Leviticus 22–24, Psalm 37:19-42, Mark 11
Throughout the world, more especially in the United States, there are many examples of so-called mega-church leaders who have amassed obscene levels of personal wealth. This wealth has usually been made solely at the expense of their followers. I have never been able to understand how such leaders can reconcile their unadulterated greed with Jesus’ insistence that such “trade” in the name of the church, whether in human or in strictly economic terms, nonetheless makes the church itself into “a den of robbers.” Today’s gospel confronts the reality that too many in authority in the church completely misunderstand the moral and ethical stewardship responsibilities inherent in their leadership. It also points toward what many still do when confronted with the challenge to be demonstrably and authentically Christ-like—they will move first to remove the threat to their own hypocrisy.
In chapter 22 of Leviticus, we are treated to a very stern reality check for those in church leadership about what might be considered a more proper use of holy offerings. While the text invokes a standard of no less than perfection for the offerings made to God, we are left in no doubt whatever about what is expected. The overarching principles of excellence in our worship, proper observance of the holy days, and our continued selfless offering of ourselves as servants for God’s mission remain completely relevant in our time.
As frustrating as poor church leadership can be, the psalmist provides a cautionary reminder. Patient waiting for the Lord to act is our proper attitude, not querulous anxiety!
How does your church actively demonstrate its gospel commitment to alleviating local and global poverty and suffering?
What reasonable faith-based standards of professional accountability does your church have in place for those in church leadership?
Loving God, you alone anoint men and women to positions of leadership responsibility. Help those whom you choose to always be people of deep faith and unquestioned moral and ethical integrity. Protect your church from the unscrupulous and the greedy so that the needs of those who suffer are never to be compromised. Help us always to remember your house is only ever to be a house of prayer for all the nations. Amen.
-Dr. Jenny Plane-Te Paa
Dean of Tikanga Maori
The College of St. John the Evangelist
Auckland, New Zealand