We've been studying the requirements of elders for the past several weeks, bringing us up to verse seven, Titus 1:7-8 For the overseer must be ... not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good...
The phrase "not fond of sordid gain" is actually only one word in Greek: "ahee-skhrok-er-DACE." It literally means "filthy gain." Notice that the word "fond" isn't in there. So in other words, regardless of whether the elder likes where his money comes from, he must not be one who makes his living dishonestly or is paid from sinful sources. Some examples of dishonest gain would include salesmen who stretch the truth to make the sale, or sell knowingly faulty products just to get the commission. A sinful source of income would be along the lines of owning a liquor store, or being a reporter for the National Enquirer. Basically, catering to people's sin nature to earn a living. The elder cannot make his money from sin, in the same way that the church cannot knowingly receive money gained through sin. If you got money dishonestly and then decided to tithe on that money, the Lord doesn't want it. In the book of Malachi, God said, Mal. 1:13 "...you bring what was taken by robbery... Should I receive that from your hand?”... He doesn't want it! Is. 61:8 For I, the LORD, love justice, I hate robbery in the burnt offering... It is essential that all of us as Christians hate dirty money, or money gotten through means that are not honest. When Moses appointed judges, one of the requirements was that they were... Ex. 18:21 ...able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain... A week ago, I had to buy some home improvement supplies at Lowe's. Then, when I was balancing the budget a few days later, I noticed on the receipt that one of the items I purchased had not been rung up. My first thought was, "Hey, free drywall! Woo hoo!" But that extra $5.20 in my bank account didn't belong to me. It belonged to Lowe's, whether they knew it or not. And 31 cents belonged to the State of Wyoming for sales tax. So, I went back and paid for it, because to keep it would be sordid gain. I pray that none of us possess money won by gambling, taken by theft or deception, or even earned in an unethical manner that wasn't completely on the "up and up." That is sordid gain.
In direct contrast to getting money by any means, Paul uses the word "hospitable." Being generous to others, rather than being selfish towards others. The word "hospitable" in Greek is "fil-OX-en-os." The word comes from combining "FEE-los" with "XEN-os." "FEE-los" means "friend," and "XEN-os" means "stranger." So to be hospitable means to be a friend to strangers.
Too often a church becomes a place that cliques develop. Where strangers come in and don't feel welcomed, don't feel loved. They feel alone in a crowded room, because they look around and see everyone around them talking with friends. And at times, we've all been guilty of ignoring strangers because we are inherently more comfortable with people we know. We instinctively reach out to the familiar hand. We must break out of that comfort zone and be friendly to strangers. But now let's take it up a notch, since the Bible's definition of hospitality is more than being friendly to a stranger. It's being a friend to a stranger. It's about more than a handshake. It may entail effort and expense on your part. The book of Hebrews tells us, Heb. 13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. This of course is a reference to people like Abraham, who showed hospitality to strangers. Remember, in Genesis 18, he saw three men approaching. These were total strangers to him, yet Gen. 18:2-5 ...he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth, and said, “My lord, if now I have found favor in your sight, please do not pass your servant by. Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; and I will bring a piece of bread, that you may refresh yourselves; after that you may go on...” It turned out that this was the Lord and two angels to whom Abraham showed hospitality. It cost him time, effort, and food. That is true hospitality - being a friend to strangers.
One of the interesting things about this subject is that whenever I bring it up, people tell me, "These are dangerous times. You just can't trust a stranger in your house. You could be putting yourself in danger." Have you ever stopped to consider that you could be taking the stranger out of danger? This was the case in Judges 19. When a Levite and his concubine were traveling, they decided to enter Gibeah in the land of Benjamin. Not finding any offers of hospitality, they decided to stay the night in the town square. They had no idea how much danger they were in. At that point, an old man came in from the field and insisted that they not stay the night in the square, but in his house instead. Now, when considering hospitality, it is vital that we exercise wisdom. But don't use fear as an excuse not to show hospitality to strangers. Another excuse frequently used is, "Well, you can't just open yourself up to being ripped off." Truth be told, I've been ripped off by a number of people to whom I've shown hospitality. I've lost money, I've lost things that I owned. The simple fact is that a certain percentage of the time (maybe even the majority of the time), you're going to get taken advantage of. But the Lord hasn't told us to do it for the reward, He's simply told us to do it. Peter said, 1Pet. 4:9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint. We need to be hospitable without complaining about it, or worrying whether we might get ripped off or not. There's no qualifier, just a command to do it willingly, because we're doing it for the Lord, not the reward. But of course, there will be a reward eventually. When Jesus returns in glory, there will be a group of people who are told that they are about to inherit a kingdom. The reason? Jesus will say, Matt. 25:35-36 "For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me." When the righteous protest, saying, "We don't remember doing that for You," He will answer, Matt. 25:40 "...Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me." When you're being a friend to strangers, you're really ministering to the Lord Himself.
These are the kind of men the Lord wants as His ministers - those who would never dream of being dishonest for selfish gain, but instead would be givers, hospitable. Those who love what is good, just as the Lord does.