Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Feeling hard done by?

At the moment, I'm working on the 'Philippians and Colossians' volume in the forthcoming "Reformation Commentary on Scripture" series, and came across this vintage bit of Calvin, commenting on Philippians 2.21: "For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ." If there are any ministers, priests, clergy out there feeling a little hard done by, badly paid, unappreciated, wishing they were somewhere else, hear what Calvin had to say. Typically forthright - he calls a spade a spade, as usual - but there is perhaps some wisdom here:

"It may seem at first sight as if it were no great fault to seek one’s own, but how insufferable it is in the servants of Christ, appears from the fact that it renders those whom it possesses utterly useless. For it is impossible that he who is devoted to self should spend himself for the Church... For it must necessarily be, that one or other of two dispositions rules in us: either that, overlooking ourselves, we are devoted to Christ and the things that are Christ’s, or that, too intent on our own advantage, we serve Christ perfunctorily.

From this it appears how great a hindrance it is to the ministers of the Church to seek their own interests. Nor is there any force in these excuses: “I do harm to no-one”; “I must also have regard to my own affairs”; “I am not so hard as not to be prompted by a regard to my own advantage.” For you must give up your own right if you would discharge your duty: a regard for yourself must not be preferred to Christ’s glory, or even put on a level with it. Whithersoever Christ calls you, you must go promptly, leaving all other things. Your calling ought to be regarded by you in such a way that you shall turn away all your senses from everything that would divert you. It might be in your power to be richer elsewhere, but God has bound you to a Church which afford you only a moderate sustenance. You might elsewhere have more honour, but God has assigned you a place in which you live humbly. You might elsewhere have a better climate, or more pleasant scenery, but it here that your station is appointed. You might wish to have to do with more cultured people; their ingratitude, or barbarity, or pride offends you; in short, you have no sympathy with the dispositions or customs of the nation in which you are, but you must struggle with yourself, and do violence in a manner, to opposing inclinations, that you may cherish the Sparta where you find yourself. For you are not free, or at your own disposal. In short, forget yourself if you would serve God."

Commentary on Philippians 2:21

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