Not too long ago, I noticed something about the advertising found on Facebook. I began to notice that the ads, which popped up on my feed, had some very similar characteristics. Being a pastor, my feed is filled with offers for t-shirts and hoodies that say things like “The only thing I enjoy more than my kids is being a pastor” or “Never underestimate the power of a pastor.” My least favorite one is “If I weren’t a pastor I would be a full time ninja.” It seems the only purpose of these ads is to give me an opportunity to use my clothes as a way of telling people I am really cool because I am a pastor. Hey, it is on my jacket after all, so it must be true!
In Matthew 6:1–6, Jesus challenges those of the Christian faith to be very clear about the motivation behind their beliefs. The power of spiritual growth is realized in people who see faith as a process rather than an achievement. In a culture awash in trophies and “we are number one” chants, a sacred life needs no such affirmation. We serve to give our lives for others, not to assert our dominance or special position.
It is always tempting to wear our religion on our sleeve, but do not confuse pithy sayings, faith t-shirts, and bumper stickers with spiritual transformation. A wonderful quote I recently ran across reminds that life is more communion than communication. We are to be in relationship, and our religious values should find us, even in our differences, being brought together rather than pushed apart. Otherwise, our faith is about self-validation, not relationship.
For those who claim the mantle of Christian, Jesus gives the guide for the journey; his desire is to find his people in places where salvation is shared by the work of his people, not their instance that they are his people. The warnings of Matthew 25 remind us the nature of serving that can trap Christians; many will think they are doing God’s will but discover it was actually their own will they accomplished.
Let us hold to the promise of being obedient, remembering the love is the source of our transformation. To make a better world, our task is to be present with those who need, to give without return, and to see our own lives through the lens of being made anew every single day. We should find ourselves not wearing our faith on our sleeves to impress those around us but instead doing the tasks that lift the spirits and circumstances of those around us.