Self-Worth, Ministry, and Misery—5

We All Have Different Gifting

In yesterday’s post I gave the first reason we can’t know who will be greatest in God’s Kingdom. The second reason we can’t know who will be greatest in God’s Kingdom is because we all have different gifting. Here’s one of the biggest ministry follies: we think that the one that speaks to the most people or sells the most books must be the greatest. That’s not God’s system! That’s the fool’s gold standard of what’s spiritually valuable.

Boasting about the number of books published or accolades received is inherently worldly (the joke at pastor’s conferences is that the first question asked is “how many people attend your church?”). Basing our self-worth on numbers is no more spiritual than thinking someone is great because they are the CEO of a Fortune 500. Of course, by that logic, the CEO of the biggest Fortune 500 is greater than the CEO of the second largest, and so on. Similarly, the guy who teaches 30 people in his Sunday school class is by that standard more valuable than the guy who teaches 25.

The Lord doesn’t judge our performance as if we were all on a single ladder with Tim Keller, William Lane Craig, or ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­_____________ on the highest rungs, then other leaders on rungs lower than them but higher than us, based on their audience size (or whatever we value), then there’s us, then there are all the people that, in our minds, have accomplished less than us down the ladder. If we base our self-worth on that then we will never feel good about ourselves because there’s always someone who is doing better, or at least perceived to be doing better. If we think  our self-worth is based on how we compare to ­­­­­­­­­____________ then we’ll get very lustful and go a little crazy. Thankfully, we don’t have to do that.

Also, even if you do make it to the very top, that won’t last long and others will certainly try to knock you off. Although some ministry criticism is warranted, sadly, a lot of criticism of this or that ministry springs from jealously—“Yeah, he’s got a big following but I’m not compromising the Gospel like he is!”

In fact, basing your self-worth on your audience size is no more spiritual than basing your self-worth on the size of your bank account or, for that matter, the size of your bicepts or breasts. Now, I’m not suggesting that Christians can’t publish their bios. There’s nothing wrong with knowing what others have spent their lives working on or specializing in. The folly is thinking that we can judge the Lord’s impression of His servants by those accomplishments. We can’t. As Paul said in Galatians 6:3-5,

If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.

I’ve been given advantages that some others might not have been given, and others have been given more advantages than I’ve been given. Our Lord doesn’t compare us with each other. The Lord doesn’t grade on a curve. The Lord knows what load He gave each of us, knows what advantages He gave each of us, and He is going to judge us based on how far we go with what we He gave us. Thus the Lord might be more pleased with the convalescent home worker who is faithful over what she has been given than the most famous minister.

Frankly, this thought humbles me (and that’s always good). It’s humbling because I know God has given me certain opportunities that others might not enjoy and that means I will be judged more strictly.

Consider Jesus’ words in Luke 12:48: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Get it? If someone has been given more talents then that person will be more severely judged. Similarly, James 3:1 warns us that “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” Some Christians have been given advantages that I haven’t (for example, some have towering IQs) but I’m not going to be judged by their gifts! Also, I’ve been given some advantages that others haven’t—if I don’t use these gifts humbly and wisely then I will be judged for not doing so. We’re going to be judged by how far we got with what He has given us.

After all, who is the bigger business success? The guy who came from rich parents, went to the best schools, and then succeeded in growing a 100 million dollar business into a billion dollar business or the guy who started from poverty, attended the JC, and started his own company which grew a 100 million dollar business? There’s no simple answer to that.

When it comes to ministry, we have each been given advantages and disadvantages. Some of us are smarter, more creative, more connected, more __________ than others. But we are all going to stand before the Judgment and give an account of ourselves based on what God had given us and no worldly calculation will tell us what the Lord will conclude. Thankfully, if we truly are Christians, we can do a cruddy job with what God has given us and still be saved (1 Cor. 3:15), but who wants that?

I’ll finish this series tomorrow.

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2 Responses to Self-Worth, Ministry, and Misery—5

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