Saturday, February 15, 2014

Accidental Pharisees: Part Seven GIFT PROJECTION

Most Bottles Recycled by a Dog
Guinness World Records
In the final part of Accidental Pharisees, the author, Larry Osborne, develops the concept of gift projection, a new term to me. Part seven is subtitled When My Calling Becomes Everyone Else's Calling. Osborne describes gift projection as "the chocolate-covered arrogance that assumes that everyone is just like me--or will be when they grow up . . . the more full-blown our gift projection becomes, the more likely we are to think that God is especially pleased with us and ticked off at everyone else, when nothing could be farther from the truth (pp. 152-153)."  We think if we are gifted in something, that everyone else should be like us. Everyone should recycle everything all the time as this dog does in the picture. But life has a way of humbling us and causing us to not think so highly of ourselves. The longer I live the more I am struck with my human failures and need for God's grace. After all, we read in Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in holiness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. All of us have different gifts. 

Osborne's questions from pp. 191-192 and quotes from him are in red and my answers are in black or blue.

1. What are some of the gifts and callings in your life that you would be most likely to project onto others? I am not sure. Thinking hard here. When I diet and lose weight, I think that everyone should diet and lose weight. I forget that I am not always good at keeping weight off. Or, when I have a consistence prayer and devotional life, I think everyone else should also. Or, when I am generous, I think everyone else should be generous as well. Or when I blog, I think everyone should blog or at least comment on my blog. I have to laugh at hypocritical self. We are all unique and sinners saved by grace, called to be obedient. Obedience isn't determined by others. We all plug along at our sanctification and we do not grow by osmosis or by joining the "perfect" church or by whom we marry or whom we "friend" (new Facebook verb).

2. From your experience, what are some of the most common gifts and callings that tend to be "gift projected" in your church? Not sure how to answer this.  To help identify them, think about what typically gets promoted, highlighted, or walled in your church. Seminary and prison ministry. What gifts, ministries, and callings tend to get ignored? Visiting the sick in the hospital; men's and women's Bible studies; Sunday School for all ages. There are reasons they are ignored at this time. We are a small church and people lack time. However, I am pleased to say that we are a nurturing church.

3. Have you ever been guilty of "gift envy," wishing that you had gifts that others possess and failing to value the gifts God has given to you? Osborne says that this is the other side of gift projection. If so, where is that most likely to show up? Can't identify where this would show up in my life.  What do you see as the root of these feelings of inferiority or envy? Plain and simple--SIN! Osborne says We're all tempted to define spirituality and discipleship in ways that align perfectly with who we are and what we do (p. 173).

4. Consider the myth of "full-time ministry."
a. Do you tend to attribute more dignity and significance to those who serve in professional ministry.  Not really. Actually, I pray for them.  If so, why do you think this is so? Osborne writes on p. 177, If you are a Christian, you're in full-time ministry.
b. What could a church do to undercut the myth of full-time ministry and to foster a healthier view of Christian vocation?  Ministers maybe can admit their humanity so that we laypeople do not keep them up on a pedestal. I liked it when we consulted with my pastor about fixing up an old car vs. buying another car. He just didn't tell us what to do--he didn't want to be the end-all answer man for us. List as many specific things as you can. Really we need to cut our ministers slack and stop looking to them for our spirituality, when really we are responsible ourselves. We ALL need to be disciples and be disciples full-time.

5. Are you prone to be one of the "money police," or are you more likely to be criticized by one? Probably criticized by one.
a. After reading the chapters in part 7, are there any parts of Scripture that you realize you may have neglected, ignored, or glossed over? That God promised a lighter load, but the Pharisees demanded more.
b. What passages and insights in part 7 did you find to be most challenging or troubling, or that you simply didn't agree with? The section on evangelists. Why? We were all given the challenge of the Great Commission and should be diligent for opportunities. Osborne says it is not his gift!

Larry Osborne ends his book with these four paragraphs that I think are worth noting.
Make no mistake. My warnings about the dangers of an overzealous faith are not meant as a defense of soft and easy Christianity. They are simply a plea that we remain true to the heart of the gospel, offering rest, help, hope, and salvation to the weary and heavy laden. 
None of us live a truly righteous life. Even the best of us--even those at the front of the following-Jesus line--fall far short of the righteousness needed to stand before our God. That's what makes grace so amazing. That's what makes the arrogance of today's accidental Pharisees so sad. 
There is nothing praiseworthy in a feel-good, lukewarm, consumer Christianity that never asks us to change or do anything. It makes Jesus gag. But we must never forget that there is also nothing praiseworthy in a spiritual zeal that looks down on others or sublimates Jesus' grace and mercy in order to emphasize our radical obedience and sacrifice. That too makes Jesus gag.
Our hope is not in what we do for God. Our hope is in what God has done for us. That's the gospel. That's discipleship in a nutshell. And that's what keeps people like you and me from becoming accidental Pharisees. p. 196


I found on our bookshelf one of my husband's books--Hypocrisy: Moral Fraud and Other Vices, by James S. Spiegel. In a chapter called "At Least I'm Not a Hypocrite" the author describes the skeptic who says "Christians are not really better than anyone else, so don't listen to them."  To answer those critics he points out that 

1) it is indeed difficult to live the Christian life
2) Christians are sinners; and 
3Christianity's doctrine of salvation is based on 
divine grace rather than human merit. p. 142 


Lord, I do not want to make you gag.
I want to be a vessel that shows
your grace in my world. 


  1. That is my desire too; not to make the Lord gag, but to be used by me.

    I have to admit, I did have gift envy. I've learned to tone it down over the years, but I still struggle with it at times. My husband is a brillant guitar player, he's been playing guitar for over 50 years (he's 60). He's really talented. He's always on the worship team at church and everyone just loves the way he plays and he's always getting compliments (which he always says his talent is from God). But I would have gift envy in that people would compliment him on his talent and rarely would say anything about my gifts of helping out in children's ministry, encouraging, etc., being generous etc. Rick Warren in Purpose Driven Life did comment about gift envy and that helped me a lot and also the fact that the gifts I had helped others get into the service to participate in it (like me watching their children so they felt safe leaving them with me) so they could get fed at church, which in turn they fed their children with what they learned about God. Even to this date I still struggle a bit with it, but I'm getting better with it.

    I think gift projected in our church is being generous in money. Sometimes we are almost guilted to give, which I refuse to be. Perfect case in point, the church leadership wanted to do an end of the year special giving, kind of like giving a Christmas gift to Jesus. Encouraged us to remember how faithful God had been over the years and we should want to give back to him. I didn't feel led to give such a gift, we tithe 10% and a bit more percent so I knew I had been a faithful giver all year and didn't feel I had to give a special gift at the end of the year. If I had felt led by Jesus to do so, I would have.

    Gifts I tend to project onto others are generosity. I tend to be a bit generous so if hubby is having trouble with it, he tends not to be as generous, I'm wondering why he's not "going with the program" so to speak and wanting to give. I also tend to think everyone should have a devotions/prayer time daily in God's word and might pat myself on my back more than I should when it is mentioned that I am consistent in doing my daily devotions (but not legalistic about it, I just like spending time with God and his word).

    I have to admit this past summer I was a bit disappointed with our minister in how he related to a situation we were going through. He asked one time how things were going in our household and I started crying because of something son had done and we were living through the consequences and he did the appropriate thing to pray about it on the spot, but then he never followed up afterwards to see how things were going. A few months later we decided to take a break from that church and check out other churches and we started giving notice to the different ministries we served in that we were going to be taking a break and word got out to the pastor about it. By then our crisis had sorted itself out, but he sent an email to hubby asking if he could get together with us, pray for us, etc. I felt it was a little too late and I wondered if he only did that because he thought we would be leaving the church (and in turn taking our tithe plus some). But I did come to realize that he was only human, trying to do the best he can, shepherding his flock but pulled in multiple directions.

    This did seem like a good study!


    1. Betty,

      I was having trouble answering the questions here. You could have written this post! Your comment is such good reflection from someone in a larger California church at the other end of the country.

      I do think in all fairness to our ministers we have to clue them in when we need their shepherding. That’s so great that you could in the end recognize your minister was trying to do the best be could! His prayers for your son were indeed answered in God’s time.

      Thanks for rounding out the question on “gift envy”. I didn’t realize that Rick Warren had used that term in “Purpose Driven Life”.

      Wonderful people such as you work thanklessly in Christian education for children and youth and other ministries in our churches. We are all too human, but we have to remind ourselves that when we do the nice or generous things that don’t show, our actions should be the biblical fruit of kindness. I did come late to internalize that since God gets the glory, I don’t have to.

      Hugs from the other end of the country,

  2. I appreciate your honesty when answering these questions because it helps to discern my own sin. I would have to say that I sin in many of the same areas you listed.

    I haven't attended hundreds of Reformed churches but the ones that I have attended can tend to intimidate new or unlearned Believers because of 'their' standard of what a 'true' Believer is. This can be very difficult for a Believer who does not have a love for reading and studying and for those who are new in their faith.

    I especially gained benefit from the first answer you wrote to critics about the difficulty of the Christian life. I've never thought of using this is an answer to a critic but have used the second two.

    Great post!

    1. Thanks, Georgene, for how you continue to give feedback and grow along with this series. I would feel lonely if I was the only one who had to struggle with these ideas.

      Yes, indeed! None dare become accidental Pharisees in flaunting an intellectual Christianity as the mark of a "true believer", which can be the tendency in a Reformed setting.

      Even though the Christian life may seem difficult, we can aspire to have that light load provided by our Savior. We are not the joy. He is our joy and He gets all the glory.


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