Confessions of a Church: Priests

Deuteronomy 18:1-8 New American Standard Bible 1995
“The Levitical priests, the whole tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel; they shall eat the Lord’s offerings by fire and His portion. They shall have no inheritance among their countrymen; the Lord is their inheritance, as He promised them.
 “Now this shall be the priests’ due from the people, from those who offer a sacrifice, either an ox or a sheep, of which they shall give to the priest the shoulder and the two cheeks and the stomach. You shall give him the first fruits of your grain, your new wine, and your oil, and the first shearing of your sheep. For the Lord your God has chosen him and his sons from all your tribes, to stand and serve in the name of the Lord forever.
 “Now if a Levite comes from any of your towns throughout Israel where he resides, and comes whenever he desires to the place which the Lord chooses, then he shall serve in the name of the Lord his God, like all his fellow Levites who stand there before the Lord. They shall eat equal portions, except what they receive from the sale of their fathers’ estates.
Two points of application may be drawn from our passage today. The first, and perhaps most obvious one, is that it is good and right for hearers of the Word to pay those who teach and preach the Word among them. Not all churches are able to pay a pastor, and some pastors choose to work without pay, like the Apostle Paul did. None of this is sinful; my point is that ordinarily, we should seek to pay our pastor generously. I will return to this point later but will now turn to the second.

The Bible teaches that all Christians are priests, that we are a kingdom of priests. Under the Old Covenant, a priest had an intimacy with God that the common people in Israel lacked. This special relationship was a figure of the relationship between God and believers under the New Covenant. Consider: before priests were ordained, they were ceremonially washed, like we are baptized. They ate of the holy food, just as we eat the Lord’s Supper.

Pay attention to what it said in the first verse: they had no portion or inheritance with Israel. The priests were to be content with God alone. In an agricultural society, land was everything. To give up land was like giving up a paycheck. It is to be the same for us. We are to have no portion or inheritance with this world. We are to be set apart for holy service. How often we turn aside and, like the priests of old, we forget that we are to teach the knowledge of God to our family and neighbors. In our heart of hearts, we so often long for an inheritance with the world. We think God is denying us the good things He gives to pagans. Like Adam, we are greedy and grasp for that which God has forbidden.

In our greed, we produce pastors and teachers who are like us. Like people, like priest. Now we return to our first point. There are countless pastors and ministries who have fallen to greed. Not all of them are among prosperity hucksters. Some are Reformed and evangelical, but it is clear they love money. They love money because we love money, and we seek a teacher to scratch our itching ears. It’s one thing to pay a pastor, another thing to feed his greed. We do this with our love for endless celebrity pastor content, while neglecting the flesh and blood shepherd in front of us.

Prayer of Confession
Heavenly Father, we confess that we are greedy for an inheritance of the things of this world, whether for money or fame or objects of lust. We do not give You thanks we ought, but run to grasp that which You have forbidden. We do not trust You to provide for us, and seek to fill our lives with material comforts and ease. Teach us to see how desperate our spiritual condition is. Help us to flee our sin and seek help, and also to turn away from rich celebrity pastors who scratch our particular itches, who feed on our greed. Help us instead to love our real-life shepherds, and downsize podcasting shepherds who are far away. From greed and apathy, deliver us, we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ Your Son, Amen.