"Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market place, and chief seats in the synagogues, and places of honor at banquets, who devour widow's houses and for appearance's sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation." Mark 12:38-40
This was not a good situation. The leaders of the church of Jesus day were corrupt. They strutted around town like they were gods to be respected and obeyed and claimed to get their license from God Himself yet they did not know His Word. They made up their own rules at the expense of God's rules. They didn't even recognize God Himself as they stumbled over Christ. The people of that day looked to them for they were the only spiritual leadership they had, so when they needed help or spiritual guidance, they looked to these men and did what they said to do in an effort to please God and receive from Him. How sad!
I guess things haven't changed much. I know way too many so-called and self-appointed "shepherds" who are just like these men described in the book of Mark. Some desire to be ministers because they think that it will afford them "respectful greetings in the market place, chief seats in the synagogues, and places of honor at banquets". Ministry is certainly NOT something you do to gain or improve self-esteem!
I've been around a lot of ministers in my 27 years of ministry. Many of them I have socialized with are well known enough that if I mentioned their names you would recognize them. You may even watch their t.v. shows. You may even send them money! Truly, God had called and gifted them, but as one of them so often said "your ministry may take you places that your gift cannot keep you. You must have character to keep you." Unfortunately, this minister did not follow his own advice and develop his character and ended up falling and staining the name of Christ. Others I have known have started out well, but due to this same problem have aborted the call of God on their life and have become proud and arrogant dividing the Body of Christ and leaving a trail of sickly, bleeding and dying sheep in their wake all the while believing that they are "ministering". Others just plainly were never called to ministry, they just went. These usually are compassionate people but end up frustrated and unfruitful because they are not graced and empowered to do what they are trying to do. Honestly, they are living in disobedience, trying to do something to which God has not called them to and neglecting what He has called them to.
To me, a true minister is not defined by his gift, but by his character for without Godly character, how can you truly minister in the Spirit? If you are a minister and you are prayer-less or wordless how can you have the wisdom and knowledge that you need to truly help and guide the sheep? You CAN'T! So you end up "devouring widow's houses and for appearance's sake offering long prayers" that avail nothing! You can give worldly wisdom, at best, or what sounds right to you but in light of poor character, what seems right to you may be, in God's eyes, totally wrong! In fact, you may end up damaging the sheep more than helping them while you live off of their offerings. You are a false shepherd!
Most ministers I know that are truly, obviously called did not want to enter the ministry. The weight of the responsibility was something that they shied away from because they did not feel competent or capable to minister. These men and women are ones who recognize their need of the help of the Holy Spirit DAILY to do the work God has called them to. They know that they must be DAILY at the feet of their Master seeking His will, His message, His wisdom for each of the sheep that has been placed in His care. Does that mean that we pray for every sheep, every day? Of course not. That would be impossible and would soon become religious activity. (So don't send in your $1,000.00 to some lying dog on t.v. who promises to pray for you by name everyday for a year! You're not being a good steward of God's money! Honestly, you're better off praying for yourself and sowing that $1000.00 to the mission field!).
Some days I think I've seen it all, heard it all and experienced it all in ministry. I wouldn't say that ministry has been particularly kind to me or my husband or my family. But be that as it may and even more so, I still need the voice, the wisdom, and the guidance of God in every situation where I deal with the sheep. My advice should be from God's Word, strictly and exclusively. My methods should be according to His ways, not the ways of the world, our society or even the latest, greatest book written by a money seeking minister. (Honestly I just wish people would read their Bibles primarily and get the revelation that the Holy Spirit would like them have concerning it instead of counting on someone else to "expound" on it for them!)
I never felt a "call" to be in ministry. I never wanted to be in ministry. But I am. And I minister. I'm still not exactly sure, in the big picture of things, what my title (if I had one or wanted one) would be in the Kingdom of God. I just take things one day at a time knowing that if I just follow Christ DAILY, I will walk in His will, I will fulfill His call on my life and I will receive my reward. And that's all I need to know!
It would be very easy for me to become like a scribe. You see, I attend a church where we are respected, honored and trusted. I could grow confident in my experience in the ministry and in the fruit I have seen come from it. I could easily allow myself to think that I have somehow earned or deserve the respect that I receive from the sheep. I could even use the sheep to build my self-esteem and my bank account if I wanted to. It's happened to so many others! And I am susceptible to the same trappings as all of those who have fallen or have left the service of the Master in order to become their own master. So I daily ask myself these questions:
- Am I spending time and growing in the Word of God DAILY?
- Am I spending time in prayer DAILY-LISTENING to what God would say to me about myself, about my relationship with Him, about my character, about my ministry?
- Do I truly love the sheep that God has placed in my care or do I tolerate or try to ignore them?
- Do I deem myself in anyway "higher" than them in worth, talent, or gifting?
- Do I see myself as a servant of God AND a servant of the sheep?
- Am I willing to put their needs ahead of my own?
- Am I willing to give up a blessing that could be mine so that they may be blessed?
- Am I willing to sacrifice my own ambitions and dreams, if need be, so that I can minister effectively to them?
- Am I willing to sacrifice their "liking" me to lovingly administer care and healing to them because I know that this is ultimately what is best for them? (The sheep do not always like what the shepherd does to them but they still follow him anyway and they are healthy and strong.)
- Do I have the Word of the Lord when I speak to them or am I speaking out of worldly wisdom or worldly knowledge of their situation?
Some would say, that's a lot of questions! That's a lot of work! Yes, it is! But it is the work that the Lord has called me to do. It is what He, solely by His grace and power enables me to do on a daily basis. I do not want or need accolades or titles. In fact, I cringe when our church blesses us the way they do because I truly wonder what in the world we did to cause them to honor us the way they do. So many days I second guess myself and wonder if I truly had the mind and heart of God when I spoke to someone. And I tremble every time I am put in a situation where Godly counsel is required because I so want to give the heart and mind of God to that person.
God takes the ministry seriously! It says so in this passage! Ministers are placed in a position of receiving "greater condemnation". But we can also be in the position to receive greater commendation and double honor. Which would you receive if you stood before the Lord today? You may not be a t.v. crook but are you a minister that the sheep should be wary of or can they trust that you have the mind and heart of God for them? Are you someone you would trust if you were part of the flock? These are sobering questions. We must have the right answers!