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On Offering Trophies to Ministers

January 15, 2017

On Offering Trophies to Ministers

Categories: Biblical

On January 6th 2017, a photo was posted to a page managed by the Caribbean Union Conference (web address: https://www.facebook.com/caribunion). The photo featured three men: a pastor, receiving a trophy from a second man, with a third minister applauding. The trophy was being awarded to the pastor because he baptized the highest number of individuals in his conference in the year 2016.

This photo (and associated text) attracted many comments (in the hundreds) that decried the practice of ‘rewarding’ ministers in this way. Comments were made from varying places: genuine concern, anger, disbelief, and worry. There were some insightful comments that outlined biblical principles and gave mature spiritual counsel against the practice. A few called for a statement from the Caribbean Union Conference on this practice.

The photo was removed on January 13, 2017 (first check, 8:00am). As of this posting, no statement has been issued. (This post will be updated when this happens.)

In this post, I will repeat some of the counsel I shared initially. I hope to here illustrate the biblical principles that are being violated by this practice. There may be some individuals who (sincerely) may have supported these practices; I pray that the light shared here will set a right path for their feet.

Though I am as disturbed as some are about the incident, I’ve opted for a quieter tone in this piece. My desire is for the reader to calmly consider the scriptural points, meditate on the counsel from an experienced pioneer, and seek God’s guidance on whether you should strengthen or weaken your current position.

Biblical Principles
Doing Our Good Works In Secret (Reference: Matthew 6)
A major pattern in Matthew 6 is articulated in verses 4, 6, 18… I’ll quote from verse 4: “That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” Our good works are never to be paraded or seen of men… we are encouraged to do these things secretly, and wait for the Father, who will reward us openly.

The Attitude of the True Servant (Reference: Luke 17:7-10)
“So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (verse 10). The true servant of Christ – as portrayed in this story – will not accept rewards for something that he was tasked to do. Great humility is shown by this servant, and this humility should be a solid part of our characters.

It is dangerous to set up a reward system that is diametrically opposed to the Saviour’s teaching of secret good works, and it is crippling to the human soul to encourage pride for work that he was commissioned by his Master to do.

Counsels from the Spirit of Prophecy
Let’s build upon these principles by employing four quotes from the writings of Ellen White; they do an excellent job of expanding on the concepts presented above.

“Our Saviour ever condemned self-righteousness. He taught His disciples that the highest type of religion is that which manifests itself in a quiet, unobtrusive manner. He cautioned them to perform their deeds of charity quietly; not for display, not to be praised or honored of men, but for the glory of God, expecting their reward hereafter. If they should perform good deeds to be lauded by men, no reward would be given them by their Father in heaven.” {SL 8.3}

“The Sanctified Life”, Chapter 1 – True and False Theories

“It is not safe to speak in praise of persons or to exalt the ability of a minister of Christ. In the day of God, very many will be weighed in the balance and found wanting because of exaltation. I would warn my brethren and sisters never to flatter persons because of their ability, for they cannot bear it. Self is easily exalted, and, in consequence, persons lose their balance. I say again to my brethren and sisters: If you would have your souls clean from the blood of all men, never flatter, never praise the efforts of poor mortals; for it may prove their ruin.” {3T 185.1}

– “Testimonies of the Church, Volume 3”, Chapter 16 – Danger of Applause

“In these words Christ draws a contrast between the self-seeking practices of the world, and the unselfish ministry of which He has given an example in His own life. For such ministry He offers no reward of worldly gain or recognition. “Thou shalt be recompensed,” He says, “at the resurrection of the just.” Then the results of every life will be made manifest, and every one will reap that which he has sown.” {GW 512.2}

– “Gospel Workers” (1915), Chapter 12 – Closing Words

“I saw that God’s people are on the enchanted ground, and that some have lost nearly all sense of the shortness of time and the worth of the soul. Pride has crept in among Sabbathkeepers-pride of dress and appearance. Said the angel, ‘Sabbathkeepers will have to die to self, die to pride and love of approbation.’” {EW 120.1}

– “Early Writings”, Supplement

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May God bless us, as we continue (by God’s grace) to put sinful practices out of our hearts, homes and churches, in preparation for the soon coming of our Lord.


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