Reflection: The Inside of the Cup
Reflection 49: The Inside of the Cup
A co-laborer in ministry gave me a lovely Christmas gift, a coffee mug with the words “Man of God, 1 Timothy 6:11“ on one side and the text of the verse on the other: “But You, Man of God flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.”
I received it as their way of honoring me, acknowledging the work I do, and encouraging me, as verse 12 says, to “fight the good fight of faith.”
To me, though, it also contains tension, a warning at the heart of the call to lead.
In the verses preceding this passage, Paul warns against dangers that might befall a young leader:
- Don’t get conceited.
- Preach the truth, not the fad.
- Build understanding, not buzz.
- Build concord, not conflict.
- Pursue Godliness, not profit.
One challenge of leadership is that if you have a gift, it will shine. If you are motivated to develop it, it will shine brighter. If you have charisma, you will attract a following. All of these things have value. So they will inevitably draw people that want to capitalize on that value, as well as drawing out the parts of us willing to prostitute the message for fame.
If we hone our game, but not our character, we can get bigger and bigger, but not in a good way. We can grow like a balloon: In the words of De La Soul, blowing up, and then going pop, either losing the heart of our work, or shipwrecking altogether.
There is potent symbolism in a coffee cup that speaks well of us on the exterior and leaves the interior unseen. This, too, captures the struggle of ministry.
In Matthew 23:24-26, Jesus criticized scribes and Pharisees more concerned with religious ritual than chasing the heart of God, saying 5 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”
I don’t want to be successful and empty.
I don’t want to burn bright, then flame out.
I don’t want to sparkle, then explode.
I suspect you don’t, either.
And that means we need to stay clean, inside, and out.
It means we need to be accountable to our mentors, peers, and followers.
Staying clean means chasing the good, avoiding the bad, listening to criticism, honestly assessing ourselves, and constantly engaging in cleansing.
It means paying attention to what we are drinking
If we do that, we can do some good.
If we don’t, even the best mug won’t help us.
So stay clean.
And drink wisely.