I spoke at length the other day to a close associate who was very upset by a combination of events that had really taken a toll on her. She has five grown children. Not one of them bothered to so much as send her a Christmas card this year. Not one of them bothered to give her any kind of gift this year, including the youngest that she had helped land a $60,000 per year job. His "gift" to her was a hug.
Now this person is a very strong believer and usually isn't moved by the "foolishness" of people. It really hurt her this week when her own family decided they were too busy to send a holiday greeting and their money was better spent on themselves and their own families. The sad reality in this situation is that this wonderful woman devotes over 60 hours per week in volunteer service and donates close to 80% of her monthly income to help the poor and disabled through a community outreach program she directs. What is her earthly reward for her selfless service to others? Children who are too pre-occupied with themselves to take a few minutes and spend a few dollars to "bless" their mother.
I have a problem with this country we call aMErica. It is that every day it seems more and more people succumb to the notion that everything in life revolves around "me". The "it's all about me" attitude that permeates and flows through every fabric of American culture is turning the hearts of people away from service to others and toward arrogant and selfish attitudes that serve no one but oneself. The big money marketing people in this country have certainly succeeded in their quest to turn a nation of self-sacrificing servants into a nation of self-serving fools.
I spoke recently to another associate who is dealing with a horrible problem. This person directs a distribution center for poor people that is 100% run by volunteers and all the products are 100% donated. The center is totally independent and has no strings to any governmental agency or religious denomination. Although it is considered "grass roots", those directing and working at the center are all devout Christians who pray with the people who come there and freely give them Bibles and other materials.
Down the road a few miles from this center sits a small church. The pastor of this church sits on the "board" of the center and in fact, the director of the center is the pastor's daughter. The center has no ties to the church and the church has none to the center. Every week the pastor comes on the days the center is open and watches the people receive goods. Every week she wants to take some for her church. Every week she is told no.
A few days ago this pastor came to the center and "demanded" she be given all sorts of dry goods for her church so the church wouldn't have to go buy them. When the pastor's daughter said no, the pastor threw a tantrum and started "casting out devils" from her daughter and telling her if she didn't give her the stuff she was going to burn in hell. The situation evidently got quite ugly, but he daughter refused to comprise her principles and kept reminding her mother of conflict of interest clauses in their organization's 501c3 charter.
The question that arises from this incident is where lines are to be drawn between what someone perceives they "deserve" due to position or rank versus principles of honesty and integrity. When earthly family relationships come into play, it makes these lines very hard to find. I suggested to this person that the time has come to politely ask her mother to resign from her position on the center's board. I doubt it will ever happen.
A couple of years ago I used to round up supplies and rent trucks to haul them to Mississippi after hurricane Katrina. There was one church I especially loved taking things to for the people were very poor and no one else was helping. After the second trip I noticed a very disturbing trend starting. Every time I took a truckload of supplies down, the volunteers picked through the load and took the best for themselves. After this happened about three times I confronted the pastor and told him I didn't think this behavior was right. I was quoted some Bible verses out of context and told I was wrong.
The last trip I made to that church was ridiculous. The volunteers took over half the things in the truck for themselves. I got angry and again confronted the pastor about how wrong this was. I was told where I was going to spend eternity and asked to not come back. Of course I never went back and soon afterward the church closed the relief operation due to lack of supplies.
Do pastors really have the God given right to threaten their congregation, family members and other clergy with "hell" just because they refuse to give them special privileges or special treatment? Isn't threatening people with eternal death a bit over the line? I have a very hard time dealing with pastors and other "religious leaders" whose "holier than thou" attitude demands others serve them. It is all backwards from the way God set it up.
During the days of delivering supplies to needy churches after Katrina, I found two kinds of pastors. There were some who jumped up as soon as the truck was stopped and immediately started carrying supplies into their church or handing them out to people in need. These true ministers of the Lord were more than willing to get dirty and sweaty. They wore that dirt and grime as a badge of honor. They knew it was a small price to pay for helping their people.
There were other pastors who would either not show up or if they did, they would sit in the background and watch as others got dirty and sweaty unloading the truck. If someone dropped a box, they would jump up and yell at the person, but they would never lift a finger to help. I asked one of these guys one time why they were too good to get dirty and I was told that a leader was to never "lower himself" to the level of the people. He said a leader had to stay "aloof" so as to be someone the people would "look up to". His implication was no one would respect him if his clothes got dirty.
One of the last great lessons Jesus taught his disciples before he was led off to be tortured and crucified was that of service and humility. He got down on the floor and washed his disciple's feet. When Peter objected, Jesus sternly told him if he did not allow him to do it, he would not be allowed to be a disciple. Jesus was adamant that his followers understand that leadership means service, and to serve entails the utmost of humility.
Jesus never demanded the disciples wash his feet. Jesus never demanded his disciples bow down before him, pay him for his good works or act as his slaves. Loving service is none of those things. Loving service demands nothing but the opportunity to serve. It expects nothing in return and is not motivated by material gain or adoring worship. Loving service springs from a heart that wants to give back to the Lord for all it has been given. "Freely you have received, so freely give."
I know the first person I mentioned is already "over" the Christmas slap in the face. She is already laughing about it in fact. She understands that foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, even if they are 28 years old. She loves her children and she knows they love her, even if they don't do a very good job of showing it. I admire this kind of strength in a person and it makes me feel honored to serve together with them.
The second situation is a bit more involved. It is one thing for a mother and daughter to have an argument over a deep difference of opinions. But, when the mother plays the "pastor" card on someone not a member of her church, but happens to be her daughter; "Houston, we have a problem". The mother/pastor is wrong in this situation but will not admit it. She is growing ever the more militant by the day and has taken to "preaching" to her congregation about her "devil possessed" daughter who does not respect her mother in the Lord.
In time this situation will get resolved one way or another. But in the mean time it makes for an awfully strained relationship and serves as a distraction for someone who has a lot to get done in the next few days. All I or anyone else can do is pray the mother calms down and allows the Holy Spirit to show her what is really going on.
I pray that any of us who have committed our lives to serving the Lord will always remember that the greatest leader has to be the greatest servant. The minute self-sacrifice is replaced with self-service the entire spiritual equilibrium is thrown off and everything gets out of balance. Please, may we all put aside our selfish "me first" or "what about me" or "poor me" attitudes and replace them with the truth of why we are here. God allows us to live to bless Him and serve others. It is that plain and simple.
Rarely have I read such an eloquently worded plea for all of us to recall the great service of SACRIFICE that our Lord and Savior lived each day, and for which He ultimately DIED.
It brings to mind what Paul told us about "dying to self" and how critical that is in our walk with our Lord.
Yet, I too know how difficult that is in the wake of the "family" relationship and the altered dynamic that occurs in some familial situations.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for taking your time and posting this for us all.