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Looking good is not a good look.

Judges 12:8–13:1

After him, Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel. He had thirty sons. And he gave away thirty daughters in marriage, and brought in thirty daughters from elsewhere for his sons. He judged Israel seven years. Then Ibzan died and was buried at Bethlehem.

After him, Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel. He judged Israel ten years. And Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried at Aijalon in the country of Zebulun.

After him, Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel. He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy young donkeys. He judged Israel eight years. Then Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried in Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the mountains of the Amalekites.

Again the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.

This time we get three judges who rule for a total of twenty-five years—followed by forty years of Philistine rule.

But there’s something disturbing about these judges. The only details we get about them are signs of secular wealth and excess. Ibzan had sixty children. Abdon had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy young donkeys.

That’s just what Israel needs in a servant-leader to make them truly holy—lots of kids and donkeys.

I jest, but this hints at a problem we’re all too aware of—super-rich Christian leaders.

Our society condemns people for being wealthy, even if they made their money honestly through hard work and genius. Great golfers and tennis players, even chess grandmasters, win big purses from tournaments. Yet their wealth is resented. That’s ridiculous, but it’s still a real thing in our society.

Pastors work incredibly hard, and they have stresses beyond what most people know, but a pastor shouldn’t be driving a Rolls Royce. That just looks bad, plus it plays into the hands of God’s enemies.

And this gets to the heart of today’s lesson. The trappings of wealth of Ibzan and Abdon are all we know about them. They seem to have made a point of showing off. They acted like royalty. We’ve seen what that kind of attitude did to Abimelech.

A pastor can have a solid retirement fund saved up and that’s not a problem. Book royalties can turn into a huge pile of money, and that’s okay too. They earned it.

But showing off wealth with conspicuous bling is in clear violation of scripture. A pastor who does that is comfortable with doing damage to God’s glory and to the cause of spreading the gospel.

How can someone seriously confess Jesus as their Lord and then do that?

These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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