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When the Pastor Lives Below the Standard of His Church Leaders

Here’s a situation that might surprise some church members to know preachers deal with and that it is frequently a problem.

The pastor visits in the homes of his members and notices that they live more luxuriously than he and his family. Their house is larger, built better and is located in a classier neighborhood. They dress well, have a pool and their cars are always the latest model.

The pastor and his wife notice these things; count on it. And as their children grow into the teen years, they also become aware that some in the church are wealthier than they.

Now, every family is different. One would hope the pastor’s spouse and family are so intent on serving God in this community that material things are a distant second to them. You would hope they rejoice in the success some families enjoy, and let it go at that.

That’s not always the case. At times, the pastor and family come down with a severe case of “why not us, Lord?” Also known in the medical books as “why can’t we live the way they do?”

Here are a few thoughts on this issue.

1) That will almost always be the case.

Almost every church will have some members who earn more money than the preacher. In fact, you hope they do! Churches are blessed when wealthy families have their priorities right and are generous. I know I’ve been greatly blessed in this way. One family offered to furnish our living room when we moved from an apartment into the larger church-owned parsonage. (We thanked them, and asked if we could take a rain check on the offer, saying our sons needed the living room for a playground for a time. Two years later, I called them and said, “Is that offer still good?” It was.)

And—let’s admit the obvious here—some church members may appear to have more money but are simply living beyond their income and are swamped by debt.

You will not know. These things are private.

2) When invited to share in their hospitality, unless there are good reasons why you should decline, partake of their generosity and enjoy it.

There is nothing wrong with your family accepting the invitation to dine in luxury or to have Sunday lunch at the country club with one of your families.

3) Never feel you should apologize for your lower standard of living, that your home is not as finely furnished or your car is older.

I would hope this goes without saying, but let’s say it anyway.

To do so makes your hosts uncomfortable and embarrasses your family. It’s also a poor reflection on your own values as well as upon the Lord who called you into this work in the first place.

4) In truth, the wealthy church members may actually envy you for not being caught up in the race to outdo others in the neighborhood regarding the size of your home or the luxury of its furnishings.

If you are living within your income and have no burdensome debt, you will be envied by a lot of people who wish they could master the craving for material things and the addiction to debt.

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Joe McKeever has been a preacher for nearly 60 years, a pastor for 42 years, and a cartoonist/writer for Christian publications all his adult life. He lives in Ridgeland, Mississippi.