There may be some who read this who cannot relate to the subject, perhaps because you have not lived in a sizable city or have witnessed the fine art of dumpster diving. The principle is fairly simple: We throw away an awful lot of stuff that others may find valuable; and while it's all mixed together with the worst things (and usually the worst smells) imaginable, there are some foolhardy souls who will actually climb into a dumpster to see if there are any good things to be found. Admittedly, it is a desperate measure, but those who indulge have already convinced themselves that the rewards are worth the humiliation and unknown risks. Besides, they'd hate to miss something really good, especially when it's been overlooked by others!
As I follow some of the reading habits of pastors, missionaries and church members, I never cease to be amazed at their trolling in polluted waters for some prize-winning catch, some gem of Truth or Wisdom buried in the muck and filth of unsanctified minds and self-righteous and worldly thinking peers. Perhaps, like me, you have challenged some of your brethren asking why they waste so much time reading such authors or such corrupting subjects, and the answer is always the same:
"Well I don't agree with everything he says, but there are still some good ideas in there that I can to use in my church or in my ministry!"
Such thinking is not only as foolish as a spiritual form of dumpster diving, but it also sets up our people who hear us freely and positively quote some of the evangelical authorities of our day, to do some of their own dumpster diving following our example. Consider, for example, the huge numbers of religious fiction books being purchased by our people or the religious magazines that grace their coffee tables, because they contain articles by someone they heard you admire even though those authors have long since moved to the far left of the evangelical spectrum.
Like the proverbial stopped clock, that only tells the right time twice a day, we have come to settle for contemporary authorities and personalities that need only be fundamental or separated part of the time. Indeed, can we even say that some of those whom we admire are even fundamental or separated most of the time? The ugly truth is they are neither fundamental nor separated if they perpetually indulge in any compromise, even if it's just part of the time.
We need to seriously weigh the collateral damage resulting from our dumpster diving. While indulging ourselves that we can dumpster dive safely, we have set an example before our people inviting them to do the same, even though they will be at far greater risk because they possess even less discernment than our own. Any protest on our part that we can handle the obvious errors and hold our noses as we work around their rank compromises to glean the real treasures hidden between them is folly of the highest order. It is nothing less than an egotistical form of self-deceit that in the final analysis jeopardizes both pastor and people. First, we're not really all that smart; and second, we would be guilty of carelessness towards the spiritual welfare of our people.
Consider the Lord's thoughts on spiritual dumpster diving:
Matthew 7:15-17 "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit."
May I paraphrase the text in the light of our subject and put it this way: Just because a stopped clock happens to be exactly right once or even twice a day doesn't make it an authority on correct time.
There are some things that even a false prophet may get right, because it is almost impossible to get some truths wrong; but there are better sources and better people from which to get the truth, beginning with the Word of God. Time and again, Jesus sorely rebuked the religious leaders of his day because they quoted the authority of their own commentaries above the text of the Word God had given to them. The real authority of God speaking through his Word was eclipsed by the exalted opinions of men, and Jesus marked it well as hypocrisy. It was no less than first century spiritual dumpster diving.
How many times do we need to be burned by supporting the latest high profile personalities while turning a blind eye to their otherwise glaring weaknesses or errors, only to find them waxed worse over time, and then having to apologize to our people that we ever started to follow in their footsteps. Somebody needs to tell pastors and people alike that the religious "emperors" of our day, like a Rick Warren or Chuck Swindoll, really aren't wearing any Fundamentalist or Separatist clothes! In fact, most of them never did! Shame on them for deceiving and misleading so many, but more shame on us because we have bypassed the real fountains of living waters and become content to serve our people from the corrupt cisterns of vain men (Jeremiah 2:13). Surely our people deserve more than the sullied fool's gold retrieved out of some ecclesiastical dumpster.
Pastor Charles L. Dear