Let me ask you something. If you noticed that others applied a stricter, harsher standard to you than they applied to themselves, how would you feel? I write this article in defense of my fellow evangelists; I write this article, not in the spirit of complaining, for we are to do all things without complaining and disputing. (Philippians 2:14) Nevertheless, it is equally evident in the scriptures that, when we see an injustice or error, we are to expose it and fight it. (Ephesians 5:11)
Then I returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun: and look! the tears of the oppressed, but they have no comforterOn the side of their oppressors there is power, but they have no comforter. (Ecclesiastes 4:1) No doubt human cruelty and oppression have always existed, and God knows this. But, is it right when this oppression and cruelty comes from within the church? There is an oppression under the sun today, and it involves setting a double standard for evangelists.
Surely there are greater oppressions under the sun, and surely evangelists in this country have good lives, compared to being fed to lions in Rome, or living in dirt huts in some foreign field. Yet there is an oppression under the sun, and I wish to expose it. I cannot speak for all evangelists, nor would I dare indict all brethren. Most of the brethren I have known are wonderful, godly people, and I never forget their kindness and generosity. Yet there are bad brethren out there, and they have created some unwritten rules about evangelists that are just not scriptural. In this article, I merely desire to point these out, and to hopefully change the mind of brethren who have been placing a double standard upon their preaching brethren. If I can just improve the treatment of one preacher somewhere, then this article shall have been successful.
Perhaps you ask yourself, How are preachers oppressed? They have the easiest lives in the world! Such a question implies that you have a false conception of the work of an evangelist. An evangelist does not, as some believe, just work three times a week. Where do you think those sermons come from? The classes? Does he simply pull them out of the air? In my opinion, proper, careful sermon preparation requires at least 40 hours, and then add to that all of his other work, including preparing classes, setting an example by visiting the sick, and the many other things he does, and the average evangelist probably works 60 hours per week, if not more I know I do, though many brethren would just not believe me. By the way, a preachers job is not to drive around all day, visiting and eating fried chicken, as many seem to think. Give me book, chapter, and verse for that! I defy you! Yet still, brethren say that preachers do not have real jobs.
There is a double standard in the brotherhood today. It is a double standard which involves close scrutiny of a preachers life, while the ones scrutinizing are allowed to do whatever they wish. I have seen this again and again. You may doubt its existence, but I urge you to ask your preacher about it. The preacher is condemned if he buys a used car, while every other member drives a brand new Cadillac. The preacher is criticized if he rents a decent home, while every other member owns a home worth over $100,000. If the preacher asks for a raise, he is preaching for the money, while every other member gets an annual raise, and complains if he does not. If the preacher asks for an income above the US poverty level, then brethren just cannot understand why a man needs more than that to live, while some of them make over $100,000 per year. The preachers pay is viewed as charity, even though the scriptures teach that the worker is worthy of his wages. (1 Timothy 5:18; 1 Corinthians 9) If the preacher does not dress, act, talk, or live in the way that people think a preacher should, even if he is not sinning, he is criticized! I wonder what brethren today would say if John the Baptist returned in camels hair clothing, or if Paul walked in, fresh from being imprisoned in a dirty dungeon? After all, a preacher is supposed to wear a suit all the time! I even heard of a preacher who mowed his grass in a suit! Yet, of course, no other brethren are required to do this only the preacher.
I do not plead for a life of luxury for all preachers, far above their brethren. I have never asked for this, and never will. What I am asking is for preachers to be able to live like their brethren! Why should there be many, many preachers who live at a poverty level, with centuries-old furniture, cars rusted-through, and holes in their shoes, while churches hoard up hundreds of thousands of dollars in the treasury, and other brethren live like hogs? Then, if the preacher gets a little money, he is criticized and blasted for the way he chooses to spend it. Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabbaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you. (James 5:1-5)
Do you doubt me, that this situation exists? Then go to your preacher, ask him how much he makes, and compare his gross salary with the gross salary of the other members. Compare the shoddiness of his clothing and house to the luxuries of others. Ask him how he is criticized and gossiped about, by hypocrites who do the very same things. You may be surprised what you learn. Surely, there are preachers who are treated royally, and who are generously provided for this is a blessing! Every preacher should be thusly treated, but most are not.
I end this article with the same sentiment with which I began it not in a spirit of complaining, but in a plea for justice and fairness for my preaching brethren. You have no idea how your preacher toils, and what he endures, and the cruelties he suffers, but it will all be revealed in the judgment.