Friday, April 08, 2011

An Allegory

Imagine a young child who has been adopted from a Russian orphanage. We will call him Boris because I assume every Russian boy is named Boris. Everything I know about Russia I learned from Rocky and Bullwinkle and Rocky IV. He has come from horrible conditions but until he left the orphanage, he had no idea how bad things were. Now looking back Boris is starting to understand just what he has been rescued from, not because he decided to be adopted (he didn’t even know he should want to be adopted!) but because someone decided to adopt him. His new family is loving beyond anything he could imagine, something Boris had never experienced before. Sure they had some rules that were different from the orphanage but those rules were in place to keep him safe. Here is his story…

When Boris arrived at his new home, he met the rest of the family. His new family is full of adopted kids just like him! Some came from orphanages in Russia, others from slums in Port au Prince, some from unsuitable homes in the U.S. They were all different colors, ages and nationalities, boys and girls. What they all had in common is that they all were orphans without a father and now they had one, one that loved them and sacrificed more than they could understand to adopt them. They went from unwanted to adopted, from rejected to chosen. Most of them had different ideas of what this new family was like and how things should be done but they all had the same father.

There was one older boy who had been around for a while. We will call him Fred. Fred kind of knew the ropes in the family. He had been adopted some time ago and had a knack for understanding how the family worked. Because he was older and more experienced, he often helped newer adopted kids figure things out. He knew when dinner time was, the coolest toys, etc. A lot of the newer adopted kids looked up to him. He was just like they were and in fact when he was new to the family a different older brother had helped him get acclimated and learn the ropes. That boy had grown up and moved out and now it was Fred’s turn.

Right away Fred introduced himself to Boris. “Hi! I am your new brother and my name is Fred. It is great to have you in the family! I was an orphan just like you but dad adopted me just like he adopted you.” Boris was very excited. Fred was super nice and older and seemed very mature. The other kids took his lead on many things. The first few days in his new home with his new family were great. Boris met lots of other former orphans who were now his brothers and sisters, part of his family. He was so happy! He never knew what he was missing in that orphanage but now that he had a family he realized how lucky he was! Of course the kids didn’t always get along but for the most part they did because they were a family. Fred was very helpful and sometimes even intervened when one of the kids was helping another. “We don’t want you to do this the wrong way!” he would say and the kid who was trying to help would step aside and let Fred help instead. Fred was always helping and was really busy and Boris noticed that a lot of the kids relied on Fred instead of doing things themselves but that made sense. Fred was better at a lot of things!

One day during his first week in his new family, all of the kids met together in a big meeting in the playroom. One of his new sisters told him they got together once a week, same time and same day, to go over things. What was discussed impacted all of them but they all listened to Fred speak because after all he was the best speaker and had been in the family longer than many of the rest of the kids. Fred talked for almost an hour but he had lots to share and Boris learned a lot.

Boris talked to Fred after the meeting was over and told him what he had learned was very helpful. Fred beamed! “Boris, I love to help my brothers and sisters. I am just like the rest of you, I was an orphan and was adopted and now we are all one big happy family.” Boris couldn’t wait to listen to Fred next week!

A few weeks went by and like clockwork the kids got together in the playroom and sat in a circle listening to Fred. Some of what Fred said was repetitive and sometimes he used words they didn’t understand but that was OK. It was a big help. After the family meeting was over, Fred came over to Boris. Fred asked him if he enjoyed the meeting and Boris assured him he did. Fred smiled. Then Fred said something that startled Boris:

“There is just one little thing you need to understand. When we get dessert, I need you to give me some of your cookies.”

Boris was confused. He asked Fred why he needed to give him some of his cookies. Fred patted him on the head and said “Well I am helping you out and showing you the ropes. That is really important isn’t it? Because I am spending some of my time helping you and the other new kids, I don’t have as much time for what I want to do. Doesn’t it seem fair that you would share with me? It is what dad wants us to do.” Fred smiled and walked over to talk to one of their sisters, leaving Boris scratching his head.

That didn’t make much sense to Boris. He didn’t know much about being in a family but it seemed strange that one of his brothers, who after all was just like him, expected to get a special reward. Dad had never mentioned that. Boris kept thinking about it.

If Fred was really helping, why should he get a reward for that from Boris? The staff who cared for him at the orphanage got paid money to care for the orphans but they were just doing their job and besides they weren’t family. Fred was family. Boris was terribly confused. Boris noticed lots of brothers and sisters in the family helping each other out all the time. One of his younger brothers couldn’t reach a toy he really wanted and an older sister helped him get it down. Once one of his sisters was crying and another of his sisters gave her a hug. In fact the more Boris thought about it, they more he realized that the whole family helped each other. Sometimes they even helped Fred when he needed something.

So Boris asked one of his other brothers, Jacob, about this. Jacob had been around a while and he knew the ropes. He had helped Boris out a time or two and Boris noticed that he helped a lot of the other kids out all the time but Jacob didn’t get cookies from anyone else. At first Jacob smiled and said “Sure, we all give Fred some of our cookies. It is what dad wants!” When Boris pointed out that dad never said anything like that and that it seemed like everyone helped everyone else but only Fred got cookies for it, Jacob started to get upset. “Boris, why are you causing trouble? You are new here but this is just the way we do things. Jacob knows more than the rest of us and he shares that stuff he knows with us so we should give him some of our cookies!” Boris started to ask another question but Jacob, his face all red, stomped away angrily. Later that day Boris saw Jacob talking to Fred and both Fred and Jacob kept looking over at Boris. Boris tried asking some of the other kids about this. Many of them reacted the same way that Jacob did but others seemed to have some of the same questions. More than one told Boris that they had asked those questions and it got people upset so they stopped asking them and just gave their cookies to Fred.

That afternoon after nap time, Fred came over and asked Boris to come sit with him. Fred sat Boris down at the table where Fred liked to draw because it had book cases around it and was kind of private. Fred looked at Boris and said, “Boris, I know you are new to the family but you can’t go around causing trouble about this whole cookie thing. The family is in turmoil. We have always done it this way. One of the brothers helps everyone else and leads our family meetings every week and in return the rest of the kids give him some cookies. We have always done it this way and I am sure that is what dad wants.” Boris knew that sharing was important. Dad had made that very clear when he brought Boris home but the way dad described it all of the kids were supposed to share with each other, not just with Fred. Boris didn’t want to cause trouble and he was kind of intimidated so he just kept his mouth shut until Fred was done speaking.

Boris was pretty confused but he didn’t know what else to do so he gave some of his cookies to Fred. Once he did that and stopped asking so many irritating questions, he found that the other kids were more friendly with him again, especially Jacob. Boris also found that he let Fred help others even when Boris could help them. After all Fred was better at it and he got cookies for it. In fact Boris started to like the system. When someone needed help Boris told them to go to Fred. Fred was always running around helping the other kids but Boris didn’t mind. Fred was better at helping.

One morning several new kids showed up, new brothers and sisters adopted into the family! Boris recognized one of the little girls. Her name was Svetlana and they used to be in the same orphanage! She and Boris had the same background and came from the same place and used to play together back in Russia all the time. Boris was very excited to see her! That afternoon Svetlana asked Boris if there were any crayons. Boris knew where the crayons were but he told her to ask Fred. After all Fred was in charge of helping the kids figure things out. Boris introduced Svetlana to Fred and Fred showed her where the crayons were. Later that day Boris had gotten himself some crayons and was coloring away. Boris loved to color. Svetlana came over to where he was and said “Oh, did Fred show you where the crayons are?” Boris shook his head and told her that he already knew where they were and had been using them for a long time. Svetlana looked confused and asked “Why didn’t you just show me where they were?” Boris smiled and told her that Fred was supposed to help people because he was better at it and besides he got cookies from everyone else. Svetlana frowned and walked away. Boris could tell right away that she was going to be a trouble maker.


Alan Knox said...

But, I really like cookies.


Arthur Sido said...

I would happily share my cookies with you Alan!

Aussie John said...


I feel sorry for Fred and the group.

He didn't understand the nature of his use of the famous last words of dying churches: "We have always done it this way".

Don Litchfield said...

1 Cor. 9:1-14 - although Paul did not feel inclined to receive such, he makes it clear that the deliverer of the Good News should be rewarded in "carnal things" (v. 11) and that God "ordained" that those who preach the gospel should live of the gospel --- cookies!
1 Tim. 5:17-18 - "worthy of double honour" and "worthy of his reward" --- cookies!
Why is that so hard to accept? If someone works to fix your computer, you are grateful to pay him for his work.
If someone is faithful to help fix your soul (with God's help), should you not be just as grateful as the computer tech?

Arthur Sido said...


There are a couple of things I would point out.

First, does being an apostle (which is the context that Paul was writing from) equate to a local church pastor? If everyone who preaches the Gospel should get paid, does that mean everyone should get paid who preaches the Gospel or just certain men hired to do so? I have the opportunity to share the Gospel on a regular basis and I joyfully do so. That joy is all the reward I want or need and is the same reward that Paul sought. Paul takes great pains to point out that he worked for a living and ministered and. preached the Gospel. If Paul, an apostle who travelled all over the place, can do that in the midst of a violently hostile culture why can't a man in America where Christianity is a part of our culture do the same?

Second, does "double honor" mean "permanent salary"? Paul says a few verses earlier that we should "Honor widows who are truly widows."(1 Timothy 5:3) Should widows get half of the salary that pastors get? There is an enormous difference between an apostle or missionary who is sent out from the church to take the Gospel to the lost and an able bodied man who is hired to deliver sermons and minister in place of the rest of the Body.

As far as this:

If someone is faithful to help fix your soul (with God's help), should you not be just as grateful as the computer tech?

I categorically reject the notion that anyone fixes my soul with God's help. Our hearts are regenerated by God without even the slightest assistance on our part and every Christian comes to faith in the same way. The role of pastors/elders is to equip the less mature for the work of ministry, not to be subcontractors who do the work of ministry for pay.

If someone loves the church, why would they insist on getting paid to serve?

What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. (1 Corinthians 9:18)

Arthur Sido said...

by the way, this is a great post dealing with the 1 Corinthians 9 issue

Don Litchfield said...

If the people appreciated your "preaching" they should have felt obligated to honor you in some manner. The verse you quote by Paul states clearly that he saw some form of reward for faithfully delivering the Word of Truth: "my right in the gospel" (v. 18, whatever version you used makes it clearer than the KJV).
I do not disagree with all you say. I do see the need in some cases for the minister so have at least a part-time job beside his ministry. And I am not advocating a man demanding payment for work done. But God is making it very clear through His apostle that there is some responsibility in the church to "reward" a faithful servant of Jesus. (a bag of flour, a couple chickens, some veggies from the garden have worked in some cultures).
Yes, too many ministers today "demand" remuneration for their services. Covetousness is sin - at any level of church community.
I was privileged to be a part of and loved by a comparatively small congregation who, out of love and appreciation for my feeble attempts of ministry to them (as an associate pastor) was gifted with a "salary" (that probably churns some stomachs) to bless us and assist us with living expenses, freeing us for full-time ministry to them. Was it an abundance of finance? Not necessarily, especially when we felt Karin should stay at home when the children arrived (there were some meager months at times). Yet, it was not the finance that was our blessing there -- it was the love and giving of those people that ministered to us. They gave because they loved - not because we asked for a certain salary. And they prayed about what they were to give. They felt that God was to determine what was given. We rejoiced in whatever they chose to bless us with.
Our focus was not on the "reward" but on loving the widows, the children and youth, and assisting the "senior" pastor in his gifts and callings. The finance freed us to focus wholly upon the needs of the church community.
Paul is giving us a tremendous example for God's "servants" but he does not mandate his example as biblical commandment.
To put this in perspective:
a) Paul states clearly that it is in order to "reward" the servant of God (v. 11 "carnal things", v. 12 "power", v. 13 "live..." "partakers", v. 14 "live of the gospel", even to the degree of "right" v. 18)
b) Paul does give a wonderful example of not demanding payment - that in some way might "hinder the gospel" (if this were spiritual mandate, then the a fore noted verses have no meaning) - this speaks of a non-covetous spirit in God's servants
c) the "reward" - whatever it is - is given in love and appreciation for the labor and ministry of God's servant.
d) wisdom and love dictate that the community of faith consider through prayer the ministry needs and responsibilities of the "elder" - If the Lord has called them to part-time ministry, then the reward (freely given) should enable them to minister freely as unto the Lord (the same for a servant with a calling to full-time ministry)
e) "God" may call some to work to support themselves, but a congregation should be willing to love their shepherd by taking off the "muzzle" and offering him a due reward (1 Tim. 5:18)
Cookies!!! - baked out of love and appreciation - not demanded

Arthur Sido said...


I don’t have a problem with financially assisting someone engaged in ministry, especially if that someone is traveling somewhere and needs funding to get themselves started and in place. I also don’t see a problem and in fact see a great deal of Biblical precedent to financially assist fellow believers in need no matter what their title or office or lack thereof . What I do have a problem with is a permanent solution where a man makes all or most of his living from the offerings of the church in return for taking on all or most of the ministry of the local body, where his ministry is also his job. The text that are often put forth as a defense of our church traditions re: paying clergy miss the context of what was written. An elder or pastor in a local church in Indiana is not in any way functioning the way that Paul was. They can get a job and support themselves and their family. Now if someone was sent by their local body to travel to Oregon to be a missionary or itinerant preacher and needed financial support to get out there and get established, then it would make sense to financially support them. Mission families ministering in Haiti where language barriers and the lack of a functioning economy make getting a job next to impossible are certainly appropriate recipients for financial support. A man in his 30’s or 40’s living where we do and ministering primarily locally? Not so much. It is instructive that while Paul did occasionally receive financial support he never received it from the local church where he was ministering.

As far as demanding payment, let me ask this. If most ministers in most local churches that were “full-time” suddenly found that the church could no longer pay them, would they get a job locally and keep ministering in that Body or would they pack up and move somewhere else? If we are honest, the truth is that they would move somewhere else. This is their career and they have invested a lot of time and often an expensive seminary education into this career. We need to change the mindset in the church that sees ministry as a profession that requires a graduate degree and a paycheck.

I just don’t see any warrant for churches to take up an offering to give that money to someone who is ministering among them as an employee of the church. What I do see happening is that the bulk of the burden of ministry falls on the shoulders of one or a few men because they are getting paid and the rest of body doesn’t participate in a meaningful way. There are of course exceptions to this but the average Christian does very little in terms of ministering in the local church and a lot of that, I believe, is because we have professionalized ministry and made it something only certain people in the church should do.

Ur Man CD said...

Dear King Arthur:

I have to applaud this allegory. Not because it is perfect in every way - it's not. But the whole conversation with Don highlights what makes a good allegory - it provokes thought, so we can take it in a casual sense and feel sorry for Boris, or we can take it deeper and question why the allegory has a go at paid ministers, etc. etc. Either way, it is a brilliant allegory, really is, and is so good I would not hesitate to share it with others who've left the orphanage to join the family.

By the way, by the sounds of it Fred would appear to be something of a Cookie Monster. (I've been waiting to insert that Sesame Street reference ever since there was mention of the word cookies.)

Thanks so much for this, Arthur.

Your humble subject near your round table - DMCD