In a recent blog I wrote about harmful assumptions for development professionals ministering to wealthy donors. Just as real are the traps that donors fall into with ministry leaders. I say "with" because oftentimes they fall together. I want to be careful here because not every donor to a ministry and not every leader find themselves in this situation. But enough do to make it a concern that we don't talk about nearly enough.
In Judges 17 a wealthy man named Micah uses his family money to build a private chapel and ordain one of his sons as a priest. However, a young Levite "seeking his fortune" shows up at Micah's house and impresses him. In no time he says to the ambitious Levite, "Stay here with me...and be my priest." The young man fit right in and became one of the family and took over the duties as family chaplain. Micah could not be more pleased. "Now I know that God will make things go well for me - why, I've got a Levite for a priest!" As it turns out, the young Levite soon finds a better position with a tribe whose offer of more influence, job security and compensation is too attractive to turn down.
I have seen something like this happen and, unlike the story, many times it is not intentional. A donor is impressed with a ministry leader and wants to do something special for them. A leader becomes the family chaplain in exchange. However, I have also seen relationships turn into what we see in the story above. The donor has purchased his own lucky charm and the ambitious leader has a profitable relationship with a wealthy family. It corrupts both in the end.
Check your relationships carefully. Are you as a donor or wealthy family buying favor with God by supporting a charming and successful leader? Are you as a young leader encouraging a wealthy family to make your life more comfortable with the use of homes, planes, extra money or perhaps a paying board position that does not require responsibility? It slips up on you. Trust me.