I especially like the Corinthians verse because this is the Apostle Paul tell the congregation at Corinth that he is their servant for the sake of Jesus Christ. That is what we need more of today. Beloved, how can this hypocrisy not be noticed? The Bible is replete with teachings on servant hood and pastors are leading their lives as if they deserve to be served. Heaven forbid you park in their parking space, ask to speak to them without an appointment, or demand transparency. The purpose driven church model teaches them that you need to be "blessedly subtracted" from their sheep pen if you disagree with them. As former Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll once quipped, you just become another "dead body" behind the bus the pastor is driving. Driscoll is a good popular example of someone who started feeling entitled. He felt entitled to take $200,000 in tithe monies to promote his new book. He felt entitled enough to cheat the NY Times Best Seller list. He felt entitled enough to steal the intellectual work of countless people by plagiarizing every book he has written. He apparently felt so entitled that he did not see anything wrong with what he did and remains unrepentant to this day. Do you think his hypocrisy was lost on the 12,000 + congregants at his former church? Do you think this type of hypocrisy is lost on the general public? Do you think it is lost on the world when Ted Haggard preaches for years against homosexuality only to be caught using a male prostitute for decades? Do you think it is lost on anyone when pastors preach about holiness only to fall in adultery? This is not to condemn anyone but to point out the immense responsibility that rests on the shoulders of Christian leaders and to avoid the sense of entitlement that can lead to such sin. There is a reason why God gave specific and difficult requirements for the pastoral office:
Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for is someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. -- 1Timothy 3: 2-7 (ESV)
Yet to quote these qualifications today is almost anathema to many pastors. I have heard many dismiss them as not being realistic or plausible. As if God made a mistake. While the first warning of the hypocritical life dealt with showing off and the second dealt with developing a sense of entitlement, the third deals more with how as leaders we actually treat people. Not in church. Not in our Friday prayer service. But in the real life and daily grind. The example Jesus gives in the key verses is that the scribes would devour widows' houses. Such was the practice of those in religious power during this day. They would prey on the weak. They would convince widows to sell their house over to them. They would persuade them to give financially to the religious leaders even though they had no way to sustain themselves. Sound familiar? Consider this quote:
"Don't give the first portion (of your income) to the mortgage company because the mortgage company does not have the power to bless your finances. Only God does. Don't give the first portion to the electric company; the electric company cannot bless your finances, only God can. Would you rather live with 100% of your income and all of it coursed, or 90% of your income and all of it blessed. That's what the Bible says." -- Robert Morris, Pastor of Gateway Church
Except that is most certainly NOT what the Bible says. The Bible says we are to love mercy. The Bible says we are to take care of the least in our societies. Morris is far from alone however. The vast majority of preachers today preach the tithing lie; bullying, and guilting the sheep into giving them money. But this portion of guarding your life goes beyond monetary issues. This cuts to the heart of being a pastor. How do you treat people? If you operate a church and everyone leaves your employ, what does that say about you? Not as a leader but as a pastor? As a Christian? If you are constantly seeing people flee your church, what does that say about you? The purpose driven paradigm simply says to replace them but that is not what the Bible says. Pastors will be held accountable for every sheep, regardless of how the sheep behaved. What good is it to only love those who love you -- even the tax collectors do that! I have seen pastors entertain gossip, spew venom at people, talk about people behind their back, preach privately gained entrusted information from the pulpit, steal people's memberships, make up lies about congregants, smear people's reputations, plagiarize other people's sermons, just to name a few ungodly behaviors. And these were pastors! Do not think for a moment that people do not see who you really are. I write a lot about false theology and what makes a false teacher but can you get any more false than these types of behaviors from someone entrusted to a leadership position in Christ's church? Please beloved; I am not speaking about an oopsie. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone says something they regret. Pastors are human too. I am speaking about a reputation earned over many offenses without the care to try and change. I am speaking about a track record of abuses and leaving a trail of bloodied and wounded sheep in your wake. We are supposed to take care of widows and orphans, not devour their houses.
This directly ties into the final area to guard closely when it comes to hypocrisy and that is motive. The key verses say for a pretense, or lie, they make lengthy prayers. They lie about their own religiosity. It is all for show. I have known pastors who can put a solid sermon together from an academic standpoint but I was not sure if they even knew the Holy Spirit. Preaching is not an academic exercise. I have known pastors who recycled old sermons consistently for new congregations instead of seeking the Lord for a fresh Word. If your pastor spends more time praying for tithing than the sick, we have a problem. More importantly here is the tie in because that is the whole point of these verses. Making a lengthy show of prayer while leading a life that does not match it is rank hypocrisy. You can fall on your face and it will not matter if you treat people like they do not matter. You can wear a Jewish prayer shawl when you pray on Sunday but if you are devouring widow's homes on Tuesday none of it matters. You can sit in ashes and rend your garments but if you are known for treating people like a bully or with contempt then your hypocrisy exposes the falseness of your piety. That has been the point all along. Preaching and teaching roles within the church are not a job. They are a calling and one that should not be taken lightly. They come with double responsibility not just double honor. As someone who has worked in human services for over two decades I have a pet saying that there are not enough people in human services that actually care about humans. The same goes for pastoring today. There are not enough shepherds who actually care about sheep.
Paul explicitly warns Timothy to guard two things closely. The first is doctrine because teaching false doctrine divides the church and leads people away from Jesus Christ. You cannot alter the Gospel and think you are still leading people to Jesus. This is the easier classification for us. We see someone preaching absurdities and we can easily mark them as a false teacher. But guarding your life leads to more subtle nuances. The reality however is that preachers and teachers who lead a life that does not line up with the Bible are just as false. It matters not if they preach the whole Gospel or not; they are just as false. They lead just as many people away from Christ. When you speak to someone who has given up on church it is rarely because someone preached falsely. It is usually because of how they were treated. The Bible makes it very clear and this should be frightening for anyone who assumes a leadership role for Christ haphazardly. Theirs remains the greater condemnation.
Reverend Anthony Wade -- March 17, 2016