David Sylvester: Beware of Spiritual Pride

A prominent senior pilot for a major airline slid a large check across restaurant table to me. It represented a major gift in our new struggling congregation. In the early days of a church, needs are very basic. Any size offering and people who can breathe and stack the chairs are an enormous blessing!

This gentleman had arrived in the fellowship only days earlier. Whether naïve or as giddy as a kid over free candy, I ignored the purpose of the check and his glaring desire that I see the amount and be duly impressed – he was attempting to buy influence, position and ultimately, authority. It wasn’t for sale and things didn’t end well.

The desire of some members to rise in prominence and control the leadership or manipulate decisions is an opiate and emotional high some people simply cannot resist. And for pastors, the temptation to be numerically successful, recognized easily in the community, seen in the news, viewed as financially astute, and featured at pastoral conferences to present and market our particular set of skills to the less informed is a heady experience, indeed. The late Presbyterian pastor and author Eugene Peterson of The Living Bible fame fired this shot over the pastoral bow in his remarkable book, Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work:

Pastoral work gathers expertise not by acquiring new knowledge but by assimilating old wisdom, not by reading the latest books but by digesting the oldest one…deliberate effort must be directed to the old continuities in pastoral work. Otherwise, we float on fads… too much pastoral work in our times is a consequence of that kind of procedure – a gerry-built structure, hastily and desperately put together out of whatever is at hand from graduate schools, the bestseller list and the latest opinion poll listings of what people want.

Although the antithesis of a pastor or faithful believer, the self-absorbed character of Haman featured prominently in the Esther narrative serves as a clear warning for us today, all of us.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, David Sylvester