To keep the body healthy, there are times when we need to get bad news from the doctor. I would not trust any doctor who told me that I can eat whatever I want, as much as I want, and that I should not worry about any consequences. Any doctor who behaved in this way would be doing me a disservice, even though I truly wish it were possible to live on bacon cheeseburgers, carnitas burritos and pizza.
Such a doctor would be committing malpractice and should surrender his license to the authorities.
Any survey of the religious section or the self-help section of any bookstore will produce many examples of similar malpractice with regard to spiritual things. There is nothing that I can do or even want to do for which I could not find some “expert” somewhere that would tell me that it is the right thing to do, even if it is ultimately self-destructive. We might think this is a new problem, but that would be a wrong conclusion.
God said this to the Israelites through Jeremiah about two and a half millennia ago:
“An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?” (Jeremiah 5:30–31, ESV)
The prophets told the people what they wanted to hear and the priests lined their pockets by going along with it.
I don’t really want my pastor to say anything from the pulpit that makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want my pastor to challenge me in areas where I struggle to obey. I would prefer that he give me a nice 20 minute pep talk that tells me how good I am and to keep going on my current trajectory.
But that is not what I need. For my pastor to do this would require that he ignore the large chunks of Scripture that say otherwise.
Church leaders, and especially those who have a teaching ministry, have the responsibility to take Scripture as it is and let it say what it really says. To do this effectively requires that teachers first let it challenge their own hearts. One cannot effectively teach what he has not learned.
Teachers must have a healthy distrust of their own hearts and an openness before God to allow correction in their own lives. Teachers must allow the prophetic voice to speak to them before they can be that voice to others.
Please don’t tell me what I want to hear, tell me what I need to hear. If you tell me only what I want to hear, you will not be setting me up to be well when I finally meet my maker.
Jeremiah asks a very important question, “What will you do when the end comes?”
The end always comes.