Shepherds who feed themselves

We have talked about what it means for a shepherd to “drink the milk of his flock.” Now, then, what does it mean when he “clothes himself in its wool”?

To give milk is to give sustenance; to give wool is to give honour. These are the two things that pastors demand when they want to feed themselves rather than their sheep: the fulfilment of their bodily wants and the pleasure that comes from honour and praise.

*  *  *

See what kind of clothing Paul received from the good people of God: You welcomed me as an angel of God. I swear that you would even have gone so far as to pluck out your eyes and give them to me. But with all the honour that was given to him, did he spare the feelings of those who had gone astray, so that he could avoid being contradicted or being praised less than before? He did not. If he had withheld correction from those who needed it, he would have been one of those pastors who feed themselves and not their sheep. He would have been saying to himself, “What has that to do with me? Let them do as they like: my food is safe, my honour is safe – I have as much milk and wool as I want, so let everyone wander wherever he likes.”

St. Augustine, On Pastors. 

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