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What Walter White Can Teach Us about Church

In the final episode of Breaking Bad (don’t worry, no big spoilers here), Walter White finally told the truth.

After six seasons of trying to convince himself and everyone else that his involvement in the meth business was for the good of his family, he finally admits to his estranged wife that he did it because he liked it. He was good at it. A man who felt powerless most of his life found a world in which he was the powerful one, and while he tried to justify it all as a means to an I-need-to-provide-for-my-family end, in the end, he did it because he liked it.

One of the appeals of Walter White is that we all have a little Walter White in us. Most of us, thankfully, never take it quite to the Walter White extreme.

Workaholics have been using the “Walter White Excuse” for decades, but they aren’t the only ones. We all do things in our own lives–even in our church lives–that we like to pretend are about others, but are really all about us. As we serve and work and grow in our faith communities, we should make sure we do what we do for the reasons we claim to do them.

Do we serve for the sake of others or so that people will like us or even so that we will like ourselves?
Do we help in ways that truly make a difference or in ways that make us feel good?
Do we completely devote ourselves to activities that will make sure the church is here for years to come or to those that make sure our church stays the way we want it to be?
Do we work our way in to leadership positions in the church so that in at least one area of our lives we can be the powerful ones?
Do we get to a point where we justify hurting others–emotionally or spiritually–in order to attain the goals we have set?

The story of Walter White is a classic. The story of a man who embarks on a less than stellar path with the best intentions, but gets pulled deeper and deeper in to the darkness and is ultimately destroyed. While there should be a place for everyone at church, the church does not tolerate Walter Whites very well at all. While all can go well for awhile, they tend, like Walter, to destroy themselves and everyone around them. And like the people who survived Walter’s short stint in the meth business, it takes churches a long time to recover.

So let us learn the following lessons from Walter:

Making, selling or taking meth is a bad idea
Paying attention to our motives is important
Some kind of help is the kind of help that helping’s all about and some kind of help is the kind of help we all can do without

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