“Hello, pastor, how are you today?”
“Got a little bit of a sore throat.”
“The prayer of faith can heal. Why didn’t you try that?”
This is how one individual greeted me one Sunday morning. The following Sunday, the greeting went like this:
“Hello, pastor, how are you today?”
“Oh, pretty good. My sore throat is better this week.”
“That’s good. You know, you shouldn’t complain, God probably gave you that cold for a reason.”
Now, for reference, this individual skips at least one Sunday a month due to some sort of sickness, injury, mechanical problem, or some other disaster. Yet any time I mention anything remotely not perfect, I get a sanctimonious response from him.
This, in and of itself, is not that big of a deal. But here’s the thing: many people who talk to me (since I’ve become a pastor) feel a need to shame me or lecture me or quote Scripture at me to correct some comment I made.
Without fail these same people will have more problems than the average church attender and will also complain about their problems quite regularly.
Yet I mention that it’s raining outside and I will get a lecture on not complaining about God’s provision for flowers.
I wasn’t complaining, I just said it was raining.
Doesn’t matter. Sanctimonious lecture will be delivered.
The sanctimony that a pastor has to put up with is beyond measure. I imagine it has something to do with the fact that my sermons make them feel guilty. They must hear me this way when I preach. This is some sort of effort to reestablish themselves on good footing. If they can prove the pastor has “issues” then they don’t have to address theirs.
Or perhaps they do this because they know when they talk to the pastor they are supposed to sound “spiritual.” Sounding spiritual means questioning levels of faith and quoting verses to shame people.
I don’t know, that’s my best psychoanalysis of the situation. All I know is that the sanctimony comes fast and thick to pastors.
I also get this routinely anytime I talk to anyone about being a pastor. If I ever dare say something to the effect of things aren’t completely perfect and wonderful, I’ll get a lecture about how “this is God’s church and this is God’s timing,” etc.–“if you had the Spirit.” “If you had more faith.” “If you preach the Word people will come.” Most pastoral advice is a bunch of B. S. (Blathering Sanctimony).
I don’t think I get this response because I do this to them. I try so hard not to say such sanctimonious Christianese clichés. They drive me insane and annoy me to no end. I try with lots of effort not to be one of those people.
James says not to tell people “be warm and filled” when they express a need. James is not a fan of sanctimony. Paul says when one member of the body hurts the whole body hurts. He didn’t say when one member hurts the whole body makes them feel pathetic for being hurt.
It is very easy to dismiss the problems and concerns of others. It’s very easy to assume your problems are the only real ones out there. There is a coldness that people can give to each other, a coldness that should be replaced by “weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.”
Much more fun to lecture, shame, belittle, and patronize people. As a pastor, I have these things happen to me on a daily basis. I know how it feels. I try not to do it to others, either in conversation or in my preaching.
Learn to not be offended, hear what people are saying, there’s some sort of problem behind these comments, do what you can to assist, and please stop the scourge of sanctimony that infests our churches.