A Parable for Pastors

Once upon a time there were two carpenters in a village nestled in a valley. Each had a thriving business of providing furniture, wooden tools, buckets, and yokes for the farmers.

Father Langston, the long-time priest of the village church, knew both carpenters and their families well for they were a part of his church. Seeking to treat each family the same, his own humble home was furnished with an equal number of items from each man. He made regular pastoral calls to the carpentry shop of each, conversing with them on both mundane and spiritual subjects as they measured, sawed, nailed, and sanded their projects.

Father Langston noted a difference, however, between the two. Though both made and sold many items to the villagers, Brother Thomas sold more than Brother James and was able to provide his wife and family with luxuries that Brother James could not.

Brother James’ lower productivity was due to his habit of making a fine piece of furniture every year for his wife. His loving and careful crafting of the yearly gift left less time for him to make that which he might sell.

Father Langston noted one other difference, and this was in Brother James’ favor. Though Brother Thomas’ wife had luxuries Brother James’ wife did not, it was Brother James’ wife who clung close to her husband at church, glanced up at him with loving eyes, and seemed to be clothed with peace and contentment. Brother Thomas’ wife rarely glanced at her husband or held him close, being much distracted and busied with straightening her rich clothes and fondling her sparkling jewelery. Both men, he noted, felt a satisfaction that they were providing well for their wives.

One Sunday afternoon, after having visited both men at their carpentry shops the past week and having greeted each man and his wife after church that morning, he made an observation while he rested, drinking a cup of tea. Brother Thomas sold all he made to the villagers while Brother James had less to sell to the villagers because he spent much time and effort creating something as a gift for his wife, and yet it was Brother James and his wife who seemed happiest with each other.

What Father Langston took to heart from his Sunday afternoon observation was that he was a crafter of words as the two men were crafters of wood. Like the carpenters he was glad that people received gladly what he crafted, for he was, indeed, a great student of the Scriptures and an accomplished orator of the message he had prepared. But in spite of his great efforts as God’s pastor he felt distant from the God whom he served. His relationship with God, he now came to see, was more like the cool but respectful marriage of Brother Thomas and his wife. In the marriage of Brother James and his wife he saw a warmth, devotion, and closeness he yearned to have with God.

What Father Langston went on to ponder was how all of his praying, studying, reflecting, and crafting of God’s Word was for the benefit of the villagers. Like Brother Thomas, he never took any of it home. Little, if any of it, was simply a delightful gift to God who dwelt with him. He determined from that day forward that He would follow Brother James’ example.