Chopped liver syndrome

Jeffrey L. Samelson

At the company picnic, the time comes for awards and recognitions, and the boss asks for everyone’s attention. He begins a small speech, lauding the work done by a 20-something new hire who over the last six months managed to bring in $5,000 in new revenue. The boss then asks everyone to applaud. All the employees clap except one—a middle-aged loyal worker who brought in over $200,000 in sales each of the last four years. She says, under her breath, “What am I, chopped liver?”

You might be familiar with the expression. It signals frustration or resentment when others are praised and you are overlooked or your contributions are ignored. And while we might want to think that such feelings have no place in believers’ hearts or among Christians, being slighted is all-too-often real. Might you be experiencing—or contributing to—“Chopped Liver Syndrome”?

Perhaps it has to do with members who have moved away from your congregation, and you lament that your church no longer has their talents in art or music or their friendly way of greeting visitors. Sadly, you don’t realize that every time you express those feelings you make the remaining faithful members feel like their skills with crafts or choir or their every-Sunday efforts to welcome guests are unrecognized and unappreciated.

We also might find the syndrome in our synod when the treasures of our Lutheran heritage are undervalued or ignored while the latest and greatest new ideas and practices from evangelicalism are hailed by fellow members of WELS as signs of churches that truly love and God and care about reaching the lost. Confessional Lutherans worldwide in this Reformation anniversary year will be frustrated at the attention paid to the observations of those who are Lutherans in name only or whose teachings and practices are as opposed to the gospel and scriptural truth as they were in the 16th century, all while we, who celebrate as Christians and churches who actually believe and teach what the Bible teaches as Luther did, are dismissed as too small or backward to be of interest. When we see the heterodox and heretical praised for their devotion while the orthodox are ignored, should we say, “What are we, chopped liver?”

It’s not a new thing in the church. The apostle Paul, in his letters, ends up having to remind the members of churches he founded, like the one in Corinth, that the honor they were giving to some of the “latest and greatest” teachers that came to them was honor that belonged properly to those faithful to the Word. We even see something like “Chopped Liver Syndrome” in God himself. Through the Old Testament prophets God points out how his people faithlessly go chasing after other gods, giving them praise, offering them sacrifices, and looking to them for blessings and prosperity—all the while ignoring him, the faithful Lord who guided, loved, and made them his own; brought them out of slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land; and blessed them abundantly.

“What am I, chopped liver?” might sound a little self-centered. But in the church we shouldn’t consider it self-centered. The gifts and service of every member of Christ’s body need to be appreciated, and the whole body suffers if they are not. And when Lutheran teachings and traditions are undervalued, truth is lost and faith is weakened. Do your church a favor. Don’t treat its treasures—its people or heritage—as chopped liver.


Contributing editor Jeffrey Samelson is pastor at Christ, Clarksville, Maryland.


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Author: Jeffrey L. Samelson
Volume 104, Number 6
Issue: June 2017

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