April 3, 2007

The Selfish Minister

I find it easy--far too easy--to condemn other ministers for their seeming self-service. But original sin in each person drives us to self-service. So it is not surprising that ministers, often driven by idealism at the beginning, end up turning the ministry into the glorification of self. In studying the concept of "ransom" in preparation for Good Friday, I came across this in Kretzmann (commenting on Mt. 20.28):

If one has the ambition to be great before Christ in the midst of his brethren, his life's aim shall be to be the servant of the others; if he would be reckoned as being first, let him become, literally, and in the best sense of the word, a slave to others. Unselfish ministry, ungrudging service is the mark of true greatness before Christ. Striving for honor and glory before men in no way agrees with the spirit which He displayed throughout His life. For He Himself, equipped with power over all creation, by virtue of His divinity, having the authority to demand service from all man, did not make use of this power, but spent His life in serving. His entire life was a ministry in the interest of all men, culminating in the great sacrifice which is at the same time most mysterious and most glorious: He gave His life as a ransom for many. The whole world was sold into the power of Satan, death, and hell, and there was no salvation on earth. All men were doomed to be chained with the fetters of this slavery to all eternity. But Christ came and gave His own life in their stead, thus ransoming and redeeming all men from the power of the enemies. In view of such a sacrifice, it surely must be out of the question for any follower of Christ to do anything but strive after that same humility, that same spirit of unselfish service. And the pastors, the ministers of Jesus and His Church in a special sense, will gladly follow the example of their great Head. "My office therefore and that of every preacher and pastor does not consist in lording it, but herein, that I serve you all, that ye learn to know God, that ye are baptized, that ye have the true Word of God, and that ye finally may be saved, and do not venture to assume the worldly government, which princes and lords, mayors and judges, shall appoint and take care of. My office is only a service which I should give to every one free and for nothing, seeking neither money nor goods, neither honor nor anything else…. But, indeed, if I do that, then ye are afterwards obliged to do this, that ye support me. For since I should preach and serve you therewith, I cannot in the mean time provide my own food; therefore ye are under obligation to support me, and that entirely for nothing, for whosoever serves the altar, says St. Paul, shall live off the altar."

I am so profoundly grateful that my congregation supports me, indeed supports me well. God grant me the strength to receive it unselfishly, for the good of the ministry, and not mine own good.

1 comment:

Orycteropus Afer said...

Welcome to the confessional Lutheran blogosphere and to the Big Blogroll O' Vark.