Do you have a status symbol? For some people, money is a status symbol. For others it’s a home, car, job title, clothes, connections with important people, etc. Whatever it is, the idea is for it to be bigger and better than what most other people have. Many people spend much of their lives hoping that one day they will have their desired status symbols. Their hope is that once they have their status symbols, they will have made it. They will be self-sufficient, not having to rely on other people. They won’t have to worry about anything. They will be important in the eyes of other people.
I (Ray) spent most of my life without even thinking about having a status symbol. However, during that year I spent unemployed (1983), the longer I stayed in that situation, the more useless, worthless, and unimportant I felt. In other words, I had no status. When I went on job interviews, I met with people who I thought of as important people. I began to notice that most of them had something in common that said without their speaking a word, “I am an important person of considerable status. And I realized they all had one thing in common. They all had a highly visible status symbol – an office. So I began to hope that one day I would get back on my feet again, and I would have an office as my status symbol. People would come to my office and think to themselves, “You are in the presence of an important person of considerable status.”
The next year I did begin to get back on my feet again. I started my own business, Horizon Communications, providing public relations and fund-raising consulting and services for small non-profit organizations. During this time I also attended seminary and started serving as a part-time student pastor at two small churches. During those years my office was a desk and a chair in a corner of one room of my three room home in Neptune City, NJ. Not too much status there, so I never met clients at my office. I always went to their offices, which usually did proclaim “You are in the presence of an important woman or man of considerable status.
When I graduated from seminary and was ordained to serve as a full time pastor, I was appointed to serve as pastor of Indian Mills United Methodist Church in Shamong, NJ. I read in the newspaper one day that I was actually living in one of one of the three most affluent municipalities in New Jersey. However, my office there didn’t reflect that status. It was a damp and dingy basement room, known to pastors and church members as “the dungeon”. I’m still not sure if that was a step up or a step down from my former home office.
A few years later, the church purchased the house next door, which some of us identified as “The Church Annex”. I quickly reserved the 2nd floor as my office. From my desk I had commanding view of the church, my house across the street, the firehouse, the pizza place, and the overall neighborhood. This provided a certain level of status, even though it had these doorways which got in the way of my head – obviously designed for short people (I’m 6’3″).
One day I met with the pastor of Vincentown United Methodist Church in the neighboring town of Southampton,NJ. Now this church was almost 125 years old, but had only recently constucted and opened an impressive new sanctuary building. The first thing you noticed when you entered the buidling via the main door was an equally impressive pastor’s office. This office was a true status symbol. I remember that office saying to me, “you are in the presence of an important man of considerable status”. I thought and hoped that if I served for another 20 years, maybe I would get to have a status symbol like that for my office.
One of our bishops, when he was presiding at public events, would always open with the statement, “God is good , all the time, and all the time, God is good”. A few years after my visit to the status symbol office at Vincentown United Methodist church, I was one of the pastors being reassigned to another church. In the United Methodist Church there was nothing unusual about that. Usually the new assignment would to a church quite some distance from the church you were leaving. It was almost unheard of that you would be sent to a church in an adjacent town. But as our bishop said, “God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good”. I wasn’t surprised when I was informed that I would be moving. But I was amazed when I was told where I would be moving to. That’s right, I was being moved to……Vincentown United Methodist Church, the site of that status symbol office I had visited a few years before. I wouldn’t have to wait 20 years. I would be sitting in that very office – that status symbol – in about six weeks. The office which would say to those visiting me there, “you are in the presence of an important man of considerable status.”
But soon after I moved into the new office, and was savoring my new status, God intervened. He referred me to Luke 14:7-14. This is the story where Jesus notices certain guests at a dinner have taken the best seats in the room – the seats which tell everyone else, “here sits an important man of considerable status”. Jesus warns them that status isn’t what really matters. Status can be taken away faster than it takes to achieve.
God reminded me what that office, which I ended up using for eight years, was really about. Whether it was a desk and chair in the corner of a room, a damp and dingy basement, an upstairs office with too short doorways, or this relatively plush office in which I now sat, any office is given by God as a tool in which to do God’s work. God’s work is about service and not about status. After that I never thought of that office or any part of that church as a status symbol. I never again though about status.
So how about you? Do you have or hope for status symbols in your life? Are you hoping that some day people will look upon you as “an important woman or man of considerable status”. If that’s what you are hoping for, my advice is “forget about it”. The truth is that you don’t have to impress anyone. In fact, you don’t even have to impress God, because God loves you just the way you are. But God is not satisfied with you or me or anyone else – just the way you are. God hopes that we seek and listen to His answers about the vision, mission, and service He wants us to accomplish under His guidance and His power. What God cares about is not your status, but your service. I don’t know about you, but God still has to remind me that I don’t need to hope for status or status symbols. all I need to hope for is God’s infinite love and amazing grace. That He will guide and enable me to be a person of service, rather than status. God promises that He will always fulfill those hopes. My experience has been that God’s promises, and our hopes, if they are based on those promises, are always fulfilled – in God’s time and in God’s way.
Grace and peace, Ray
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.
May God be with you,
Patty and Ray