For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness.
— 1 Thessalonians 2:5
As Paul shared his priorities and motives in ministry, he also talked about what didn’t motivate him in ministry — namely financial gain. In First Thessalonians 2:5, he wrote, “For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness.” In this verse, Paul specifically dealt with the issue of money in ministry, and he emphatically conveyed that his motives for ministry were not financial gain from those who followed his ministry. Instead, the apostle strove to keep his motives for ministry pure.
If Paul hadn’t made this his first motive — to please God and not man — he would have been vulnerable to becoming a man-pleaser and using “flattering words” to exact some kind of selfish gain from the people he ministered to. But Paul’s primary focus was on pleasing the One who called him and who sent him to the precious people in Thessalonica.
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The same quality should be true of us. Our motives for serving God should be pure and unadulterated, rooted solely in a heart desire to please Him through the fruits of our labor as we do what He asks us to do.
Let’s study verse 5 more closely. What exactly does it mean for someone to use “flattering words”? This phrase comes from the Greek word kolakeia, which means to “butter up” someone by saying things he or she wants to hear. Usually, when someone “butters up” another person, he is putting himself in a position to take advantage of that individual. The word kolakeia — “flattering words” — also means to say things with an insincere motive.
In other words, when you’re using kolakeia, your words are just a vehicle to get you what you want. They hold no genuine meaning and are spoken for no other reason than that.
But in these two verses in First Thessalonians 2, Paul was saying he didn’t do that to the congregation in Thessalonica. He didn’t butter them up so he could get something out of them. He didn’t just say good things about them or tell them how wonderful they were to receive some kind of selfish gain. Paul wasn’t insincere in his dealings with the believers in the Thessalonian church; instead, he spoke truthfully to them as he interacted with them and ministered to them.
Now let’s look at the next phrase Paul used in this passage: “cloak of covetousness.” The word “cloak” is the Greek word prophasis, which can be translated as a pretense or something that is phony or not real. The whole idea behind this word prophasis is that a person will be whatever he needs to be to receive some kind of gain from others.
Prophasis describes a person who is constantly changing, not according to his conviction, but according to how he can gain something from someone else. This is why the Bible calls it a “cloak.” It is a covering or a pretense — something that isn’t real.
The Bible calls this cloak a “cloak of covetousness.” I believe that a better translation would be “a cloak for the sake of covetousness.” In this verse where Paul wrote, “For neither at any time used we flattering words…nor a cloak of covetousness,” he was actually referring to the exploitation of people for gain.
The word “covetousness” in First Thessalonians 2:5 is translated from the Greek word pleonexia, which is used in this scripture to describe monetary greed. The word pleonexia carries a few ideas that tend to build upon each other, as in a progression.
- First, it simply means to have more.
- Second, it portrays the concept of expanding — to have more and more and more.
- Third, it carries the idea of overreaching for more than you need.
- Fourth, it depicts control. In other words, at some point, you aren’t reaching out for the thing you want more of anymore — now that thing has reached out and grabbed you. Now it has gained control of you.
This word “covetousness” describes a man who has money in the heart. He “thinks” money. In fact, he thinks about money almost all the time. He eats, drinks, and sleeps money! Money becomes just about all he wants to talk about. When he goes to bed at night, he’s thinking about money — and when he gets out of bed in the morning, his first thoughts turn to money. When he talks to people, he sees currency on their foreheads! He’s constantly looking for more money, and he sees everything — every encounter, every relationship, and everything he does — as an opportunity to turn a buck.
It is this attitude of covetousness that Paul emphatically rejected. His motive for preaching was not to pretend to be something he wasn’t in order to make financial gain from the people God had given him to care for and minister to. And neither can it be our motivation for serving others! Furthermore, people are smart — and if they sense that you are after their money and not their hearts, it won’t be long until they will send you on your way!
So make the decision today that you will always be someone who speaks from an authentic, pure heart and seeks only to edify the listener and glorify God, never to receive monetary gain or advantage for yourself. As you make that your constant practice, people will come to know that they can trust the source! They’ll receive your words as genuine, and the power of love behind your words will minister to people’s hearts as God intends!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father God, everyone needs money, including me — but I ask You to keep my motivation for serving others free from the contamination of greed for money. Scripture is full of examples of people who were spoiled and suffered ruin because they let money become a motivator for ministry. I thank You for meeting my needs according to Your riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Keep my heart free from ever serving people with money as a motivator. For my own needs, I look to You, and I trust You to provide for me every step along the way!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I boldly confess that money is not and will never be my motivation for ministry. If making money is what it’s all about, I need to go elsewhere and do something else. God has called me to serve people purely and to trust Him to meet my financial needs and obligations. I look to God, not people, as my Source to meet my needs!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Have you ever known someone whose motive for ministry was financial gain? What happened to that person in the end?
- When you look at people whom God has brought across your path, do you see them as a financial opportunity or as a ministry opportunity? Your answer to this question is very important!
- Have you been hurt by someone whose driving motivation was money? Have you forgiven them? If not, you need to forgive them and release that experience so you can move forward in your walk of faith!