Sordid Gains


Today’s readings:
Psalms 27; 147:12-20, Deuteronomy 7:6-11, Titus 1:1-16, John 1:29-34

Titus was a student of Paul who helped him evangelize on the island of Crete. After Paul left, he charged Titus with spreading the true Gospel among its people. This presented a challenge, because many Jews living in Crete wanted to stick with their laws and practices, such as dietary restrictions and mandated circumcision. Most of these people were understandably conflicted; for their whole lives they’d been taught to follow God in a very specific way, and now their devotion to Christ was not quite sufficient to convince them it was no longer necessary.

However, where some people experienced genuine struggle, others saw an opportunity to capitalize on that struggle. As Paul wrote, “they are upsetting whole families by teaching for sordid gain what it is not right to teach.” Much of the gain was financial, but influence and power were also up for grabs.

Paul cautioned Titus to appoint elders who exhibited self-control, humility, and trustworthiness. These qualities are important because they provide examples of spiritual commitment and maturity, but also because they are shared by people whose motivations are more likely to be genuine. Anyone put into a position of power – from the leaders of small congregations to the leaders of world powers – will be tempted to abuse that power. This tendency is indirectly enabled as their power grows and people become less willing to challenge them. That deference creates a void which is gradually filled by an inflated ego. Power corrupts not only by tempting us, but – once attained – by insulating us from factors that would normally keep us humble. Faith leaders must remain diligent to maintain a servant’s heart.

Leaders who have our best interests in mind will correct us, but not coerce us. They will explain, but not exploit. Appeal but not appease. We shouldn’t reject someone simply for having a ministry that has resulted in worldly success, but neither should we assume that success indicates they are good ministers. Are they helping us listen for God, or taking it upon themselves to speak for God? An insincere answer, supplied to maintain an illusion of wisdom, does far more damage than no answer.

We follow Christ. Anyone who encourages us to look to them before looking at Jesus is wandering in the dark.

Comfort: No one stands between you and God.

Challenge: Trust your instincts. Don’t be afraid to challenge leaders when you feel they have strayed, but also be open to correction yourself.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for being present to me always. Amen.

Discussion: In today’s reading from John, John the Baptist was willing to give up his very successful ministry when Jesus arrived on the scene. Have you ever held onto something – a job, a ministry, influence – because you felt threatened by someone else?

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