Greed, or the profit motif, has destroyed many reputations; not only of those in corporate America, but also those in evangelical Christianity. Without naming names today I know of two very solid evangelical ministries, one male one female, that are facing extinction while their founders face prison terms for tax evasion, fraud, misappropriation, and other crimes against their constituents. It’s difficult to say whether those ministries will survive such scandal. We must face the fact that materialism for us today is a real problem. If we are to manage our mission, and protect our reputation, we must be above board in every possible way in how we handle our finances.

The Foundation for New Era Philanthropy was a notorious Ponzi scheme that operated from 1989 until its collapse in 1995 after having raised over $500 million from 1100 donors and embezzled $135 million of this. Most of the money was stolen from Christian religious organizations. John Bennett, the founder, was sent to prison for the scheme. Country Bible Church had an opportunity to participate in this scheme that promised to return our investment double-fold in six months as it had for earlier investors. I was personally taken in by it like many others and wanted to take part in it. But there were several men on our elder board that were skeptical and prevented that from happening. There was something at work in these men besides “the profit motif.” They saved us from destroying our reputation with our congregation and the public at large. I learned a profound lesson from these men. When you let your desire to get something for nothing motivate you, you are acting on a “profit motif” that could be damaging to your reputation.

Gambling can destroy one’s reputation as well. Just as I’ve seen alcohol destroy families, marriages, occupations and reputations, so too has gambling. The bible doesn’t condemn gambling, but it does offer many warnings about it. One article explained it this way, “The Bible emphasizes the sovereignty of God in the direction of human events; gambling looks to chance and good luck. The Bible indicates that man is to work creatively and use his possessions for the good of others; gambling fosters a something-for-nothing attitude. The Bible calls for careful stewardship; gambling calls for reckless abandon. The Bible condemns covetousness and materialism; gambling has both at its heart. The moral thrust of the Bible is love for God and neighbor; gambling seeks personal gain and pleasure at another person’s loss and pain.”

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want…” Psalm 23:1