“… This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?” (Ezekiel 34.2) ”
I probably smell more like a sheep now than I did two or three years ago. The reason is simple; I am spending more time with the sheep. The reason I spend more time is also simple. Economically, the sheep industry has been at rock bottom for about two years. Attempts to do something about the economic squeeze must include better management, which necessarily means spending more time with the sheep. To add insult to injury, coyotes have invaded this geographic area and given shepherds a challenge for which we were not prepared. We routinely put some, if not all, of our sheep up in a sheep fold, as it were, every night to protect them from coyotes. One benefit of this daily gathering of sheep is that I get to know them better, which can be good in the long run, for them and for me.
I heard a story about a pastor who was given a Cadillac automobile. It supposedly caused all manner of havoc in his church. The implication was that people in the congregation were jealous because of the blessing the pastor received. That is about all of the details I heard, but I immediately chuckled inside as I heard the account being told. I chuckled, not because the situation of a disturbed congregation, nor because he received the fancy automobile. I just thought it was a bit humorous that neither the pastor who received the car nor the person telling the story had enough discernment about them to realize the effect of such a gift to the pastor. Since I don’t know the situation, I don’t know whether the people in the congregation were jealous or not. They may have reacted as I probably would; upset at the poor judgment of the pastor.
In recent years I have had a special interest in prosperity among Christian leaders, and how they handle it when it comes. I have a few interesting questions regarding the man who received the Cadillac. Did he really have need of a car? Do the people in his congregation drive Cadillacs, Lincolns and Chrysler New Yorkers, or do they drive Chevrolets, Fords and Plymouths? Did the pastor pay a tithe on this gift, or is he only to tithe at times when God blesses him with cash? Did he consider selling the car and then tithing? Did he consider refusing the gift because it might give an impression that he was being improperly elevated above the people in his congregation? (Just say “no” to Cadillacs!)
The Bible says (Duet. 14:22-27) that we are to take the tithe to the place God has chosen as a dwelling for His name. Furthermore He said if the place is too distant and you have been blessed to the extent that you cannot carry your tithe, then exchange your tithe for silver and take the silver with you and go to the place the Lord your God will choose. Of course in this case the pastor would not be able to carry one tenth of his car, but perhaps he could have driven the whole thing to church. That may not have worked too well either, because he likely would have had trouble getting the nine-tenths of his automobile back home.
There are other questions: Was there anyone else in the congregation who needed a car worse than the pastor? I could go on, but my point is that any man, be he a corporate executive, a government official, or pastor of a congregation, who gets set too much above his constituents, will eventually loose the “smell of sheep” on his clothing. This type life style will eventually prove harmful to the flock.
A few years ago I read the account a well-known minister wrote about a Rolex watch that was given to him. The watch was supposedly worth about $15,000. At some point later he “blessed” some other preacher by giving it to him. Ultimately the first preacher received a new watch of similar value as a gift from someone else. His point was that God not only blessed him with an expensive watch, but God blessed him with a second watch because he gave the first one away. Wonder if either of these guys tithed their blessings? I bet the watches wouldn’t keep very good time with 10 percent of the parts missing? Of course, you and I both know that people who wear such watches don’t do so because they want to know what time it is. A $10 digital gives the correct time.
A whole series of questions could be raised about the prosperity preachers who drive expensive cars and trade around $15,000 watches. I’m sure there must be a lot of people who are impressed and literally “eat up” hearing those type testimonies, but it seems to me the appeal would be primarily to some who are materially rich, some who want to be materially rich, and those who are searching for, and are apt to find gods rather than God.
If a pastor, or any Christian leader, stood before me giving Christian testimony, and I knew he had a $15,000 watch on his wrist, he would not get my ear any quicker than a man who completely disrobed himself while giving testimony. I assure you jealousy would not be involved in either case; it is a matter of poor judgment of such leaders.
Christians in positions of leadership who live in materialistic luxury above the sheep of this world have become insensitive to the needs of the flock. I suggest that these type shepherds have long ago lost the smell of sheep. They either don’t know the condition of those who Jesus called “My sheep”, or they don’t care. “… This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?” (Eze 34.2) ” …I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered.” (Eze 34:20-22)
This is a unique time in history. Our ability to communicate via satellite, with the aid of computers, phones and fax machines can literally put us in contact with the rest of the world in a manner of minutes, even seconds. There is no excuse for us to pretend we don’t know what is going on throughout the world. God, in his Word, has instructed Christian leaders to “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care — being examples to the flock.” (1Pet 5:2-3). If millions are naked and starving while shepherds are trading plunder, what example do the shepherds set? Do they really care about getting down in the sheep pen day after day, or do they prefer not to smell like a sheep?
NOTE: This was written in 1992 and is now Chapter 23 in the book Sheep Tracks, Biblical Insights from a Sheepherder. The theme is just as applicable in 2009 as it was in 1992.