A few years ago I was sat around a dinner table enjoying a very good meal with a group of men, half of which I’d never met before.
Out of the blue, someone I did know made an observation that at first stunned me. Pointing to the man on my left, he said, “Looking around this table, he’s the only one that contributes to society!”
My ‘social etiquette awareness training’ kicked in and I laughed before I realised what he’d said, then I turned and munched my poppadom, and inwardly fumed as I consciously put that comment on the back burner!
But actually, he’s right.
The man on my left has a full-time responsible job. So do I.
He pays taxes. So do I.
He has a pension plan. So do I.
He has a wife and children. So do I.
He provides a service to a particular community. So do I.
So what’s the difference?
He sells goods in a free-market economy. I don’t.
He has the bottom line and the board room to consider. I don’t.
He is driven by the corporate need for profit. I’m not.
He works in the business world.
I work in the pastoral world.
So. Is he a contributor because of product and profit? Yes!
Am I, as a pastor, not a “contributor” because I neither produce nor make profit? Yes.
The secularist mindset that can say the role of the pastor is a non-contributing function within society is right. If I was entirely shaped by secular capitalist concerns, the pastor’s role is time and money well wasted. But the man who said this is a Christian, and lurking behind the comment is the trumping of secular ‘usefulness’ over and against what God is doing in and through the ‘pointless’ role of the pastor.
So on one level, he’s doggone right, and I had to accept this: The guy on my left was the only contributor to society – based on the secular capitalist terms of the person making that judgment!
But on the deeper, more profound, and I would argue, more biblical level, he’s wrong. If the pastor is doing what a pastor should be doing – paying attention to God and praying for the people and swimming in the deep cool waters of Scripture in an unhurried, thoughtful way, then the pastor is the one who contributes most to the world. Try imagining a world where there is no one, not one person who is vocationally discerning God with and on behalf of others. Grim.
I hope my friend meant his comment on the deeper, more profound level. I wonder….