“I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Paul, to the elders in Ephesus)
An overseer[a] must be above reproach, …not a lover of money. (Paul)
A major affliction of the Body of Christ involves financial conflict of interest (FCOI). Like the COVID-19 virus, which invades a person’s body, hijacks his cells, and makes him very sick, FCOI has infected the Body of Christ, possessed the souls of its clergymen, and made it seriously ill.
An FCOI exists whenever a person who is responsible for interpreting information will gain substantial financial benefit from a particular interpretation. An FCOI may influence the judgement of the decision maker.
FCOIs exist in the business world: “A financial conflict of interest is one where the person is trying to convince you to buy or do something that benefits them more than it does you. Annuity and life insurance salesmen, who don’t sell term insurance, get huge commissions on products that are almost always not in the customer’s best interest. They tell you that they are there to make money for you, but their true purpose is to make money from you.” (see https://www.quora.com/What-does-it-mean-to-have-a-financial-conflict-of-interest) Buyer Beware!!
FCOIs also exist in the realm of medicine: “relationships with industry have created significant risks that individual and institutional financial interests may unduly influence professionals’ judgments about the primary interests or goals of medicine. Such conflicts of interest threaten the integrity of scientific investigations, the objectivity of medical education, and the quality of patient care.” (source: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2011-08-25/pdf/2011-21633.pdf)
In the religious realm, an FCOI exists whenever a paid clergyman interprets Bible verses that pertain to financial issues. A particular interpretation does provide significant benefit to him. For example, if it is concluded that tithing is not a Christian practice, or that overseers of the flock should work at secular jobs, the cost would be substantial to a vocational clergyman, who derives his livelihood from tithes. The cost would be devastating. Thus, such an FCOI puts substantial pressure on paid clergymen to interpret and apply relevant Bible verses in a way that is beneficial to her/his financial interests.
As a virus takes over the machinery of a person’s cells, the FCOI-greed virus can take over a person’s soul by exploiting a kind of greed called the love of money. When the FCOI-greed virus afflicts the soul of a clergyman, it can cause her/him to see godliness as a means to financial gain. This can lead to deliberate twisting of scriptures (such as Malachi 3:8-18) in order to persuade sincere people that God requires them to follow the Old Testament practice of tithing. This situation causes the Body of Christ to be weakened, diminishing the functioning of its systems.
To enjoy all of the blessings that God has for us, we must treat the FCOI-greed virus in the Body of Christ. Like an alcoholic who knows that he has a drinking problem but still keeps drinking, clergymen who are afflicted with the FCOI-greed virus know that what they’re doing out of a motive of greed is wrong, but they keep doing it. Thus, people who are not paid clergymen must step forward to identify, articulate and carefully manage FCOIs (otherwise, the blind are leading the blind). The treatment for the FCOI-greed virus requires Christians to study our Bibles carefully and to be faithful to what God instructs us to do. And it requires mature Christians to follow the guidance of Paul, working hard to supply their own needs and setting an example of overseeing, studying, teaching and preaching FOR FREE.
If we continue to allow clergymen who are inflicted with the FCOI-greed virus to lead us, then the virus will continue to exploit the machinery of the Body of Christ in order to make more replicates of itself. As a result, the patient’s condition will worsen.
The good news is that the Master Physician is overseeing the treatment and the patient will live! Let’s cooperate with Him to prevent the further spread of the FCOI-greed virus. Let’s do our part to help to flatten the growth curve of the FCOI-greed virus infection.