When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden and ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they went and hid. They made themselves coverings of fig leaves to hide their nakedness. The habit continues today – people covering their weaknesses, their failures, their shortfalls, their embarrassments, their insecurities with fig leaves.
A church needs a leader without fig leaves – one who will be for them the model of a spiritual nudist. Unfortunately, that model is not standard. What most see is a very polished, very covered up artificial contrivance. Consider:
Preacher boys are taught that there is a particular kind of pulpit speech that makes them more effective preachers. They learn to raise their voices, to pound or stomp, and to sway people with inflection and emphasis. But it’s a fig leaf. It is an attempt to manipulate people emotionally, and it is, thus, dishonest.
Pastors typically dress in coat and tie, even now when congregants’ “Sunday go-to-meeting finest” may be something more oriented towards the designer and less towards business or formal attire. It’s not scriptural obedience, as nowhere in the Bible do we read any instance of people dressing up to go to the temple, a synagogue or any public place for a “worship service.” And it’s not that it is honoring and respecting God when we go to “His house,” for WE who are the ecclesia are His house, not some piece of architecture or real estate. Pastoral dress is, thus, a fig leaf.
If a pastor has a title before his name or extra degrees after, it’s a fig leaf. It is aimed at setting him apart from the rest of the people, the “laity.” But we find no such example in scripture. If, after all, what is aimed at in the church is to follow and uplift the New Testament pattern and teaching, then the New Testament itself must be the church’s standard and guide, must it not? New Testament leadership is servant leadership; it is leadership that comes alongside and encourages and builds up, never of the stand-up-front-and-give-orders variety. And while God gave gifts unto men, He did so to ALL men who are His, and no one gift is any more important in God’s economy than another. So “Dr.” or “Rev.” before a pastor’s name can be a fig leaf. Yet, sadly, most churches looking for a pastor are looking for just these fig leaves – credentials, recommendations (who did you impress before) …
Authoritarianism, whether it manifests as a lack of love, a critical spirit, barking out orders, an overweening sense of needing to always be in control of others around one … is a major, major fig leaf. It may manifest as a need to be right, to be first, to be seen, to be heard, or to be obeyed. It may carry an appearance of authority or a supposed office of authority (though God made only ONE of those – the office of parent). The authority fig leaf hides the work of God, if such a work is present at all, and it prevents the wearer from being naked and real, from really allowing God to use him as a channel for blessing and benefit.
Another one is competitiveness … the need to be bigger, better, stronger, smarter, more talented than someone else.
The “Christian Sabbath” is a fig leaf. Why do Christians set aside one day to worship God and regard that day as more important than another in clear violation of scripture (“regard one day …”)? Why not every day?
Anything whereby any descriptor of your local manifestation of ecclesia takes on a greater role than an adjective (such as geographical area or house you meet in) – even naming the name of the leader there – is an addition to what Jesus created as His Bride, His ecclesia, and can function as a fig leaf.
We all have fig leaves, unless and until we dig down deep and allow our eyes to be opened to them and repent.
Maybe it’s busyness – constantly staying busy doing something, maybe even something that brings in a lot of money and builds really cool things, but not THE thing that God put you here on earth to do. It’s a fig leaf.
Fear is a fig leaf. 2 Tim. 1:7 tells us that fear is not from God, so anytime it is present, it reveals deference to something less than God. Hiding behind fear? Immobilized by fear? Major fig leaf.
These things all cover us artificially and prevent us from being to others the naked, open and honest picture of Christ that we are called to be.
It’s time to get naked. Be brutally honest. Allow the Holy Spirit to burn away the façade and do a test run on the trial by fire that will, one day, reveal whether our earthly works are gold, silver and precious stones … or wood, hay and stubble. Dive deep. Get rid of the stuff that distracts, that puts a pretty face on the outside only, that’s all bling but no thing, that manipulates dishonestly, that doesn’t build on the foundation of Jesus Christ the Righteous.
God is a God of justice. He uses only just scales and measures. He sees past all of our fig leaves, of course, but more than that, He rewards those who learn to not hide behind them and to focus all of their energies on what He put them here to do.