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John Piper on David Yonggi Cho’s Embezzlement Scandal: How to Guard Your Heart from Temptation

( [email protected] ) Mar 06, 2014 09:49 PM EST
In a recent interview about South Korean mega-church pastor David Yonggi Cho's sentence for embezzlement, retired pastor John Piper plead with the shepherds of God's people to guard themselves from the snare of riches.
John Piper (Photo: Desiring God)

In a recent interview about South Korean mega-church pastor David Yonggi Cho's sentence for embezzlement, retired pastor John Piper plead with the shepherds of God's people to guard themselves from the snare of riches.

78 year-old David Yonggi Cho was sentenced to three years in prison for embezzling around twelve million dollars. He pastored Yoido Full Gospel Church in South Korea, the largest Pentecostal church in the world.

"With every public dishonoring of Christ, and every public dishonoring of His word and His Gospel and His Church, it makes me angry and it makes me sorrowful," Piper said during his interview. He cited Galatians 6:1 as a preface to his advice for pastors, where Paul says "Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted" (English Standard Version, Galatians 6:1b).

"I want to keep watch on myself, and I want pastors to keep watch on themselves," says Piper, who has authored over 50 books and travels doing speaking engagement and missions work in his retirement from pastoral ministry - "My hope is that pastors will listen to this, and they'll take this 68-year-old pastor's heart aching that we not bring this kind of reproach upon the name of Christ."

Piper suggested five ways for pastors to guard themselves against the love of money.

"Kill every desire to get rich," he says - "if you see the desire in your heart, take aim at it with the words of Christ and the words of Paul, and put it to death with the swift blow of the sword of the spirit." He cited 1 Timothy 6:10, "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."

Piper also suggests that pastors set a limit on their income, "Communicating to your people that you lay up treasures on earth." Pastors should grow the percentage of their giving as their income increases, he says. "Money is insidiously deceptive ... be content with what the church pays you, and give the rest away with joy and strategic wisdom," says Piper.

Piper believes that pastors should be completely transparent with the elders of their church about the amount of their income from every source (if the pastor also writes or does speaking engagements). "Let all the books of your income be open to any member of your church who asks the elders," he says - "Secrecy around money is deadly. It's a sign that something is not right."

The former pastor encourages others to live simply and to model for their people that their treasure is in heaven and not on earth. He makes it clear that he is not endorsing "pauper theology," wherein pastors give away so much of their income that they are unable to care for their families. Piper suggests buying reliable cars that will run well for years and clothes that are simple and durable. He says that pastors should seek to live in a home which "Accomplishes your family and your ministry purposes, leaning toward ordinary folks in your congregation, not the wealthiest." By doing these things, pastors can be examples for their people and show them that Jesus Christ is their Supreme Treasure.

Finally, Piper suggests putting a leadership structure in place where the lead pastor only has one vote among a plurality of elders - a "chief among equals" who doesn't have veto power over the church. He is passionate about helping future pastors honor the Lord as they serve Him, and contends that God's name is blasphemed by hypocrisy. "Oh for every pastor to be ready to cut off his hand before he uses it to bring reproach on the name of Jesus by grasping for money," he says.