The church today has become pretty much a “non-prophet organization”.
Years ago, preachers were praised for “telling it like it is” to a congregation. These days, that kind of truth that “cuts like a surgeon’s scalpel” is about as welcomed as a porcupine at a nudist colony!
The problem comes when he focuses in on our particular sin, which in the church is often a sin of omission (something we should be doing but aren’t).
Those self-righteous sins have always gotten under my skin, ever since I first read this passage as a teenage Christian and felt my blood pressure rise…
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. – James 2:14-17
Here, the half-brother of Jesus exposes one of the chief problems of the church in His day, and not coincidentally our churches today. We Christians like to talk big about how much we love the Lord and people, but we don’t like putting any actions behind it.
We make a lot of big talk about “loving the sinner and hating the sin”. We just don’t like it when God actually tells us to do it.
Too many times, I think God’s main message to the church today is “Put up or shut up”.
I guess when I read that passage in James, I shouldn’t be surprised it still cuts so deep. Evidently, it wasn’t a message the early church wanted to hear either. Why should it be any different today?
The problem is when you go ahead and preach against something, now you sound self-righteous. Anytime you point out wrong, it’s a good bet people will accuse you of thinking you’re without sin.
“Pastor, you sound like you’re the only one doing it right”!
Here’s my biggest problem – I’m not doing it right. And it’s eating me alive. The very Scripture I quoted above indicts me, cutting into my own selfish heart.
True confession: in my heart, I want God to be all about meeting my own needs too. I want Him to comfort ME when I’m hurting, I’m not really worried about you. And all too often I’d like to tell the rest of the world to take a hike!
If you want to know the brutal truth, right now I don’t want to call back that church member who’s having a tough time. Why? Because I just don’t feel like hearing about someone else’s problems at this moment. I want a God who’s focused on MY PROBLEMS, MY FEELINGS, and VALIDATING ME!
I confess: I want it to all be about me. Just like you do.
Yeah, I’m just as much of a selfish jerk as the people James was preaching to. I want to LOOK SPIRITUAL without actually doing anything to help anybody. The only sign of hope I see in my own wicked heart is this: I can admit I’m a selfish jerk.
Tell me, my friend…can you?
If so, there’s still hope for you and me both. But the key comes when we translate “feeling guilty” into “doing something”.
This is where the rubber meets the road, because now you have a choice. You can ignore this loud-mouthed preacher. If you’d like, you can always find another preacher (just check your TV listings) who’ll tell you something completely different…that God only wants to give you stuff…that you’re never supposed to get sick…that everything you’re doing now is just fine and dandy.
You know…all the self-serving things your flesh wants to hear.
But for now, how about listening to this frustrated hypocritical prophet, preaching just as much to himself as to you? How about let’s do something, and prove to God our faith is alive and not just dead talk.
By the way, I just called that church member back who’s having a tough time. Hopefully, soon I’ll be able to say something to him that will help.
So if you feel like a hypocrite, no problem. Welcome to my club.
Hi, my name is Bad Pastor and when it comes to living my Christianity, I’m a selfish jerk.
But thankfully, I believe I may be in recovery.