A Guide to Mistreating Worshipers

“They treated the Lord’s offering with contempt” (I Samuel 2:17).

The first rule of worship leadership should probably be stated as: Try Not to Get in Their Way.

When people come to worship, if you cannot help them, at the very least try not to interfere with what they are doing.

The sons of Eli the High Priest were nothing but trouble. Hophni and Phinehas—who doesn’t love those names!—“were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord or for the priests’ share of the sacrifices from the people” (I Samuel 2:12-13).

God literally calls them SOBs. “Sons of Belial” is the Hebrew expression translated as “wicked men” or “corrupt.”

Scripture has not a single positive statement about these miscreants.

These men stand as warnings to every kingdom worker to tread softly and serve honorably. We are stewards and not owners; servants, and not lords. We should encourage worship and not place obstacles and burdens upon the worshipers.

We are to help people worship and not divert it into our own purposes.

The people can worship God without you, O thou shepherd of the Lord’s flock.

If we cannot help them do it better, we should back off and remove ourselves from the picture.

Every pastor, every minister of any kind, every support staff, every church custodian and every denominational worker should be familiar with these first few chapters of First Samuel and heed their caution about worship leaders.

1) They treated those who came to worship with contempt.

“(Hophni and Phinehas) were sleeping with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting” (I Samuel 2:22). See Exodus 38:8 for a reference to this ministry of the women.

And you thought lustful ministers was a recent phenomenon.

Through the centuries, stories of ministers preying upon helpless children, vulnerable counselees and trusting helpers have become commonplace, to our everlasting shame.

2) They treated the people’s offerings as their own.

“When any man offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant (i.e., those who worked for Hophni and Phinehas) would come with a three-pronged meat fork while the meat was boiling and plunge it into the container or kettle or caldron or cooking pot. The priest would claim for himself whatever the meat fork brought up. This is the way they treated all the Israelites who came there to Shiloh” (I Samuel 2:13-14).