Preachers and Sin
The recent news about pedophilia among Catholic priests has led me to think more about the general problem of religious leaders falling into immorality. I would imagine that everyone reading this article has known of some elder or preacher who has stumbled in this regard. It almost seems like a disproportionate number of us fall into sin, though that just may be my own sensitivity, since I am a preacher.
Why does this happen? Why do the very men who should know the Scripture most keenly fall into immorality? Here are some reasons I came up with; I’d be interested to hear from you if you have further insights.
1. Some preachers and elders may fall into this sin because they were never genuinely devoted to the Lord to begin with. Peter warned about false prophets “having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin” (2 Peter 2:14). It may be that some have fooled the brethren for a time.
2. Some may fall into this trap because they become enamored with “power.” Preaching and pastoring can become a power trip for the immature. Power in turn can be appealing to some women (Henry Kissinger said power was the world’s strongest aphrodisiac), and if a preacher or elder chooses to take advantage of this situation, the result is moral disaster. Paul warned about the potential for elders to become conceited and fall into the snare of the Devil (1 Timothy 3:6).
3. Some may fall victim to their sincere compassion. Preachers and elders can easily confuse compassion for a struggling sister with desire, and in turn well-intentioned sisters may be attracted to a strong spiritual man who cares for them. Paul told Timothy to appeal to “the younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Timothy 5:2).
First and foremost, we preachers need to remember that our number one job is to maintain moral integrity. “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching” (1 Timothy 4:16). This is a vital part of Paul’s job description to Timothy and Titus, and unless we understand the priority this must have in our work, we are building on a weak and suspect foundation.
Second, take the advice several older preachers have given to me and never teach or counsel a woman in private. Bring your wife or a trusted brother, but don’t put yourself into a situation where you can be tempted. This to me is a wise application of the principle found in Romans 13:14, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”
Third, establish accountability with a trusted brother. Establish a pact with a brother to regularly ask you how you are doing spiritually, and about your potential weaknesses (lustful thoughts, looking at illicit pictures, and so on). “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).