Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Things Unstained

“Those who made them (the rings) did not desire strength or dominion or hoarded wealth, but understanding, making and healing to preserve things unstained.” —J. R. R. Tolkien

“I want to be a pastor when I grow up," our five-year-old son declared one day. "Why would you want to be that?” I asked. “Well,” he replied "I want to stand in front of lots of people and talk and talk and ramble." I wondered how he came up with that notion until I remembered that I was his pastor. 

All sorts of motives are at play when we're doing church. I must say it's heady stuff to stand before a crowd and talk and talk and ramble. There's a buzz that comes from tripping the light fantastic and turning the exactly right phrase. 

And, then there are the power trips we can take because we're “sitting in the seat of Moses." There's an ersatz authority that can rest upon us when we're “revved up” and garbed up and we presume to take on that role. 

Of course, we would never hoard wealth, but it's possible to goof off and draw a pretty good salary, or sponge off the well-to-do in our congregations and gather up the amenities they offer.

But such motives betray us. They become sordid and rotten and ruin us in the end. "Do not work for the food that spoils..." Jesus said (John 6:27). Some folks did, "and it bred worms and stank..." (Exodus 16:19,20).

Motives are tricky things and I doubt that I will ever understand my own, which is why I should ask God often to search my heart and try my thoughts and see “if there be any wicked way in me” (Psalm 139:24). In the interim I can rest assured that most of my motives are rotten. 

Years ago my friend and pastor, Ray Stedman, told me that he determined very early in his ministry that he would never do anything for power, prestige, or money. I can't say that wrong-headed motives have never been determinative for me, but I hope and pray that someday "understanding, making and healing" will  transcend them.

David Roper


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