Lent 2014: Day 7: Fame and Fortune – and an Important Commission

What does it feel like to be famous? Think of a famous movie star – how would it feel to walk in their shoes? Yes, that is me trying out some famous footprints above, although I’ve never really wanted to be famous.

Today Maggi gives us the second temptation of Jesus in the desert (Matthew 4:5-7), with a warning that desiring fame and fortune in the Church can be just as dangerous as throwing yourself off the temple – perhaps exhilarating on the way, but painful at the end.

Rachel, too, picks up on the analogy of the tele-evangelists, calling for generous giving almost as a condition of God’s blessing. These tele-evangelists conveniently forget, for a time, that the evangelical view is that we are justified by faith alone, and not by our acts – it is our faith in God that should save us, rather than our having donated. That’s not to say that giving money to the church is a bad thing; if we want to grow in our faith, and others to discover and grow in their faith too, we need preachers, and perhaps pulpits, and these cost money. But it is not a pre-condition for being saved – we do good works because we are saved, not in order to be saved. Perhaps I’d best stop this line of thought here as my theological knowledge doesn’t deep enough to develop my point.

Maggi also thinks about fame for spiritual gifts. I was thinking about this too. Two Advent Book Clubs ago, I looked at the ordination service for priests. The words of the ordinal seem to call for a degree of fame – but little fortune.

Fame, or infamy, may arise if we stick our heads above the parapet and share our faith. If we’re good at it, it may be fame – which should be turned to the fame of the faith, not of the preacher. If we’re bad at it, it may be infamy.

But fame need not mean wide renown. It could mean fame to just one person – the one person you invited to church that one time where something just took. Asked, many years later, they might say “I remember going to church with X. (S)he is the reason I first went; it was Jesus that made me stay”. And that is the sort of fame we can, and should, all aspire to – the important commission we all have (see, I’ve brought us back to today’s #BigRead14 prayer, Important Commission) – for God’s sake, not our own. For spiritual good fortune, not financial good fortune.