Is There Still a Doctor in the House?

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To quote my five-year-old granddaughter, “Yip.” And there are a lot more since I addressed this issue nearly ten years ago. Note the original opening paragraph of that article:

In answer to that question [Is there a doctor in the house?], yes there are. In fact, there are seven that we know of. When it comes to the medical profession, BBC has about every body part and every physical malady well covered! Perhaps if the Lord gives us a dentist we can open a fully functional clinic (and perhaps purchase the offices next door?)!

Well, we now have a dentist, an additional four members who are in the medical profession, along with two pharmacists. And we own what used to be the doctor’s premises! Apparently BBC is the place for sick sheep! Yet, unfortunately, with ten years having passed, we are still suffering from the same ailment; in fact, the problem has metastasised. I am speaking of the problem on Sundays of seeking medical, or building, or accounting, or insurance, or whatever advice and expertise. Let me repeat that same appeal: Please, give it (and them) a rest!

I simply want to help us to increase more and more in our love for one another (1 Thessalonians 4:10) in such practical ways as (1) respecting each member’s need for rest and worship on the Lord’s Day, and (2) respecting each member’s need to make a living.

Consider, for example, the challenge facing church members who in some way are connected to the medical profession. For these members, gathering with the church can be problematic. If their fellow church members see this as an opportunity to get some medical advice, the church building will resemble a clinic more than a place for worship. We need to remember that, when they gather on the Lord’s Day, they do so for the same reason that you and I do: to join in the corporate worship of God, to be instructed in his word, and to enjoy the fellowship of the saints around the Lord Jesus Christ. But because of the nature of their vocation, we may be tempted to turn our gathering for spiritual nourishment into an opportunity for physical therapy! Brothers and sisters, this ought not to be!

This is problematic, on a couple of levels. First, as already indicated, when the church gathers on Sunday, it is for worship and mutual edification, not for work and medical examination! And this applies across the board to any and all vocations. Second, the Lord expects us to rest from our normal labours, one day in seven. This is clearly the intent of the fourth commandment (Exodus 20:8–11). As Christians, we sanctify the Lord’s Day—Sunday—for this purpose. When we approach someone on Sunday for advice related to the area in which they make their living, we are robbing them of both their right and their responsibility to rest. Love gives, it does not take. But thirdly, there is another way that we might be guilty of robbery on Sundays (and for that matter, on any day of the week): When we seek free advice in an area in which our fellow church member makes their living.

I remember hearing of a lawyer who had this problem. It seemed that, every time he attended a dinner party, someone would seek legal advice about some personal matter—at least until he started sending them a bill! Perhaps our members should try this? Certainly no church member should assume that shared membership constitutes gratis service from one another. Though clearly our Lord taught that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), the same Lord taught, “You shall not steal.” Let us respect our fellow church member’s right, and even responsibility, to make a living. Though I am well aware that many times church members do not mind helping out in a pinch, certainly we must all steer clear of presuming upon the kindness and proximity of those whose skills we might benefit from. Again, let love be the rule.

But let’s flesh this out further. Are we falling into the distracting trap of doing business with our members when we should be focusing on worship? If so, we should cease and desist, as they say. After all, what a let-down if, when we gather for the transcendent experience of worshipping God (John 4:24), we rather are distracted by the mundane issues with which we must deal the other six days of the week.

Of course, this holds true for any and all vocations. Just as church gatherings are not for the purpose of checking our blood pressure, neither are they designed for getting quotes on insurance, for the filing of a tax return, for the obtaining of legal advice, or for negotiating a sale. The gathering of the church is for the purpose of us doing business with God, not with each other.

In the case of our doctors, or accountants, or builders, or whatever, we need to be careful that we do not blur the line between being a patient or a client and being their fellow church member. If, for instance, we see our doctors virtually running out of the door after the service, the “emergency” may simply be that of needing to get away from requests for a diagnosis! Patient, be patient until Monday.

And so, in light of this, let’s be careful as we gather to respect each other’s right to worship. Let us give each other the necessary break that we need from our work-a-day jobs. Let us use our weekly time-constrained gatherings for the highest purpose: growing in our walk with Jesus.

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