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Don’t give thanks

“God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.” Luke 18:11

Steven J. Pagels

Did the title of this devotion grab your attention? Maybe you were thinking to yourself, It must be a typo or Whoever proofreads these articles needs to do a better job of editing. Don’t give thanks? That doesn’t make sense. That advice doesn’t agree with the many Bible passages that encourage Christians to thank God for their many God-given blessings.

Actually it isn’t a typo, and those words do make sense if you look at them in the context of Luke 18. Jesus found himself in a gathering of people who thought very highly of themselves and very little of others. To take these self-righteous people down a notch, the Lord told them a parable about two men. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector.

WITH A PROUD HEART

The Pharisee was a respected religious leader. People looked up to him, and probably plenty of people were looking at him when he stood up in the temple and began to pray: “God, I thank you . . . ” It was such a good start, a good beginning to any prayer a believer might pray. But as the Pharisee continued, the self-righteous words that came from his lips revealed that something was wrong inside his heart.

“God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evil doers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.” The Pharisee wasn’t really interested in giving thanks to God. He was more concerned about drawing attention to himself, to how good he was, to how much better he was than all the wicked people in the world.

My guess is that you have never prayed a prayer like that, that you would never imagine praying a prayer like that. I wouldn’t either. But we don’t have to repeat the Pharisee’s words to have the same kind of self-righteous attitude. Instead of letting God know how good we are in our prayers, we can communicate the same idea in the prayers we choose not to pray. Why should I be thankful? I had to work hard to get the things I have. It was my effort, my determination, the decisions I made that got me where I am today.

BUT WITH A HUMBLE HEART

The other man in the parable wasn’t interested in telling God how good he was. He couldn’t even bring himself to look up to heaven. Instead he beat his breast and bowed his head and pleaded: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” What a dramatic contrast to the Pharisee’s prayer, and what a beautiful prayer it was!

The tax collector didn’t get into specifics, and he didn’t have to. He knew that God was aware of his many sins. He knew that he had no right to ask God for anything, but he did anyway. He asked God to be merciful, and God was. At the end of the parable Jesus explained that this man went home with his sins forgiven and his head held high.

The best part about this story is that it’s not just a story. It’s a true story. It is our story. We have a merciful God who lifts us up when we are weighed down by guilt. We have a living Savior who has forgiven all our sins. Because we are so blessed, because God has given us so much, we will do what comes naturally. We will do what grateful Christians do. With our lips and with our lives we will say, “Thank you.”

Contributing editor Steven Pagels is pastor at St. Matthew’s, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

 

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Author: Steven J. Pagels
Volume 101, Number 11
Issue: November 2014

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Benefiting our workers with WELS VEBA

Charles Heup, pastor at Good Shepherd, Plymouth, Wis., discovered he had Cystic Fibrosis (CF) when he was in college. Now 59, he has been controlling the disease through daily treatment and highly specialized medication. His lungs operate at less than 40 percent of their capacity, but the treatment and medication keep him functioning normally, a blessing to this pastor, husband, and father.

Heup’s congregation offers its called workers WELS VEBA health care coverage.

“Every time my doctor says we need something, we submit it to WELS VEBA and VEBA has covered everything that we’ve needed to do, including a new medication,” says Heup.

The Husby family had a similar experience with their WELS VEBA coverage. The evidence is displayed proudly on their refrigerator—an explanation of benefits from Cassie Husby’s recent double lung transplant. The cost: $494,000. What the Husbys owed: $0.

“WELS VEBA is a program that works so well that I don’t even have to think about it,” says Jeremy Husby, pastor at Peace, Hartford, Wis. “It allows me to be able to focus on the things that are important—my wife’s health, my daughter, and my ministry.”

WELS established the health care system called WELS VEBA more than 30 years ago to provide for its workers’ health care needs. About 80 percent of WELS and Evangelical Lutheran Synod calling bodies provide this nationwide, long-term health coverage to their pastors, teachers, staff ministers, and lay workers.

“WELS VEBA’s strength lies in the large number of workers and calling bodies across the country that join together and participate in our synod’s health plan,” says Joshua Peterman, director of WELS Benefit Plans. “In this way, WELS VEBA has been able to provide consistent, comprehensive benefits to our workers and their families for generations.”

Knowing that coverage will remain intact offers peace of mind to called workers when they receive calls to different ministries or congregations. “[Health care coverage] doesn’t even factor into my decision,” says Heup. “I can focus on the question all called workers should focus on when they get a call: ‘Where can I serve the Lord with the talents he has given me.’ ”

Through WELS VEBA, health care costs of covered workers are shared across all participating calling bodies throughout the synod. Churches and schools don’t have to worry about the cost of benefits when making a call, since the plan’s premium costs are the same across all age groups. WELS VEBA also doesn’t charge higher premiums based on an individual’s medical care needs. It protects called workers and their calling bodies by ensuring comprehensive coverage for all participants in the plan.

“With WELS VEBA rates consistent across all ages and because the vetting of plans has already been done, we can focus on the ministry when making decisions about calling our called workers and not get hung up on details like insurance,” says Stan Bothe, congregation president at Peace, Green Lake, Wis.

He continues, “We’re not big and we don’t have unlimited funding, so to know we can offer our teachers and our pastor a good health plan that will meet their needs and that they can take with them if they should be called into a new ministry is a relief. It’s important to take care of the people who work in the ministry.”

 

 

Author:
Volume 101, Number 11
Issue: November 2014

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us