And in his teaching Jesus said, “Watch out for the Bible scholars who like to walk around in long robes and be greeted in the marketplace and have the special seat in the synagogue and the place of honor at feasts.”
In the 1950s, the vocation of pastor ranked 3rd in status in the U.S. Fifty years later, pastors ranked 187th in status. The vocation of pastor is not nearly as dignified or respected as it once was.
All this is refreshing news for pastors. The word “minister” in the Bible does not mean a “clergyman,” but a “servant” – the one who is beneath others in order to serve. Just as Jesus assumed the role of a lowly servant, and demonstrated it as he knelt to wash his disciple’s feet, so he calls those in the church to forsake status in order to serve people.
It is a little more complex than I’m making it out to be, because we are to show a kind of respect to leaders in the church. But Jesus is stern in his warnings that we must not use religion as a means of gaining status.
The Bible scholars of Jesus day loved the status they enjoyed. They wore long stoles and robes to indicate their high rank in society. When they walked down the street on market day, the people would stand in honor as they passed by.
But, a concern for status invariably involves a comparison – a competition – to be higher in respect than others. That’s what makes it ugly. Status is rooted in pride.
The focus on status is destructive in the church. It destroys relationship. Intuitively, we know that relationships are of higher value than status.
You prove it by your refrigerator door. The photos of people on your fridge: are they of the most famous and influential people in the world? Or are they photos of family and friends? How about the artwork? Do you have artwork of the great masters, or drawings by your kids or grandkids?
Jesus turns the status charts upside down. He says that, if anyone wants to be first, let him be last and the “minister” (or, the servant) of all.
In the family of God, it’s not about being “higher” than others. It’s about having your drawing or photo slapped with a magnet to the fridge door.
(text copyright 2012 by Marty Kaarre)