Friday, January 16, 2009

The Wolf in Shepherd's Clothing

I see it almost every day somewhere or other. Those who have placed themselves above everyone else as God's chosen one, some of them condemning and damning to hell those who don't agree with them. They wear their religion on their sleeves and appear to be sincere in their beliefs. They openly thank God for everything, blame God for everything ("It was God's will..."), and generally bring Him up every chance they get in conversation. I have always been just a bit cynical about many of these kind of folks, because most that I have known have led less than stellar lives at the same time. There are too many to be chronicled in the space I have here. Generally, it seems to me, the folks who demonstrate their piety on a daily basis, quietly, without show, are the ones to be trusted as sincere. The others, well, let's just say I don't turn my back on them easily.

In recent days my wife and I have been dealing with the situation of a distant relative of mine, who is about 90 years old. She is a typical independent and stubborn mountain woman, who is living in the home in which she grew up. She has no immediate family living. Her living conditions, we have discovered, are somewhat poor. She has heat and a good roof over her head, food provided by friends, apparently enough money to pay her bills, and even cable TV. Cleanliness and running water are another story. When we tried to help her, too much, I suppose, she said in so many words, don't call me, I'll call you.

How does this relate to the beginning paragraph? Her pastor, who hasn't visited her in months or even years, appears more interested in this lady's property than her welfare. She opposes having Meals on Wheels and Adult Protective Services involved, because she fears that my relative's living conditions would be discovered, leading to, possibly, a nursing home. Granted such a move would probably mean the end of my cousin's life because she wouldn't leave her home voluntarily. However, it would also mean a lien on the her property for payment. There are several acres of mountain land involved.

Recently, the pastor insisted that, should the subject of a will arise, we should encourage the elderly lady to leave her property to the church. Did I note that the church is a small country church with only a few active members? So what would this church do with a few hundred thousand dollars? Given the reputation of this pastor, I would be very concerned.

Frankly, I would be glad for the property to go toward proper care for its owner. If she could end her days in clean, comfortable, and safe care, why shouldn't her family property stand good for it? Our local nursing home is a part of the hospital and is very well operated. The patients are cared for in a responsible manner and the environment is very clean and positive.

The pastor seems to truly care little for the welfare of this lady. She has done nothing beyond an email or two. She has rejected offers of help from other pastors, feeling, it appears, that they might horn in on her possible windfall. If she truly had concern for this woman's welfare, she would have gladly accepted offers of help, since her flock is also elderly and can do very little to help. She would be contacting local sources to see what other assistance might be available, as we are going to do. She would be visiting on a regular basis and talking to the lady to see if she might be able to encourage a positive change.

Instead, she watches from afar and waits, like a vulture circling a dying beast. When this lady passes, I expect the pastor, who is also a legal assistant, will dive in, seeking to benefit from the leftovers. She is not the first wolf in shepherd's clothing that I have encountered in my lifetime. There are many others out there just like her. Some are less obvious, others make no bones about it.

A late pastor friend was at the time of his death writing a series of articles on "The Market Driven Church," where numbers mean more than souls. Money the root of all evils seems to drive so many churches today. It isn't money to do good with. It is money to build monuments to ourselves, and to show up the other churches in the community. Far be it from us to use those millions to run a soup kitchen or provide shelter and clothing to the homeless. Let's build a gym and a health club for our members, so they won't have to associate with others of different beliefs or races. Surely Jesus, the white guy with the beard in the painting up front, will understand.


That Baptist Ain't Right said...

Unfortunately, I too have seen many of these vicious wolves cleverly disguised as shepherds.

I do hope it all works out for your cousin. Keep me updated.

God bless.

Rod in Rabun Gap said...

Mr. Reed, I have been busy the last couple of weeks, and unable to read yours and other blogs that interest me. Yours is one of the best, and I appreciate your words.
I, too, have seen situations such as you describe with your wife's relative. The pastor of that church should be leading others to check in on the aging and/or infirmed, and offering assistance where needed, not trying to enrich the church with their property. I understand that it takes money to run a church, as it does any other institution, but not to the detriment of their followers.