The Paycheck

 "When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided His clothes among the four of them. They also took His robe, but it was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said, 'Let's not tear it, but throw dice to see who gets it.' This fulfilled the Scripture that says, 'They divided My clothes among themselves and threw dice for My robe.' So that is what they did." John 19:23-25

 

In her powerful and fascinating book, 40 Days of Decrease, Alicia Britt Chole writes of the various types of people who were at the cross as Jesus was crucified. There were the rulers, the watchers, those passing by, the two rebels, some of His disciples, and the soldiers. Each had varying levels of interest in Christ. What she writes concerning the soldiers both moves and convicts me. She says they were "Paid to be close to Jesus: nearest and yet farthest away. The paycheck can change your perspective whether in cash or praise. The soldiers valued Jesus' stuff more than His life. As they kept themselves busy around the cross, they numbed themselves to His voice." Can we take a moment, actually more than a moment, and allow His Spirit to reveal just how we may be in the same place with the soldiers in respect to Christ and His cross?

 

I have been a pastor now for more than 30 years. I don't think there has ever been a time when I did not love Him, yet I know, to my shame, there have been those times when I, like the soldiers, kept myself busy around the cross. Times when I valued "Jesus' stuff" more than His life. Times when I was numb to His voice because my focus was on where I wanted to get to, what I wanted to be, and what I wanted to have. Times, too many, when ministry was as much or more a career than a calling. More a job than a life. It can get that way and we don't even notice, because in our pursuit of what we want, we have become numb to His voice. Our eyes are on His stuff and not His face. And it doesn't just happen to pastors. We can all fall into the trap of being "professional believers." It can be a very subtle fall. In every walk of our "faith" we can end up being near Him for the "wages" we receive. Following Him is our job, not our lifestyle. We're at the cross to get hold of His stuff, not to become one with His voice and heart. From the pulpit to the living room to the workplace, this can so easily be the case. Is it the case with us?

Being a pastor I know I identify with that aspect of it all too easily. The pastor is a shepherd, but somehow, the shepherds role has gone from that of being one who gives up his life for the sheep, to one who must cast "bold vision" and then get the sheep in line with it. Leadership is a definite part of it all, but what type of leadership is the key question? Do we drive them or lead them? Is it about our goals, or our God? For so many years, I had prayer cards and sheets that had as their objective getting the results I desired. The stuff. I didn't see it as such, but Jesus was secondary. The results I wanted were good ones, but the focus was the result, not the King. Intended or not, the calling had become a job. I wanted my "wages" more than I wanted Him. And the wages involved much more than money. I remember at Bible College a beloved Scotsman and teacher named T.C. Mitchell sharing his amazement at discovering as a young preacher that not only did he get to give glory to God by proclaiming His Word, but he got paid for it as well. The message was clear. He would have done it for nothing. His focus was on the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Is ours? Or do we look for the "success," the notice, the esteem....the "paycheck?"

How like the soldiers might we be? Are we the nearest to Him while also being the farthest? Do we look first for our wages, or for Him? Are our eyes on His stuff or upon Him? Are we constantly around His cross, busy, but unwilling to ever go to it....with Him? What say you and I? Do we look for the paycheck, or Christ?

Blessings,
Pastor O


 

 

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