“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying the sheep of My pasture! Declares the LORD.”

(Jer 23:1)

The gifts of Christ are not acquired nor earned. A gift is an unmerited favor, and the principle of God’s Word stands firm; once allotted, the gift will not be revoked, ‘for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable,’ (Rom 11:29). Nevertheless, one should not be fooled by the graciousness of God in distributing these gifts, for those who receive such gifts are also entrusted with stewardship, (1 Cor 9:17). A steward is one who has to warrant accountability over that which has been entrusted to him. It is in the light of this principle that the apostle James warned, ‘Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment,’ (James 3:1).

There are two distinct prophetic warnings in the writings of the Hebraic prophets. In Ezekiel 34 and Jeremiah 23, the two prophets warn the shepherds of Israel of God’s intended judgment on them. Instead of feeding the sheep, the shepherds fed themselves, ‘You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock.’  Also, ‘Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and severity you have dominated them,’ (Ezek 34:3-4). The selfish attitude of the shepherds and their lack of oversight eventually lead to a scattered flock, wandering on the mountains, and becoming the prey of the beasts of the field, (Ezek 34:5-8; Jer 23:1-2).

By no means should a pastor or elder walk around in tattered clothing or eat crumbs. The apostle Paul gives an extensive teaching on the responsibility of the congregation to take care of those who tend to their spiritual needs, saying clearly, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,’ (1 Cor 9:9-11). Indeed, ‘So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel,’ (1 Cor 9:14). Yet, ‘Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves the cheerful giver,’ (2 Cor 9:7). On the other hand, administrating the affairs of a congregation in any way to enrich the personal welfare of any given pastor or elder is an offence in the eyes of the Lord. Using manipulation and compulsion to raise the funds of the congregation will not be overseen by God.

Also, proper care should be administrated in overseeing the spiritual and physical needs of the members of the body; the sick should be strengthened and receive prayer (James 5:14-16), those who are broken-hearted should be comforted (2 Cor 1:3-7), and the ones who are battling with faith issues and forsaking the assembly should be brought back, (Heb 10:23-25; Gal 6:1-2). There should not be any evidence of force or domination in the ongoing oversight over God’s people, rather it should be in love, as Paul wrote to Philemon, ‘For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother,’ (Phil 1:7).

Moreover, shepherds should take proper care of the spiritual condition of the congregation, aptly discerning error to protect the members from false doctrine, (2 John 1:9-10; Jude 1:3-4). No pastor or elder will be able to develop such a keen discernment lest they study the Scriptures thoroughly and practice discernment by applying the Word to their own lives, (Heb 5:12-14).

Let us heed these warnings, for the judgment of the Lord against the shepherds who scatter His flock is stern, ‘Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I shall demand My sheep from them and make them cease from feeding sheep. So the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore, but I shall deliver My flock from their mouth, that they will not be food for them,’ (Ezek 34:10).