One of my favorite pastors was Dale Haynes at Dutton Baptist Church. I served under him as minister of music for about a year and was constantly amazed at what a humble man that he was. He didn’t view the ministry as something that the church owed him but rather was a true servant and always seemed to me to be cognizant of the privilege he had of serving the body of Christ and studying the word of God. However, I can’t say that every pastor I’ve ever known has been like that. I’ve known a pastor who lives a very extravagant lifestyle on the backs of hardworking people and feels that he, by golly by gum, deserves what he’s being paid. His attitude is contemptible and in my opinion makes him unfit for the pastorate. In much the same way, we see in the last part of verse 14 that Peter tells us about the all consuming covetousness of the false teachers he has been warning about. To be sure, they don’t serve the people in sincerity but rather they see the ministry as an easy way to make a buck.
First of all, observe with me that the problem is one at the core of their very beings. Peter says the issue runs as deep as their “heart”. Now, when Peter or other folks living when he did talk about the heart, they don’t mean the thing in your chest that pumps blood. Greek speaking people thought of the heart as the seat of the intellect. We would probably use the term “mind” if we were to make the same sort of statement today. This is willful behavior, in other words. They can’t claim “What was I thinking” because the fact is they are thinking while they sin—it comes from their heart.
Notice further the extent to which they sin has corrupted them. Peter tells us that they have taken their heart (mind) and that it is now “trained in greed”. The word translated “trained” is the root of the word “gymnasium”. It meant to exercise vigorously and is in the perfect tense which means it denotes an action that has been completed in the past with ongoing effects. The false teachers made a conscious choice and exerted effort to commit to the path they are on. It was not coincidence or accident that led them to where they are but rather they made the choice and put forth the effort to “train” their heart.
Now, those who have put forth the effort to train themselves to teach and preach God’s word are to be commended and it is right for us to share material blessings with our pastors. Certainly there are occasions where a pastor can and should be allowed to devote his time to full time study and ministry. However, that is a privilege, not something the church owes someone. Further, it should always cause a minister to feel a great sense of gratitude and thankfulness for the privilege to serve full time. That thankfulness is the exact opposite of the attitude that Peter records here in this verse. As we see, these false teachers have a “heart trained in greed”. The word greed signifies that they are interested in acquiring more and more without regard to what they need. They seek to enrich themselves on the back of those who work hard for their money. Again, the attitude is what Peter points out that is contemptible here. A person being paid a large salary is not in and of itself wrong. I mean, there are rules as to what a church can pay its pastor set by the IRS. But within reason, it’s not the amount of money that creates the problem but rather the heart attitude that says “I deserve what I’m being paid and I want more regardless of what I actually need”. These false teachers have a sense of entitlement and are greedy—always wanting more.
Finally, we see what this wicked attitude reveals about these men. Peter tells us they are “accursed children”. They may live high on the hog now, prepaying their mortgage, driving fancy cars, living in houses far nicer than the homes of any of their congregants, all the while teaching false doctrine and living sensual lives of sin. There will be a day of reckoning, however. God may be mocked for a time but He will not be mocked forever. There will come a day where it will be clear to everyone that these false teachers did not speak for God and are not His children but are rather “accursed children” who will be punished in the fires of hell.
Many men serve the church faithfully and serve out of a love for God and for His people. However, there are those who bring shame to the cause of Christ by using the church as nothing more than a get rich quick scheme. Those who do so and peddle false doctrine will not escape the punishment of God—count on it.