Conflict is the absence of shālôm. The Hebrew word shālôm refers to the overall welfare of the human soul. Shālôm means to be complete, or whole; to be safe; to be in good health; to prosper; to live and die in tranquility. In matters of human community, shālôm refers to friendship and peacemaking. In relationship to God shālôm refers to the salvific covenant between God and humanity. When the apostolic authors of the New Testament spoke of peace they used the word to reflect its usage in the Septuagint, which corresponds to the Hebrew shālôm. Jesus Christ is the “Prince of Peace” and his disciples are call to be peacemakers. Throughout the New Testament, the apostolic greetings and benedictions speak of the blessing of peace.
As the Apostle Paul offered his farewell address to the church at Ephesus he offered a paradigm for leadership in the church. Throughout his farewell address, Paul’s words reflect three years of diverse conflict as he served the church. Paul’s time at Ephesus was marked with tears. His straightforward declaration of the gospel of Jesus Christ provoked the conflict. The sources of conflict were “the plots of the Jews,” “savage wolves” from outside the assembly, and leaders within the church that will arise to speak “perverse things” in an effort to divide the church. As Paul takes leave of these believers, he warns them of continuing conflict and urges them to “be on guard” and “be on the alert.” Even as he transitions to another area of ministry Paul declares that “the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me.” In other words, conflict cannot be avoided. In fact, it is the Holy Spirit that is guiding him from conflict to conflict. The goal of Paul’s ministry is to “build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:18-32).
Jesus’ example of grace is the model that pastors should seek to emulate when teaching on the discipleship of giving. In teaching on tithing, pastors must acknowledge that God’s people have suffered much spiritual abuse. Church leaders are not exempt from the temptations associated with the love of money. As Paul warned Timothy about these temptations, he encouraged Timothy to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:6-11 NKJV). Pastors should recognize the financial difficulties that many believers face. Some new converts come to church overloaded with debt. Many young couples try to provide for their families with a sub-standard income. Many senior adults live on a fixed income that is not adequate to their needs. These believers often struggle with tithing and giving. Pastors must have a patient and gentle spirit while encouraging these disciples to be faithful stewards.