Updated: Jun 1
I just saw a tweet regarding a minister friend of mine who is being accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’m hoping it’s not true. But the issues and complexities regarding those of us in ministry and our incomes are not something that just began in recent history.
For the first 300 years, the Church lived in the shadows. The idea of enriching oneself by means of preaching the gospel was not a practical reality. Nevertheless, the Didache, a first-century discipleship manual that nearly made it into the Canon of Scripture, says that “if [a prophet] asks for money, he is a false prophet.”
When Constantine became the first emperor of Rome to embrace Christianity, everything changed for the bishops and those who served under them. Along with the freedom to live openly as a believer and to debate doctrine in public came many temptations.
“Its bishops were once merely leaders of congregations; they now became pillars of Roman society, with power and influence.”
Soon the popes and bishops would wield political power just as some emperors would seek to influence doctrine in the Church. “Gregory the Great, pope from 590 to 604, combined spiritual and political leadership. He administered the church’s extensive land holdings throughout Italy and supplied the needs of the poor in Rome and elsewhere.”
In the eighth century, the Carolingian king Pippin III gave Pope Stephen II rights over a large swath of land in central Italy. This became known as the Donation of Pippin. “At Pippin’s direction, the keys to a number of cities and territories in central Italy that had submitted to papal authority were collected. The keys and a list of the cities involved, the Confession of St. Peter, were placed on the altar of Old St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome in 756.” Now we have “a region over which the pope had both temporal and spiritual power.” This would be the official beginning of the Papal States.
The Papal States would lead to very dark years for the Catholic Church. Popes wielded secular as well as spiritual power—which was a recipe for corruption.
Through the centuries, the Papacy has often been criticized for corruption, nepotism, simony, and for its closeness to economic and political powers: financial mismanagement continues today (Kirchgaessner, 2016). Indeed, one of the main political triggers of the Protestant reformation was the carelessness with which the Roman Curia (the Papal States’ administration) managed its financial matters, traded in curial and political offices, and indulged in morally decadent behavior.
I do not think the New Testament writers ever imagined a Church-State.
 “The Didache,” Chapter III, accessed on May 29, 2022, https://legacyicons.com/content/didache.pdf.  McGrath, Alister E.. Christian History (p. 43). Wiley. Kindle Edition.  Burgess, Stanley M.. The Holy Spirit: Medieval Roman Catholic and Reformation Traditions (Kindle Locations 308-310). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.  https://www.britannica.com/event/Donation-of-Pippin  McGrath, Alister E.. Christian History (p. 75). Wiley. Kindle Edition.  Valerio Antonelli, Stefano Coronella, Carolyn Cordery and Roberto Verona,“Fraud and incompetence: Accounting in the Papal States (1831–1859),” https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/10323732211003685