“Building Up the Body: Worker-to-Worker” is a series of church worker wellness devotions. Visit lcms.org/wellness for more resources.

By Sue Matzke, pastor’s wife

The donkey, the Father, the Son, and the pastor’s wife

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.” (1 Cor. 10:31–33)

I served as a Lutheran elementary school teacher for a time before marrying my pastor-husband.

The year before we were married, an older and wiser teacher asked me what I was doing to prepare to become a pastor’s wife.

Without missing a beat, I answered, “Praying. I honestly have very little idea of what I’m getting into, but I’m praying that God sends me the right people to help me along the way.”

God has answered that prayer many times and in many ways during the almost three decades that I’ve been married to my beloved.

One of the first people God sent me felt like an unlikely person — a corporate lawyer, a member of our first congregation. Early on, the family invited us over for dinner.

My lawyer friend shared with me the old tale of the father, the son and the donkey.

The fable is of a miller and his son who are accompanied by their donkey. They are met with constant criticism from passersby for the way the donkey is being used.

When both walk beside the donkey, they are criticized for not riding it.

When the father rides, he is blamed for making his son walk; when the son rides, he is criticized for leaving his father to walk.

When both ride, they are berated for overburdening the animal.

The fable usually ends with the father and the son carrying the donkey on their backs, causing them to be ridiculed by the town folk.

Our parishioner said:

“We both run into a lot of criticism on how we do things. You have people at church who think you should be doing the same things that other people think you shouldn’t be doing.

“The thing is no matter what you do with your ‘donkey,’ you need to make sure it is what you want to be doing with it. That is the only way you’re going to be happy. If not, you’ll end up carrying that ‘donkey’ and end up looking like one!”

Wow! Was he ever right!

Over the years, I’ve had parishioners criticize me:

  • for volunteering too much and too little;
  • for sending my son to the Lutheran school and for homeschooling him;
  • for having too small of a house and for living in too nice of a neighborhood; and
  • for drinking too much coffee and not eating enough meat.

But, each time, I’ve thought back to my lawyer friend’s wise illustration all those years ago.

I ask myself, “Am I building His Kingdom? Yes! Am I looking like a donkey doing it? No!”

May everything be to His glory.

Sue Matzke is a marathon walker, pastor’s wife, Stephen’s Ministries leader, and board member for Ministry in Mission, an LCMS Recognized Service Organization. She lives with her husband and teenage son in Ohio, where they are members of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Chesterland.

“Building Up the Body: Worker-to-Worker” devotions and prayers will be released Monday mornings on the LCMS Facebook and Twitter pages. Church Worker Wellness devotions will also be archived online.

LCMS church workers and their families are invited to offer encouragement to other workers and families by submitting a 500-word devotion for the Synod’s worker-to-worker wellness devotion series. Email questions and submissions to workerwellness@lcms.org.