“Whoever receives you, receives Me. Whoever listens to you, listens to Me. Whoever rejects you, rejects Me.” (Matthew 10:40 and Luke 10:16)
Pastors are reluctant to preach this because it sounds self-serving. “People, the Lord in Heaven is taking note of how you treat me. Whatever you do to me, Jesus considers it the same as though you were doing it to Him.”
He’ll not be saying that.
So, I’ll say it for him. Because it’s true.
Consider this. “A king arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding. And they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready; come to the wedding.” But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.” (That’s Matthew 22:1-6)
We must not miss the reaction of the king in the Lord’s story. “But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And his sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.” (Matthew 22:7)
However the people treated the king’s messengers, it was the same as doing it to him.
In I Samuel 8:7, the Lord said that when the people rejected Samuel, he shouldn’t take it personally (because the Lord would be doing that! ).”They have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.”
So, stop your whining, pastor. This is not about you.
Almost nothing you do, servant of God, is about you!
Consider this both a warning to those who would mistreat these God-called servants sent to His churches as well as an encouragement to those who honor them.
This must not be abused. No pastor should be trying to feather his own bed by promising the people heavenly riches if they would treat him nicely now. No messenger of the Lord should ever promise people “If you will send me a love offering now, God will prosper you.” Those who have done such have brought great shame on themselves, on the church, and on the gospel.
But this is a truth for the ages: However we treat God’s messenger, He takes personally.
At the end of Matthew 10 (where the Lord was sending the disciples-in-training on a practice run), Jesus tells them that whoever gives them any kind of support and encouragement, even as simple as a cup of cold water, will be sharing in their reward. (My interpretation of Matthew 10:42.)
–When we listen to God’s messenger, He takes it as though we are listening to Him. We should give the Lord’s servant that kind of respect. (And no, we should not leave our discernment at the door. Not all claiming to be spokesmen for God are qualified to do so. There are many deceivers at work in the land.)
–When we receive God’s messenger, He considers that the same as receiving Him.
–When we reject God’s messenger, it is the same as rejecting Him.
There is no indication the disciples told their audiences this. But they never forgot it.
Carve these truths in stone, because they are rock-solid. Many will find out the hard way at Judgment that the pastoral harassment they have thought was private as they waged their own little anti-preacher vendetta has earned them the wrath of Almighty God.
Someone needs to tell them and warn them.
That’s not the whole story, of course.
It is true–and this needs to be pointed out–that there is a very real sense in which however we treat any of the Lord’s children, He takes personally. “Inasmuch as you do it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you do it unto me” (Matthew 25:40). And my favorite, Hebrews 6:10. “God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love that you have shown toward His Name in having ministered to the saints, and in still ministering.” He takes it personally when we take care of His children.
Likewise, when Saul of Tarsus was hounding the people of God, Jesus told him he was persecuting Himself. (Acts 9:4,5)
And, there’s even a reference in Proverbs to the Lord taking personally the love that we show to poor people. (Proverbs 19:17)
But we must not miss the special emphasis the Lord puts on the treatment of His messengers. We remember how Moses’ brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam, tried to pull him down and themselves up by saying, “Moses is taking too much upon himself; God speaks through us too.” But God let them know in a New York minute that Moses’s uniqueness was His doing and they were treading on dangerous ground. (See Numbers 12.)
And we recall the rebellion of Numbers 16 where several “men of renown”–250 of them in fact!–announced, “We’re all holy; the entire congregation! Moses is exalting himself above everyone else.” God dealt with them in dramatic fashion, and in doing so let everyone know there was a unique sense in which His spokesperson is holy.
Can we apply that to God’s messengers today?
In my opinion, we can. There is a sense–a very real sense–in which all of God’s people are holy to Him. This is a teaching of both the Old and New Testaments (see I Peter 1:15-16).
But it’s just as sure that God’s ministers are called by Him as specifically as Moses, Jeremiah, and Isaiah ever were.
I was 21, a college senior, planning a career in teaching, when on a Tuesday night in April of 1961, while I was singing “Jesus Paid It All” with the choir, the living God spoke to my heart and said, “I want you in the ministry.” Not “to preach,” but “in the ministry.” My service for Him has taken several turns over these 57 years–pastoring, writing, counseling, evangelism, teaching, and training–and it has all been “ministry.”
The Lord has called. And nothing has been the same since.
Amos said, “When the lion roars, you will fear. And when God speaks, you will prophesy!” (Amos 3:8).
Let the servant of the Lord represent Him well. Let the servant be humble and take nothing to himself as belonging to himself. When he is received, let him give praise to the Lord. When he is heard, let him honor Christ. And when he is rejected, let him remember, “It’s not about me.”
All praise and honor and blessing be unto Him.