A young pastor consulted an experienced pastor asking what to do about the people in his congregation with addictions. The older pastor advised him to pray for them, and to give a rousing sermon about the evil that is controlling their lives.
The young pastor prayed, and prepared a sermon saying, “Rid yourselves of the evil that is controlling your lives!” The next time they met the older pastor asked how it had gone. The young pastor said that an alcoholic has joined AA and is well into recovery. A drug addict has gotten clean, and has testified against his dealers, and a little old lady has suddenly realized that she might be addicted to gambling. “She came to me and said that she has quit going to the casinos.” The older pastor said. “That’s wonderful!, but why are you so sad”. “Well, she said she had planned to give the $100,000 in winnings she has been saving for twenty years to the church, but after my sermon she decided to give it all back to the evil casino owners to “rid herself of their control”.
That young pastor’s prayers had been answered. God had helped members of his congregation rid themselves of the evil that had been controlling their lives. The joke was that the little old lady had taken him literally, and had gotten rid of the results of her addiction.
The lesson the young pastor missed was not that his church had missed out on the winnings, but that lives had changed for the better. The fact that the lives of the casino owners had also gotten better, while his church coffers had not, is irrelevant. The important thing is that God had worked through him to turn people’s lives around. Like the young pastor, it is easy for us to get caught up in what we might have missed out on, and miss the good that has been done.
Luke 18:13-14: “The tax collector…beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other [the self-righteous Pharisees] went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts he will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”