It was stated of the sons of Eli that “they did not know the Lord” (1 Sm 2:12). The fact that they did not know the Lord was revealed in what they did to the people of the Lord. The sons of Eli were taking advantage of the people concerning that which was required by the Lord in reference to sacrifices. The people were to come to the Lord with their sacrifices, but the sons of Eli wanted more than what the law required for the support of the priests. They were greedy, and thus, they took advantage of what the people were obligated to do (See 1 Sm 2:12-17). The Holy Spirit thus recorded of them, “Therefore, the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord, for men abhorred the offering of the Lord” (1 Sm 2:17). That which the people should willing do, that is, give their sacrifices, they despised because the two priests, the sons of Eli, were taking advantage of their offerings. When preachers take advantage of that which the people of God are obligated to do to serve the Lord, then the preachers are doing an evil thing. They “do not know the Lord.”
Those whose purpose it is to preach for money are usually, according to Solomon, identified by two things. “The leech has two daughters, crying, ‘Give! Give!’” (Pv 30:15). We can know those who are constantly after the contribution with their hands out. They cry from pulpits across the land, “Give! Give!” They continually, as the sons of Eli, stand before the people and cry out for the offerings that the people are obligated to give. The people, therefore, “abor the offering to the Lord.”
The supporters are not always the problem when it comes to the function of money in order to propagate the gospel. We live in a world of Balaamite preachers who take advantage of the innocence of the sheep of God. They abuse the obligation of the church to give their offerings. These profiteers often drive in fine new vehicles before the poor, promising that “God will bless you, too if you will give to the Lord [actually, ‘give to me’].” Their mansions on earth reveal that their minds are on the things of this world.
When Paul was in Corinth, he did not take support from the Corinthians. He was planning to visit them again after he wrote the second letter. But even on this visit he said he would not take their money (2 Co 11:9). It seems that the Corinthians in general had a tendency to accuse people of teaching for money because there were so many profiteers in the Corinthians society. If this were not a problem in the Corinthian society, then Paul would have willingly accepted their support on his visit after writing the second letter. But Paul did not want to be accused of being a Balaamite preacher, as so many are today in the world of Christendom. We would advise that preachers gain some wisdom from Paul on this matter. Since it is often the case that immature brethren are too quick to accuse preachers of preaching for money, then preachers should be cautioned in reference to the money of the offerings of the brethren. Preachers must never forget that the One they preach had only one robe and no owned place to lay His head at night (See Mt 8:20).
Unfortunately, there are too many preachers in the religious world who are like Balaam. Balaam was minding his own business, doing the work of God. He was known for his work throughout Pethor. But Balak, king of Moab, had another agenda for Balaam. He had money and a list of sermons he wanted preached to a people he feared. He was afraid of the blessed people of God, the Israelites, who were coming his way (Nm 22:3,12). He thus sought for a preacher to hire to carry out his agenda against Israel.
Balak had the support, the sermons to be preached, and the audience to whom he wanted them delivered (Nm 22:5,6). So with cash in hand, he went looking for a preacher he could tempt with purse and position in order to carry out his mission. He knew that there were preachers out there who would sacrifice their freedom and principles for the sake of a salary. Paul knew that there were a host of these hirelings in Corinth who were masquerading themselves as messengers of light (1 Co 11:12-15).
Balak knew how to approach religious hirelings. He went looking for a dynamic and successful religious leader. He said of Balaam, “I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed” (Nm 22:6). His method of tempting Balaam to preach his agenda was to send an important delegation of elders to the preacher. With the delegation, he sent the greatest temptation to acquire a hireling preacher. He sent “the diviner’s fee,” a handsome salary (Nm 22:6). So with an impressive delegation from a foreign land, and the temptation of great support, Balaam was tempted to accept the agenda of someone other than God, and to preach what the supporters demanded.
At first Balaam held out against the temptation of salary and fame by refusing to compromise his principles. He would not allow his faith and freedom to be bought with foreign support from those of a foreign country who had their own agenda. He even consulted God concerning the request of the delegation of elders. And he initially followed God’s command not to go with the delegation of elders, or to accept their support (Nm 22:8-12). He was following God’s ultimatum. It was not to be changed under any circumstances.
But Balak was relentlessly persistent. He thus sent a greater number of influential people who were more noble and numerous than the first delegation. These were political people who would appeal to the political ambitions of Balaam (Nm 22:15-17). With the temptation of the high salary he initially received from the first delegation, this time Balaam was tempted by the foreigners with a great position and any request he might have from the nation of the foreigners (Nm 22:17).
Balaam again held out. He refused to go with the political delegation that was sent from the foreigners (Nm 22:18).
But Balaam weakened. He again asked the political delegation to spend the night. God knew Balaam’s heart, and thus, he accommodated his carnal desires for gain. He thus allowed Balaam to be ensnared in his own greed for gain and fame (Nm 22:19,20). “So Balaam rose in the morning … and went with the princes of Moab.” The mold was then cast for the hireling preacher to sell his gift to another for the sake of support. Balaam wrote his own legacy that the Holy Spirit recorded in Jude 11, when Jude wrote of some who run “greedily in the error of Balaam for profit” (Jd 11). Balaam established a “way” of behavior that would always be identified with his name and would describe those who compromise their principles for the sake of a salary as Balaamite preachers. Peter defined this behavior: “… the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Pt 2:15). The angel to the church of Pergamos condemned those who “hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality” (Rv 2:14).
How could a preacher who was minding his own business establish forever a legacy of greed and selfish ambition? Simple. We must never underestimate the temptation that comes with a delegation of elders from a foreign country who come with a great “diviner’s fee” in order to hire those who would preach their agenda of sermons. It takes men of great spiritual integrity and dignity not to sell themselves to such great temptations. When preachers live in great poverty, it is not difficult to understand why some would be tempted to sell their gift for a salary. We must always remember the life of Paul in Corinth: “And when I was present with you and in need, I was not a burden to anyone …” (2 Co 11:9). Paul did not sell out his gift even when he was in poverty. He did not because he had crucified to himself the carnal things of this world (Gl 2:20). When preachers sell out their gift by preaching whatever the supporters demand, then they have not crucified themselves with Christ. They are Balaamite preachers who will, with smooth and fair speech, tickle the ears of those who sign their pay checks. When we read the following concerning the ministry of Timothy, we conclude that Timothy preached what was necessary, for he did not sell out his gift to supporters:
Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound teaching. But to suit their itching ears, they will surround themselves with teachers who will agree with their own desires. And they will turn away their ears from the truth and will be turned to fables (2 Tm 4:2-4).