5 Sneaky Ways That Pastors Misuse God's Rewards

Full disclosure: I'm gonna talk about cats for a second.

If you don't like cats, you've been warned. I'm not sure I like cats either. But my wife and kids do, so here we are.

My youngest son, Ben, turned 6 in April. And for months leading up to his birthday, he told us repeatedly that he wanted a kitten for his birthday.

The name of said kitten changed every week.

The color of said kitten changed every week.

But in the end, Ben got his kitten. A black-and-white kitten named Batman Catman Batcat. Ben has decided just to call him Catman.

So Catman has been living in our home for almost two months. And he's into everything. All the time. Sleeps when we're awake and awake when we (are trying to) sleep.

Lindsey decided this week that one way to help Catman get all his energy out is to teach him to fetch. Yes, like a dog. But unlike your dog, he doesn't smell like a blanket drenched in liquid halitosis.

Well...that escalated quickly!

Well...that escalated quickly!

OK, back to our story.

Lindsey is teaching Catman to fetch. He has several little bouncy balls that he likes to chase up and down one of the hallways in our house. So Lindsey tosses a ball down the hall, and when Catman brings it back, she gives him a kitty treat.

No clue what's in the stuff. But it's the feline equivalent to craft beer and ox musk - or whatever else bearded hipster dudes can't live without.

The game is simple. Fetch and get a treat. Perform and get the reward.

Now is probably a good time to point out that leaders have learned to play this game. We work hard, and we get rewarded.

There are financial rewards - perform well and get paid.

There are vocational rewards - perform well and be admired.

Leadership is incredibly rewarding. But there's a dark side to rewards, right? 

5 Ways Leaders Misuse Rewards

Rather than receiving rewards and using them to help you thrive, have you ever noticed a tendency to misuse rewards? Check this out.

1. Identity

The rewards you receive for your work are not a badge of identification. Pay attention to how you feel about yourself when you drive a nicer car, live in a bigger house, eat at a high-end restaurant, wear brand new clothes.

God made you to enjoy material things. But that stuff does not define you.

2. Gluttony

The rewards you receive for your work are not meant to be consumed in excess. Pay attention to the places where you live excessively - food, alcohol, hobbies, etc.

God made you to enjoy good things. But the good things in life become destructive when used excessively.

3. Distraction

The rewards you receive for your work are not intended to put distance between you and other people. Pay attention to how often your instinct is to avoid people by keeping your smartphone open and in front of you.

God placed you in a world filled with technology. But when technology keeps you from being fully present, you misuse that reward by failing to love well.

4. Idolatry

The rewards you receive for your work can never replace God as your most lavish treasure. Pay attention to the weight you place on your next vacation.

Praise God for the reward of time away from ordinary life and work. But living for vacation - or even just the weekend - tips your hand that you're misusing the reward of extended rest.

5. Entitlement 

The rewards you receive for your work should not keep you from continuing to work hard. Pay attention to the choices you make to cut corners at work in the name of your position.

God has placed you in a position of leadership for his glory and the good of the people you lead. But when you lay up and play it safe, you fail to model the way you want others to work.

How To Use Rewards Well

I was doing sermon prep work on Psalm 5 and came across this comment from Eugene Peterson:

Psalm 5 bridges the passivities of grace into the activities of obedience. It is a narrow bridge easily missed, even more easily fallen off.

If you want to use rewards well, remember that what you consider a 'reward' is really a trophy of God's grace. That thing you could misuse does not belong to you. It is a gift from God to be used in the service of a life that finds its deepest joy in loving Him and loving the people around you.

So take all of these gifts and do the next right thing. What that looks like will vary person-to-person but in the end, the proper way to use God's rewards is in obedience to him. Take what he gives and use it for his glory, your joy and the good of others.

3 Things For You

Book Of The Week - As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Eugene Peterson

Subtitled, 'A Conversation On The Ways Of God Formed By The Word Of God,' this is a collection of essays taken from sermons preached during Peterson's 30 years as a pastor in Maryland.

The older I get and the longer I pastor, the more I appreciate Peterson's work. Sane, challenging, enjoyable, tweetable. I highly recommend this book.

Tools I Use - Slack

Slack is an online resource that brings all the pieces of your work life together to help you get it all done. And if that sounds like it came off the company website, well, it did :-)

I use Slack in my business and in our church. It has largely eliminated text and email with our team. We also use it to share files and capture ideas. Just recently, we've started using it for video calls, an option embedded in Slack. You can learn more about all that Slack does here.

While I don't find Slack particularly useful as a task management platform, I have been very happy with everything else it does. Why not try the free option for 3-6 months and then upgrade to the paid version if you decide it's a great solution for you and your team.

Resource Of The Week - Preach Better Sermons

Preach Better Sermons is an online course and community I started to help pastors plan, prepare and preach better sermons. Over the course of 12 lessons, I walk you through the steps you need to take to build simple systems you need to consistently preach the kind of sermons you want to deliver.

We've also thrown in some pretty incredible bonuses if you join PBS this weekend. And we're offering it at a 95% discount as a way to say thank you for the work you do as a pastor. If you're new to preaching or you feel like your preaching is stuck or you're looking for a way to develop other preachers, check out our information page here

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