Prophets for Profits (2 Cor 2:17)

“For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:17, KJV)

A recent Gallup poll rated the top ten least trusted occupations in America. Tied for the number one of the least trusted occupations were “members of congress” and “car salespersons.” After them came “advertising practitioners” (Raiken). Reading this, I was reminded of a quote the movie, “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” (Note: Even in the edited for TV version it has some questionable content.)

In the movie, Clark ordered a new car to take his family on a vacation. However, when he went to pick up the car from the dealer, it was not the one he ordered. However, he was forced to take the car anyway. To assure Clark, salesman tells him, “You think you hate it now, wait ‘til you drive it.”

This humorous retort, kind of typifies people’s views of car salespeople. The reason that people have such a low view of car salespeople is that they think that they are only in it for the money. They are peddling a product for a profit, and will say anything to make the sale. (Now, this is not always the case, it is just the prevailing attitudes of a lot of people. There are plenty of honest people selling cars.)

The issue here is not the product. It is one of the motives behind the selling of the product. There is a perceived motivation that people sell things for personal gain. Can you guess, according to the Gallup poll, what occupation came in ninth place of the least trusted occupations? It was the clergy. While no explanation was given for this low rating in the article, it must have to do with the perceived motivations of church leaders by the people surveyed.

Prophets for hire, or should I say false prophets for hire, is not a new problem in religion. We have a prime example in the Old Testament prophet Balaam (2 Pet 2:15). We also saw this in the false prophets that Ahab, king of Israel, used who would always tell the king what he wanted to hear (1 Kings 22:5-12). Moreover, Paul alluded to the same problem in his day. There were men going around and preaching God’s word for the sake of monetary gain.

In verse 17, the verb translated “corrupt,” kapeleuo, means to retail (Strong G2585). Thayer indicated that the word had to do with those who were hucksters, “as these persons had the reputation of increasing their profits by adulteration” (Thayer pg. 92). Thus, the ESV gives a more accurate rendering of the phrase, “which corrupt the word of God,” as “peddlers of God’s word.” Paul, and his team were men of high integrity, men of sincere hearts, who ministered the word, not for money, but because of their love for God and others. They were not peddlers of God’s word. They understood their calling was not to be rich in earthly things, but to preach the riches of God’s grace to others.

In churches today, too many are preaching as an occupation to earn a living rather than a high calling to bless others. Because of this, many will tickle the itching ears of congregants to build an earthly empire with little eternal significance. I heard a preacher with a rapidly growing congregation once allude to the reason for his numerical growth being that he did not preach on difficult things. In other words, he was not preaching the full counsel of God’s word.

I encourage you to watch out for the prophets for profits. The ministry is not a business. It is a high calling. It requires high integrity. It is one that requires the right motive. If the motive is to build an empire for the empire’s sake, or for any type of personal gain, there is a problem.

Published by Steve Hankins, Th.D.

Steve has had extensive military, business and ministry experience. He has served for over 16 years in full time vocational ministry and many years of part time ministry in churches. He has led churches through start-up and recasting of vision. Now He resides on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he is working to help smaller churches and believers to renew their hearts and regain the joy of the Lord.

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