As I read this passage, I think of the number of high profile pastors that have fallen over the years. People that were put on a pedestal only to be knocked down. And with their fall, everyone was reminded that they were only men.
Yet it is so easy to put people on that pedestal. Perhaps because God is intangible, we like to put people up that we can see as our examples, as the ones we admire and follow. But they are only men (or women).
That’s something we all need to remember, both leaders and those who follow.
It was something that Paul certainly kept in mind.
When he and Barnabas went to Lystra, they healed a man in Jesus’ name. And when the crowd saw this, they immediately wanted to worship them as gods. The reason was that in their mythology, Zeus and Hermes had come to earth posing as humans once before. Most of the people had ill-treated them and were punished, while the one couple that had welcomed them was rewarded.
Determined not to repeat that mistake, the people tried to offer sacrifices to them. But Paul and Barnabas cried out,
Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God.. (15)
Yet despite their words of protestation, they still had trouble stopping the people from sacrificing to them.
Paul faced a similar problem in Corinth, where people in the church this time were arguing about which leader was the greatest. But Paul told them as well,
Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? (I Corinthians 1:13)
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (I Corinthians 3:5-7)
It is always dangerous to put even the godliest of men or women on a pedestal. Because they are only human. And humans fail. Humans let us down. And if our faith is in them, rather than God, they will ultimately let us down. And then where will we be?
Paul warns us,
Each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 3:10-11)
What foundation are you laying your faith on? On your pastor? On your favorite author or speaker? Or on Jesus Christ?
Always remember that it is only Jesus who is a sure foundation. And the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame or be dismayed. (Isaiah 28:16; I Peter 2:6)