Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Are We "Called" To A Standard Of Living?
Do we expect our professional clergy to have a lower standard of living than the average parishioner? I don't think so. This concept strikes me as very old (read: 1950s)church.It is difficult to know how to put this. I have no problem with anyone, pastors included, making a good living. Lord knows that by His grace I am currently making a very good one. What I have a problem with is the expectation of one, and I have a serious problem when clergy expects it.
My hunch is that congregations want to be led by someone who lives like they live. But if you happen to be the pastor of a church in Potomac, Maryland or McLean, Virginia, that's usually not possible, unless there's a rectory or manse and even then, a person needs a small fortune to keep up in terms of furnishings and wardrobe. And people will make comments if the pastor drives a nicer car than anyone else.
I want to be lead by someone that is totally, completely, and utterly dependent on Jesus Christ. I want someone to lead me where I think I am supposed to go, and I want them to be at least a few steps ahead of me. That utter dependence means finances as much as it means anything else.
Are we not called to gratitude for the blessings that God has given us? (I Thess. 5:18) Has God not promised to provide sufficiently for us? (Matt. 6:25-34) This is what I expect from my professional clergy, and from myself - reliance on these promises.
Thus if I have plenty, I am grateful, if I have but enough, and somehow I have always had enough, I am also grateful, and I know that what I have, I have because of Him who gave it to me. Is it graceful or full of gratitude to argue that leadership somehow demands a standard of living? It strikes me more as petulant than anything else. (Understandable petulance in the light of the anecdote described in the underlying post, but we are also called to control such outbursts.)
I believe that most congregations will provide for their pastors in a fashion similar to how they live, but such is NOT what a pastor is called to. They are called to minister in His name. In fact that is what we are all called to.
I currently enjoy a standard of living far better than most of the nation, and certainly the world. Such has not always been so, nor do I expect such will always be. God blesses us profusely for seasons, and other times He has provided only enough. In the lean times, I have sought to be grateful for what I did have, and in the times of abundance, I seek always, though confess to failure, to remember the source of that abundance and to handle what I have as His resource, not mine.
I can say that at this juncture in my life, God has been with me through all of it. And that has made it all good.