The Fire Out Front and the Chickens in the Back

Chicken thieves, it turns out, are a pretty crafty group of people.  I’m told that back in the days when stealing chickens was a booming industry the thieves had a reliable method for getting what they wanted.  It went something like this.

1.  Start a fire in the front yard of any property where chickens are kept.

2.  Wait for all or most of the residents on that property to rush out into the front yard and take care of the fire.

3.  While everyone is in the front yard putting out the fire, steal chickens from the backyard.

4.  Repeat steps 1-3 at the house next door tomorrow night.

Sunday, October 7th is Pulpit Freedom Sunday.  This idea originated with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) for the purpose of raising awareness about IRS restrictions on Christian pastors.  The ADF is encouraging pastors to preach sermons that compare the positions of political candidates to the Bible’s teachings and to mail copies of those sermons directly to the IRS.  The hope is that this will lead to audits and lawsuits that will eventually set the IRS straight.

I get that the IRS is way out of line on, well, everything.  I know that it is a bully that is more concerned with control through fear than protecting liberty.  And I even agree that Americans should speak out against abuses of power by our government.  But pastors and the churches they lead need to be careful here.  As big and as ugly and as threatening as the IRS is it’s still just the small fire in the front yard.

The real danger is in the backyard.  You know, where the chickens are being stolen.

If we get too caught up in church tax records, there’s a good chance that we will miss what’s happening around back where men’s souls are at stake.

I think that Satan would be more than happy to see churches all across America participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday.  I even think that he’d be okay with the IRS backing off or going away all together.  And he certainly wouldn’t have a problem with pastors saying that this candidate is a worthless rat and this one is the next Thomas Jefferson.

None of those things will bother him, just as long as our pulpit freedom isn’t used to proclaim our freedom from sin and death through faith and repentance in Jesus Christ.  None of it will bother him if people walk away from those patriotic sermons thinking that Obama, Romney or the IRS is the real enemy.

What a perfect time for stealing chickens.

Our goal in preaching should never be to raise up more informed voters.  Informed voters still go to hell.  Instead, our agenda should be to preach the crucified and risen Savior’s simple plea to, “Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).  This is a goal that, by God’s grace and power, churches should pursue with or without threats from the IRS.

Under President Obama a lot of babies have died and a lot of money has been used for foolish and even evil purposes.  I frequently bring that up to my congregation.  But I do not offer another political candidate or philosophy as the solution.  No, my job is to point them to the One who sits as the Sovereign Lord over Obama, Romney, and, yes, even the IRS.

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  Colossians 1:16-17 (ESV)