17 January 2008

The ordering of parsonages

Heard this first one at one of those "Pastors' Wives' Events" put on by districts. I can't remember how it came up, but someone my age contended that since members of their congregation had Direct TV, they (the pastor's family) should be able to have it too, and therefore did. (Moderator manuevered the group into another discussion point.)

Heard this second one from a guy who graduated from seminary with my husband, and whose family, like ours, has essentially no TV (we can get PBS if we take our 13-incher upstairs and doctor it with half a roll of foil). "There are members of our congregation who can't afford cable," he explained, "so why should we have it?"

Both of these families were at small, traditional, ruralish parishes, so this isn't a backdoor criticism of Gloria Mea 6.022x1023 Christian Entity lcms. They're both very far from rolling in cash. I'm not saying there isn't room for some of the reasoning behind the first perspective; the worker is worthy of his hire. But it seems to me like Family #2 is setting themselves up for more contentment, whate'er the gifts may be. I found the humble view of the father who shared it, especially his willingness to compare down rather than comparing up, to be a nice break from the usual griping about the district-minimum-if-you're-lucky lifestyle we all volunteered for by showing up on Call Day.


William Weedon said...

That's beautiful! Thanks for sharing it. [And prayers ascend for a safe and timely delivery!]

Pr. Conner said...

I actually had a parishioner tell me that cable TV should be a part of my salary under utilities. "After all," he offered, "it is a basic necessity."

I had to tell my council not to give us cable. They looked at me like I was crazy (a charge I don't deny). "What will you do?"

Besides the fact that I have no desire to have the junk channeled into my home to pollute and shrink my mind, I thought of a family in our congregation with five boys who choose not to have cable so they can afford kids.

Hmm, cable or kids?
cable or books?
shrinking mind or renewed mind?
wasted time or redeemed time?

tough call.

Rebekah said...

Wow. This guy is so humble that when you tell a story extolling said humility he doesn't even recognize himself in it! Look out, Moses. :D

Dizziness said...

I would offer a word of caution perhaps:

I have witnessed first-hand the damage caused when a pastor lives above the perceived means or culture of his congregation. Part of the humility of the office is being with the people of the congregation in culture (dress, language, and the like.)

On the other hand, in this same parish which is not without substantial monetary wealth, they are unwilling to have fine linens for the altar, quality paraments, and maintain the facilities well. The pastor's finer tastes might be offensive but treating the altar and sanctuary of God with fine things is not.

So the attitude taken to an extreme resulted not only in the fierce criticism of the pastor's clothing, television, car, and roto-tiller, but also has resulted in neglect of the care of the things of God.

Not that I have a problem with "low-end" church but in this case it is indicative of a "low-end" piety as well. Faith has suffered.

I'm fairly certain that Jesus does not condemn wealth (or the possession of luxury goods) but condemns idolatry and burying His benefaction to the neglect of His church.

So, perhaps this really comes down to intent. If the pastor's intent is to neglect His study of Scripture in order to watch old Law & Order re-runs, well... obviously that's an issue.

Just some thoughts (as I reflect on my recent TV purchase!)

Reb. Mary said...

Jesus doesn't condemn wealth per se, but he does look pretty hard at what we do with it (Our Lord intentionally stationing himself to watch what people dropped in the offering box comes to mind).

Wealth isn't intrinsically evil, but it is intrinsically dangerous, or so I once heard in a wise pastor's sermon (paraphrasing, I believe, from Alcorn's Money, Possessions, and Eternity. Talk about a life-altering read! Should be in every pastor's--every Christian's!--library).

Dizziness said...

Well said. Hence I rid myself of it at every opportunity!

Gauntlets said...

Ah, rats. And I was just fixin' to rent myself a Versace handbag so as to look real sweet waltzing into church of a Sunday. Stuff the thing full of diapers and gum wrappers and . . . toast. Now you're saying the church ladies won't like it?

I'm so lost, man.

Gauntlets said...

Rebekah: Have your baby. Have him now.

Gauntlets said...

There are pastor families that don't tithe. Something about sticking the fork in the pot and getting yourn so why add to the pot just to fork out yourn again just to add to the pot just to fork out of the pot.

I can't say I care much for all this talk of pots and forks.

Pr. Conner said...

Humble? Don't substitute MY name in Numb. 12:3.

Humbled? Yeah, quite frequently.

Prov. 30:32 ought to be reserved for me and me alone!

Rebekah said...

There's no doubt that there are parishes which are unfaithful to the point of truly mistreating their pastors and/or the house of God. And there are also pastors whose salaries are, to me, mind-bogglingly high (I learned all about both places when I was indentured at Worker Benefit Plans). But those of us who fall between the extremes don't do ourselves any favors by basing our lifestyles on some Americish sense of rights and entitlements.

Dizziness said...

As I prepare for Sunday's Gospel (Mt 20:1-6), I am struck that the principle we must not use is one of entitlement, fairness, or equity. The kingdom of heaven is not about a worker deserving his wages but grace, undeserved and unearned.

The clergy of Luther's day (and perhaps to the present) operated with an entitlement principle due to their role of bringing the Gospel to the people. (deserving of property and goods.) Of all people, Satan pursues the faithful clergy person with great earnestness, seeking to lead he and his flock astray.

Isn't wealth a nasty thing? It seems so easily used for the kingdom of hell and not heaven. I suppose we must ask how our frivolous or luxury spending benefits our neighbor? Perhaps relaxation and entertainment aren't always luxury but useful for the pastor?

Some thoughts to consider. Thank you for the post. it has been most edifying wrestling.