Why We Stole from the Church Pantry
This column originally appeared in a local magazine in the region where I pastor. Last month I began writing a regular column for the magazine. At times, I’ll post them on this blog.
I have vague memories of “stealing” from the church pantry as a child. My father tasked me and my two brothers with grabbing a couple of items. I probably went for peanut butter and SpaghettiO’s. We were poor, living in the heart of the densest county in Florida. My dad was the pastor of the church. Few in the congregation knew we were struggling to afford food. The church gladly would have helped had we asked. Instead, we simply “checked out” food from the pantry like others did when the church did food drives. No one questioned why.
Now I’m a pastor, and I understand the tension my father was feeling. Pastors are supposed to be pillars of spiritual strength. Pastors are not supposed to ask for help. Pastors are supposed to carry heavy burdens of others and not worry about themselves. These are unwritten rules, and I believe pastors are more to blame for them than churches. I know I can struggle with pride. After all, I give help, not ask for it. It’s a dangerous place for anyone.
When Paul writes to the church at Philippi, he reminds them the church exists for giving and receiving. We should give—most don’t. We should receive—many are too prideful. We should gladly sacrifice for others who need help. And when we need healing, we should gladly receive help. God uses churches that give and receive. God uses people that give and receive.
We didn’t need to take from a church that was willing to give. But pride kept us from asking. Pride prevents healing. Pride blocks forgiveness. Pride destroys relationships.
I like to argue. I prefer the term “debate.” But when I debate with my wife, she will say we had an argument. It’s probably best for me not to debate the semantics of arguing. What I do know is that a debate becomes an argument when pride takes hold. Pride keeps me debating even when I know I’m wrong. Pride makes me want to win the argument more than show concern for a relationship.
I argue with my wife when I shouldn’t. My family “borrowed” from the church pantry rather than ask for help. Pride might keep you from going to church. Pride might keep you from admitting fault. Pride might keep you from forgiving someone. Pride is dangerous. It’s destructive. In fact, the book of Proverbs reveals pride is what precedes destruction. Pride takes us down a one-way, dead end street.
Why am I sharing about the struggle of pride? First, this column is the first of what I hope will be many for this publication. And I believe pride is a good topic to introduce the purpose of this column. My goal in writing here is to give a pastor’s perspective on life, and not just life in general. More specifically, I plan to write about the personal ups and downs of my life. Pastors can be a guarded bunch. It’s understandable. We’re supposed to lead spiritually, not flounder about life.
Pastors often put up walls. We don’t want people looking inside us, even though it’s what we do with others. It’s dangerous to build these barriers. I know in my life, pride builds these walls, brick by stubborn brick. This column is my opportunity to purge pride in my life by opening up and being real.
Second, the topic of pride is universal. Part of what I desire to accomplish through this column is to connect pastor, church, and community. With these words, I want to connect people with the true purpose of the church. Pastors lead churches, and churches should benefit the community. I hope to demonstrate how important the church is to our community. With these words, I also hope to show through my own personal experiences that we humans share something. I believe every person is created in God’s image. Therefore, every person has intrinsic worth. God loves us. So we should love each other. The church should be the spiritual hub of every community. The church should be where love is strongest. Perhaps this column—in some small way—can help bridge what can be a divide between the church and community.
Third, the topic of pride cuts to the core of my biggest weakness. I think too highly of myself. I shouldn’t admit it. I am a pastor. Pastors are supposed to be humble creatures. I’m not. Through this column I hope to give God my weaknesses in an open and raw way. If I share them publically, then there is no turning back. I’ll have to deal with my struggles. You readers can think of yourselves as my accountability partners. I might just share things with you I have never shared with anyone. I hope it keeps you reading.
In case you were wondering, I don’t steal food from the church anymore. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve roamed classrooms on Monday looking for leftover donuts from Sunday. I’ll just call it “stewardship.” We shouldn’t be wasteful. Nothing is more wasteful than an uneaten donut. And that makes eating donuts a spiritual discipline. Just don’t tell my wife. We might have a debate about it.