Man looks at the outward appearance, but God judges the heart. This alone should be reason enough, but there are more reasons for not giving others advice.
A while back, I was approached by a man who took me to lunch under the auspices of reconnecting. His secret intent was to judge me, and my recent failure to secure a pastorate, or even a minimum wage job. His charge: idleness. Ironically, the prior day to our lunch date, I wrote and published six full length articles on various Christian-related topics. I admit that was an unusual day of grace and freedom in the Spirit to write. I write and post one or two articles daily on Medium/Facebook, as my only current Christian ministry.
In an age of video, visuals, and pithy memes, I realize my writing is mostly falling on blind eyes, but I have a bit of joy in contributing something — anything to the cause of my King.
No doubt my lunch acquaintance thought he was right to judge me for being idle. I made the initial mistake of trying to defend myself. I should have just cowered in humility and defeat, confessing the poor wretched performer that I am, today. The fact of his accusation against me, is validated by the fact of my unemployment, but there is always more to the story. I tried to explain my circumstances, regarding the past six months of unemployment, but he was not interested. He said I was just making excuses. He even cited one of my recent articles, where I confessed my spotty success as a Christian minister.
Unemployment is really an oxymoron. I have written hundreds of articles during the past six years. Thus, I am employed, but I am not earning any money for my ministry labors. My wealthy lunch partner clearly saw no value in my wage-less endeavors. Because I am a nobody, with no influence in Christian circles, my writing merely helps me to do theology in my head, and my prayer is that it will minister to the three people who regularly read what I write. This was not good enough.
As we approach some application for this subject, I will state: Ministry of the law of God is making the law known to all people. Interpreting the law of God can be done, but it is almost unnecessary, as the law of God has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ.
In contrast, ministry of the grace of Jesus Christ is simply preaching and teaching the good news about who Jesus is and what He has done for His people. It is a ministry that is mostly rejected because there are so many that prefer rules, laws, and obedience checklists.
Instead of feeling the blissful power-lust of telling other people what they should do, it is far more helpful to listen to them, learn their story, and encourage them with theology from the Bible. As a pastor, I do not need to be reminded of Paul’s instruction to the Thessalonian church, about those who ditched their labors because of their eschatology.
My acquaintance does not even know where I live. He does not know my history, but in part. He knows my current challenge, but he made no effort to ask me how I was managing my difficult situation. He presumed, and then he prosecuted me, accusing me of the sin of idleness, which is a far cry from the workaholism that took its toll on my marriage and family before I became a Christian — and even in one of my pastorate positions.
Far better than offering uninformed advice, biblical or otherwise, it is wise for one to inquire, “What is God teaching you through your current circumstances?” Then comes the best ministry, again avoiding advice, “Brother, how can I pray for you, your family, and your current challenges?” Here is the way to love your brother and not play God.
We must preach and teach what the Bible says, but wisdom encourages us not to police our brothers and sisters, who have the Holy Spirit, and who are walking in the immutable providence of God, who is directing our steps. In His mysterious, providential care, and with much grace, God is at work, and the advice from His Word remains timeless truth…wait upon the Lord.
July 31, 2021