Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sense of Entitlement

Many years ago, back in the 80's, a group of people from our church were sent to "headquarters" in another state. They attended meetings there for a week and returned with a new set of instructions regarding some changes that needed to be made. Apparently we had been quite amiss in a particular area. We had not been addressing our pastor properly. It was no longer acceptable to call him by name, but only by title. After all, how can he operate in the office of a pastor if we don't call him "Pastor?" There was no scripture presented to back up this deep new revelation, but great pressure was placed on anyone who did not follow this rule. It was not a choice which could be made by the individual. It was required. Despite how uncomfortable many of us were with this, we complied. Unfortunately, just the act of calling him "Pastor" did not transform him into the pastor we needed. He was just the same person with a new title. People also referred to him and other so-called spiritual leaders like him as their "Man of God" and their "Spiritual Father." It had always bothered me that these leaders demanded such a place of prominence over the rest of us as though they were superior to us. I knew they weren't. The Bible agrees with me:

Matthew 23:1-12 in the Message Bible says:

1-3 Now Jesus turned to address his disciples, along with the crowd that had gathered with them. "The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God's Law. You won't go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don't live it. They don't take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It's all spit-and-polish veneer.

4-7"Instead of giving you God's Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn't think of lifting a finger to help. Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called 'Doctor' and 'Reverend.'

8-10"Don't let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don't set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of 'Father'; you have only one Father, and he's in heaven. And don't let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.

11-12"Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you'll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you're content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

It is pretty hard to argue with that. I also really like this translation because I believe that honorary doctorates are a joke. Go to school and earn it. Don't make me call you doctor.

Please understand this. Call your pastor by that title if that is what is in your heart to do. But any man who makes demands on you, particularly to be addressed by a title, does not deserve it in the first place.

- V