Does the conduct of Eli’s two supposed-to-be-priests sons, Hophni and Phinehas, in I Samuel 2 shock you? Their selfishness including not only robbing meat from God’s altar but immoral relations with women in tabernacle! While these physical offenses may not be as predominant in the pastoral “shepherds” of today, there are many sins of the spirit that rip off the average church attender just as much.
In his book Vertical Church, James MacDonald lists 7 ways that selfish shepherds hurt churches:
- Taking more salary, time, or leisure than is righteously theirs for their labor.
- Expecting a grace and forgiveness from others they don’t reciprocate and often withhold.
- Treating ministry as a right to be perpetuated instead of a privilege to be appreciated.
- Refusing the correction of other elders/leaders while insisting their colleagues be accountable.
- Leading at a distance by using people to get the work done, but not loving them deeply.
- Stealing the thoughts of others rather than stoking their own passion for Christ with originality.
- Demanding privilege appropriate to their position instead of taking the place of a servant.
Eli and his sons were blind to how their selfishness was negatively impacting the worship of God’s people. It is key to note that ultimately a shepherd is not just robbing the people, he is robbing God! According to 1 Samuel 2:17, “Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.”
MacDonald concludes, “Generosity from the servants of the Lord and for the servants of the Lord should characterize a church’s leadership, but where selfishness gains the upper hand within the balance of power, the sheep are the ones who suffer most.”
Remember the shepherd is more for the sheep than the sheep for the shepherd. Don’t use them. Don’t abuse them. Don’t even take them for granted. Follow in the footstep of the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ: “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:11). Any true, humble undershepherd honors the instruction of Paul, “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (I Pe. 5:3).
What other weaknesses do we shepherds need to guard against that hinder the vertical relationship between God and HIS people?