“Are you aware that some in the congregation were offended by it?”
“Ha. I wouldn’t be surprised.”
“Well, to be specific, pastor, Mr. Crenshaw, the owner of the big plant out at the edge of town—you know he employs half the givers in our church, the people who pay your salary!—told Deacon Johnson that he felt like getting up and walking out when you said what you did.”
“What did I say? What are you referring to?”
“You know, when you said that the man who stored up wealth was a fool.”
“I didn’t say that, my friend. Jesus said it.”
“Well, that’s one way of putting it. I know it’s there in the Bible somewhere.”
“Not just ‘somewhere,’ Deacon, but here in Luke 12:20. God called the man a fool. I was just quoting Him.”
“Well, that’s not how Mr. Crenshaw took it.”
“So, what are you suggesting?”
“Some of us think it would be good if you went to see Mr. Crenshaw and apologized. We need influential people like him in our church.”
And the pastor said, “Why?”
That is the question that has no answer.
Why do we think we need carnal people in the church just because they exercise power over men and control wealth in the world? Is God weak and in need of their assistance? Should the church apply for welfare? Go on disability?
Jesus did not soften His approach and sweeten His words to the Pharisees. “With your tradition, you actually violate the command of God” (Matthew 15:3). “Your tradition nullifies the commands of God” (15:6).
He called them names.
“Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you saying, ‘These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. In vain they worship me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men” (15:7-9).
That kind of preaching is not carefully calculated to impress the influential and draw in the powerful.
One of the worst things ever to happen to the Lord’s church was when it decided to tone down its preaching in order to attract the world’s crowd. As though the Lord needs them and as though the size of the crowd validates either the message or the messenger.
Lord help us.
The Lord Jesus Christ is not insecure, not powerless and not suffering from low self-esteem. He does not “feel better about Himself” when a bigshot condescends to show up in church and honor Him with his presence.
The Lord does not need anyone and the size of the crowd proves nothing. Anyone doubting this will benefit from reading John 6:60-66. Jesus actually dialed up the intensity and sharpened the offense of His preaching to drive out the unbelievers and enrage the fence-straddlers.
Pastors do two very foolish things in this regard, both of them Christ-insulting:
1) They present insipid, uninspired, safe, offenseless messages designed to please everybody with their sweetness and pleasantries. We call it “positive thinking” and even “good news.” (But good news is only that if it addresses and remedies a bad situation. Otherwise, it’s meaningless.)
2) When they get it right and someone gets mad at the truth they preached, they feel that in some way they have failed in their assignment and want to go apologize to the Pharisees.
Sometimes the sermon is wimpish and sometimes the preacher is the wimp.
Consider this a call for preaching that tells the truth and offends the untruthful, that is sharper than a two-edged sword and just as dangerous, and that lays it on the line Sunday after Sunday without regard to what this does to the pastor’s job security.
If I am hoarding God’s money or spending it on my own pleasures, let the pastor preach a ringing sermon condemning materialism even if it angers me. My anger proves he hit his mark.
If I am afraid of the world and cower in my home rather than go down the street to witness to my neighbor, let the pastor call us to “rescue the perishing” and make us feel guilty when we do not. If I take it personally, good. I should not feel good about cowardice and disobedience.
If I am neglecting my family in order to carve out a bigger piece of success in the world, let the pastor preach God’s word on the father’s responsibility to husband his wife and nurture his children and protect his home. If it offends, so be it. He has been fingered by the Almighty; let him hurt a little; it’s good for him.