriages, etc. It's all dangerous stuff. I didn't intend to cause offense but thank you nonetheless for your comment and for maybe underscoring the point of my post.

  3. I am enjoying your blog..............!
    For photo designing template & make your photo more attractive and good looking