Holding the Things of This World Lightly

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Jonathan Lamb serves as one of the directors of Langham Partnership International, an organization committed to encouraging expository biblical preaching. His book Integrity: Leading with God Watching (2006) is a challenge to pastors. He wrote of a conversation with Christian leaders who wanted to argue that their credibility depended upon visible success. These leaders despised the prosperity gospel but nonetheless argued “that dressing well and having a reasonable car and an appropriate title were all necessary elements of a leadership style which won an audience.” Lamb’s response, based upon 2 Corinthians 6:8-10, offers a perspective sadly missing in the Church today.

It is very easy for our circumstances or for the expectations of others around us to control our lives. If we are honest, we will admit that our self-esteem is often bound up with our popular ratings, or our status, or our income. However self-assured we might be, when some of these things are stripped away from our lives we can see how much of our identity as individuals is bound up with them…

In a world which thinks very differently, we can easily be tempted to compromise our faith or dilute our Christian witness. Christian leaders can easily succumb to the world’s pressures. We need to hold the things of this world lightly, for if we are concerned with our own reputation or honour, with material comfort and security, then it is unlikely that we will live a life worthy of the gospel. Our ministry will be ‘discredited’ and, instead of encouraging others forward, we will be placing a road block across their path. But true servants of God, filled with his Spirit, will seek to live lives which are consistent with the gospel they proclaim. It was a radical statement in the Greek world of Paul’s day, and it will be just as radical today.

If we judge Christians by the superficial criteria of the world—titles, clothes, bank balance—we have missed what really matters. Our calling to serve Christ is likely to be very different. It might cost us our comfort, our security, or our health, and maybe even our family or life itself. We do not measure the effectiveness of leaders by the indices of worldly success, but by their conformity to the way of the cross…

Integrity as a way of life means living contentedly whatever our circumstances. It means that we rely on God’s resources, live under his watchful eye and enjoy his fatherly care.1

Footnotes:

1 Jonathan Lamb, Integrity: Leading with God Watching (Nottingham, England: InterVarsity, 2006), 147-149.

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