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The Begging Dog And The Unworthy Shepherd

If you are a dog owner, you will understand the predicament when you decide to feed a dog from the table. Giving a dog leftover table scraps can wreck an otherwise good obedient dog. There are several reasons we should not feed a dog at the table, but three directly relate to Christian ministry. One is that human food is quite different from dog food, and some of the dietary ingredients we take in could cause digestive issues for the canine. The dog could be left feeling uncomfortable, unsettled and possibly very ill, along with other problems that may arise with their health.

The second issue, feeding a dog from the table, is weight gain. By taking in the fatty foods in high caloric human food, the dog could find itself obese. Third, feeding a dog table scraps can cause unwanted behaviour. The dog is less dependent and learns to beg at the table. Again, table scraps affect diet, cause obesity and result in begging.

So, here is why I am talking about dogs. Understanding eating scraps can cause significant problems with an animal- should we not take this understanding to wider application with others? More so, if we can understand this on a human-to-pet relationship – how much more should we be open to seeing this concern within our churches. For some reason, the Evangelical church here in Canada acts like everything is OK, all the while the church is sick, overweight and disobedient. Though not all – it seems there are a majority of pastors/congregations that want to cover their eyes and ignore the fact that the Protestant church is begging for the scraps at Caesar’s table.

It is so sad to see the pastors and church leaders, more specifically the Protestant Christian Church, basically beg like dogs to get a few crumbs from the table of Caesar. Then, when Caesar graciously throws down some of the leftover scraps, such pastors/congregations celebrate as if something remarkable happened. As dogs were meant to have specific diets, Christians are to have specific spiritual diets. The Christian – more specifically to the context of this article, the pastor – is to stand firm on doctrinal, historical truth. However, since they have been content on table scraps for a long time, we see everything about them affected, just like the adverse effects with dogs. Because of its leaders, we see the Christian Church become lazy and apathetic. We see it become obese with head knowledge but starving in actual obedience. So accustomed to hand me downs, there is unwanted behaviour in these most difficult times.

Perhaps this is why so many, upon hearing Caesar (the state) say “jump,”; we hear compliant pastors say “how high?” Or when Caesar implements new restrictions that completely violate Holy Scripture, some pastors wag their tails in excitement. Almost as if they have forgotten what it means to seek the approval of Christ. To many, their compliance is a reward in itself, as this means more table scraps. It is also possible why so many pastors/congregations focus on the bare basics and social programs instead of calling men and women to repentance or calling out the godless magistrates for their sinful attacks against holy Scripture because “bad dogs” do not get scraps. It is fair to say that such pastors have an equal need to repent of their pastoral negligence and desire to be relevant. However, since table scraps taste better to their palate, they chose to be polite to gain more favour with Caesar instead of being called out and having honour with Christ.

So, there is the danger of feeding off the table scraps of Caesar. What exactly are table scrapes in this context? Outside of the praise and approval of men, they can be federal and provincial subsidy payments during COVID-19. Bailout cheques so churches could pay their staff for their buildings and use the money to conduct ministry. There was no need to trust the Lord because Caesar was feeding the need. After all, it is not polite to bite the hand that feeds you – so there is absolute compliance. Scraps may also look like the summer student wage subsidy in which a church uses the money to bring on interns. There are grants to be more community-focused, to be more socially involved, there are grants to use the church for various multicultural- multi-religious events. There is money paid out so the church can be a COVID-19 vaccine facility. There is money in using a church as an elections Canada facility and so much more. So again, many people do not see the seriousness of the problem. Table scraps are not to feed the church. Caesar’s crumbs should never be desired. The reason why so many pastors/congregations have closed their doors since 2020, demand so many mandates to worship Christ and why so many pastors have refused to speak up comes down to one thing. The return on investment is too costly. If they speak up or open their church doors, they will lose getting the scraps from Caesar’s table. It is that simple. They may lose money, parts of their tax exemption, extra income to keep their church and staff.

John Calvin once said, “does a dog not bark when he sees his master attacked?” Now, however, we do not have dogs barking; we have many dogs conditioned to be dancing and begging at Caesar’s table to get a little more. Now their loyalty is to their stomach and their own needs and gains. I want to draw upon ancient Israel for a moment. The context is slightly different, but the point and application are the same. Ezekiel was a prophet of God. During his time, Israel was in dark days. The Governors, teachers, and the authorities were evil people. There was an issue of sin with the people and God’s servants. During such a dark time, the Word of the Lord came to His prophet Ezekiel and Ezekiel was commissioned to speak to the shepherds (religious leaders) of the flock and call them to repentance. Let us take a look at chapter 34 of Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 34:2

“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? (ESV)

The issue, God’s sheep (his people) were not being fed. Just like in many churches today. There is much entertainment, little feasting on the Word. Many pastors will say they are feeding the sheep through Zoom or social media in our day and age. However, we must ask whether we are feeding the sheep the Word of God or fear. Hiding and segregating the body of Christ speaks louder than words do. Not a very strong point, but a point nonetheless. It goes on in verse three.

Ezekiel 34:3–4

You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. (ESV)

A lot is going on here which we need to look at another day, but one needs to ask the question, “how does a pastor strengthen the weak when the pastor is 100% compliant, distant, operating outside of Scripture and distracted waiting for the scraps of the magistrate?” Does the very violation of Holy Scripture not show they are weak themselves? How can they bring back the strayed and wandering flock when the congregations’ doors are closed and locked. How can an under-shepherd (pastor) be obedient to Christ when they are too busy focused on what will come off Caesar’s table next?

Moving on in verses five to six, we read.

Ezekiel 34:5–6

So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them. (ESV)

It sounds much like what has been going on since March 2020. Granted, there is a different context to some degree, but also similar. The people of God were affected because of the fault of their rulers. They were driven to different parts of the land into other countries because of the oppression which they were facing. So do we not have men and women today looking towards Jesus Christ for their salvation for hope, only to find doors locked and find pastors hiding behind a camera speaking one thing with their mouth but by their actions doing another. There are Christians scattering, moving to different cities, provinces and countries trying to find refuge because they have none here. They need under-shepherds, but those pastors are feeding themselves. Such men are content that Caesar provides delicious food. So many ignore the reality of corporate worship and interpersonal relationships and walking with the sheep physically because their eyes are too focused on the next table scrap that will fall.

The message to Ezekiel does not end in despair. In verse eleven, we start to hear the wonderful truth that God himself will search for the sheep, and he will seek them out. Then, verse thirteen declares that God will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries. His people will have pasture, and God will feed them. The reality is that God alone is the good Shepherd, and He will seek the lost and bring back the strayed. The promise is a beautiful message, and This is why we proclaim Christ and his Gospel, his work, his mercy and the fulfillment found in John chapter 10:1-18. Do we now see why it is so sad to have so many pastors and congregations distracted sitting at Caesar’s feet, waiting for him to give them a tiny morsel of food? There is a commission to preach the Gospel, be the church, go after the wandering, and yes – go to the sick and pray for them. Indeed there is an indictment on the under-shepherds of our day. The call from Scripture is clear.

1 Peter 5:2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; (ESV)

This is not a call to feed oneself or to protect one’s own life. It is a calling to shepherd the flock in which Christ has placed the pastor to lay their life down.

1 Timothy 3:2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, (ESV)

So the pastor is not to be bouncing all over the place out of fear and intimidation. They are concerned about what God wants, to be steadfast so that they may minister to the flock. Unfortunately, many are like that undisciplined dog and cannot function correctly when appetites arise.