A Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table . . . Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” – Luke 11:37ff
One day, Jesus is walking along, teaching a crowd of people about prayer, Beelzebub, driving out demons and the sign of Jonah, who lived inside a fish for three days. You know, the basics of the faith. Then a Pharisee invites Jesus to eat at his house, so Jesus goes and has a nice lunch, but when He doesn’t wash before the meal the way custom instructed, the Pharisee gets religious with the creator of the universe.
In response to this Pharisee and his concern for traditions over God’s mercy, Jesus tells him and his friends they are filthy cups and fools who are headed towards God’s judgment for the way they chose tradition over relationship. This is the famous passage where Jesus pronounces His “Six Woes” upon the Pharisees and scribes.
As I was reading this, it occurred to me that Jesus is actually condemning those who were feeding Him lunch. After accepting an invitation to eat in someone’s home, Jesus turns on the one who fed Him. In appears that Jesus wasn’t afraid to tell the truth to those who were hosting Him. Could pastors (me included) learn a lesson from this?
- How often have pastors been afraid to address certain church issues in fear of offending the generous giver and losing their financial support? Are we, in this manner, placing tithes over truth?
- How often have pastors been afraid to address unscriptural behavior by a member in the church out of fear of offending the family and losing a big contributor? Are we, in this manner, placing salary over salvation?
- How often have pastors steered away from preaching the whole Gospel of Christ because they fear what Sister Self-Righteous will say during the weekly prayer/gossip circle?
- How often have pastors skipped over controversial passages of the Bible because they know a certain deacon will say the pastor has now gone from preachin’ to meddlin’ and it may be time to look for a new preacher?
- How often have pastors shown more fear of people’s opinions than they do the opinion of God?
- How often have pastors been too worried about their salary and position to address the sin and selfishness in their congregation?
Jesus didn’t worry about offending people. He was too concerned with telling them the truth their souls needed to hear to worry about His next dinner invitation.
As a pastor of a small congregation, I know it is tempting to sugar coat the truth so no one will be offended and leave the fellowship. But Jesus, knowing He would offend those who supported Him, told them the truth regardless of their reaction. And when their reaction got hot enough, they didn’t just vote Him out of the church – they crucified Him.
I’m not looking for a fight in my congregation. But I’m not going to back down from the truth of God’s Word because a religious traditionalist might be offended and take their tithes elsewhere. Besides, if they were giving to the church in order to hear what they wanted to hear, then their money was not actually a tithe, but rather a tip to insure proper service.
So, can I be like Jesus and be a pastor? Yes, but only if I’m willing to truly follow Jesus and not worry about the contributions and opinions of people. I may not get too many lunch invitations, but I won’t have to worry about Jesus showing up during a church service to tell me to clean the inside of my cup.