The Keeper and the Kept

If we think of ourselves as our brother's keeper, we'll find ourselves caught in a dangerous game of the keepers and the kept, and while it looks compassionate at the outset, it does not end that way. As Wayne came to the end of what he is affectionately calling his "Old Coot Tour", he spent some time with Tom Mohn (pictured at left with his wife, Barbara) a friend from Tulsa, OK, and one who has traveled this journey for a long time as a radio announcer, pastor, Bible teacher, and a guide helping others explore the depth of Father's love and grace. As they share lessons from the journey they talk about trying to manage human systems as conduits of the Lord's glory to be like trying to manage the wind and the danger of looking at people as projects to fix, rather than people to love.

Podcast Links:
You can find out more about Tom at his website at Mohn Ministries Bookstore
Tom's previous podcasts: The Gospel Jesus Preached and The Four Things God Uses
Add your voice to our question/comment line: (805) 539-6980 or Skype us at "TheGodJourney".
If you'd like to help us provide for the needs of orphans and widows in Kenya, you can get the details here.


  1. Another great conversation Wayne. Some great truths shared in this “The God Journey”. Thanks again.

  2. Good talk guys! So many good topics, but as for the Keeper and the Kept. I’ve been a “keeper” within the institutional church for 30+ years. It is a hard day when one realizes what he/she has done to others in terms of “keeping”, but also that the “flock” is not the only one being kept– the keeper is also kept. Kept is another word for captivity. This “keeping” thing is often a two way street and many folks don’t wake up to its dangers for many years… if ever.

    JimT from VA

  3. What happens when you trap wind in a building, it no longer is wind. It is only dead air.

    To me to be involved with the building/systems, would be for me to be caged and unable to fly and ride the wind. (church as a building/system)

    : )

  4. Thank you for speaking on this subject. I am a natural “keeper”. As a coping/survival instinct during my childhood, I learned to take “responsibility” for others. Mainstream Christianity further encouraged my draw to “help” others, by teaching me that if I had something that could meet another person’s “need” I should give it. That, after all, is the “Christian” thing to do. I didn’t realize the negative impacts this kind of thinking had on me. Firstly, it boosted my pride off the charts! I would think I was such a good person and an even better Christian! This kept me from realizing my true self, for the selfish, broken, sinful, and weak person that I am. Secondly, I took on burdens too heavy for me to bear. This led to an enormous amount of stress, which ultimately led me to depression. And last, but certainly not least, resentment began to breed in my heart when others were not “there for me” in my time of need. This is where my manipulation came into play… I would think, “well, I helped you, so you should help me.” Thankfully, Papa is showing me new ways of thinking. I believe he continues to strip away opportunities for me to be a “keeper”. It has been freeing and painful at the same time. When stripped of the “glorious” labels (good, generous, helpful, caring, etc…) which stroke my ego, I’m left to ask myself, “who am I, really?” The answer to that question would be frightful if there were no Papa. But, because He IS, I can rest confidently in His loving arms and know the answer is, “I am His.”

  5. Thanks so much Wayne and Tom for sharing this discussion. I had never unpacked Cain’s response like that…your insight helped to further some of my own thinking. Blessings

  6. Your podcast really is thought-provoking! I especially enjoyed the discussion of Cain. I am moseying my way through Genesis this year and it was early on in the year when I read about Cain’s response to God’s question;” Where is Abel thy brother?” Cain’s answer really got me going. It made me angry. “Am I my brother’s keeper?’ How arrogant! The more I thought about it, I thought about how it seemed like he tried to throw the blame and guilt back on God like: ‘Isn’t that your job, not mine God? Why are you asking me?’ Blaming God is such a human response. Your podcast was rich and and I always come away from one of these with much to think about. Thank you!

  7. The statements referring to President Obama’s reference to “brother’s keeper” seemed neither kind nor true to me. I was wondering if perhaps you had actually had a conversation with the President about this? Did you actually talk to him personally about this statement? I would have never deducted that from my experience with him but maybe I missed something. Whoever you are trying to come to an understanding with/of, resist the temptation to peg them. There are some really beautiful people who work in this messy place we call government…people who are honorable, who have made a profound commitment to the well-being of all…people whom God has used to accomplish varying degrees of goodness in our world. I consider President Obama to be among them especially in regards to the poor we have among us. Perhaps we can all find a spot in our hearts to allow God to work in their lives.

  8. I saw this posted this morning as a tribute to Brennan in light of him falling asleep to this world.

    Do we really believe that the day of the resurrection was the first day of New Creation? And that the invitation is to participate in it right here, right now.

    “The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian.”
    ? Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God

  9. Great quote, Kent. Love that you got a tribute to Brennan here. And, Nancy, I’ve in fact written to President Obama twice and have gotten back letters that didn’t address my concerns at all. I’d be happy to meet with him, too, if you can arrange it. But our discussion of being our brother’s keeper was not directed at the President directly. The media and religious leaders use it all the time. We were talking about the mentality that seeks to provide for people in a way that makes them dependent, rather than being generous with people out of a compassion that wants to ennoble them. No matter how well-intentioned some might be in government, there’s an honest conversation to be had as to whether government systems can provide that or whether their largess makes them targets for too much misuse and corruption.

  10. @Nancy-So glad that this is a forum where all can be respected while they “have their say”. I have no “horse in the race” so to say : ) I live in Canada, only met Wayne briefly once and the most conversation I’ve had is to hear what he shares w/ others in this podcast format.

    To hear the conversation (from my perch way….in Canada) it was clear that this conversation was never personally directed at President Obama. This was more of a general dialogue about how many institutions (denominations, gov’ts, even families given warped dynamics) misuse or misconstrue generosity or false compassion (well intentioned often) and end up hurting the very people they mean to help. This is the challenge of technology…alas there’s no opportunity to jump in with questions or queries when it’s a podcast : )

    From my personal walk w/ Father, He is showing me that when I look to Him to supply my needs, the people I meet or He sends along the way…are a part of what He is doing. Rather than breeding dependence to make my dreams run, I can partner with Him and no longer need to obligate others. It’s a very slow walk or process to come to that freedom in Him.

  11. I loved the story about the boy who thought the storm would stop if they could stop the trees from shaking. I know I have at times confused the cause and effect by trying to find the right system to get God to work.

    We are really looking forward to your trip here to Kentucky in July, Wayne. Hopefully, we will avoid trying to create a wind by shaking some trees. We want to respond to the nudges of the Spirit and let the wind blow as He desires.

  12. Nancy, I’m afraid I have to strongly disagree with you about President Obama’s intentions when it comes to the poor and his overall attitude.

    More often than not, he chooses to engage in tearing down others in “higher” positions in our society. From insurance companies to his opponents during campaigns, he has engaged in strawmen arguments and empty rhetoric that attacks them personally rather than engage in arguing ideas. Even back when he was running for Senator in Chicago, he did things like this. He hasn’t changed all that much since then, except for the ferocity of his attacks now that he’s President.

    If you really want to see what Obama thinks of things like what Wayne talks about here on the God Journey, watch the prayer breakfast speech Dr. Ben Carson gave a couple months ago, and watch Obama’s face throughout. Does it look like Obama is agreeing with Carson’s hopes and dreams for better conversations and more open dialogue?

  13. I think the gift of pastor is just that, a gift, from God to the body of Christ.
    It’s not a job, or a position or an office.

    So all kinds of people can and do have that gift, and use it without even knowing it and without any recognition. They have no title, or wage, they just care for people, and people seek them out to share their woes etc and find grace when they do.

    Before I left the system one of my biggest griefs was: because I’ve been around a while and have ‘done a few miles’ young pastors would feel threatened. Occasionally people would also seek me out and feed off the gift on my life. I couldn’t understand why the pastors(s) were often nervous of me. Why they didn’t rejoice that people were being helped.

    I wasn’t looking for any ‘position’, although back then I did enjoy a pat on the back and if a position had come along I may have taken it.

    I found myself being ‘contained’ and although I tried to fit into their system (do their courses, submit to their rules,etc) I always felt like a fish out of water.

    These days I find myself totally alone in a foreign country. However I find that people still hang around me and feed off the gift.

    I’m not sure what the gift is, I spend most of my time with non-christians, but it seems to work the same.
    You just love on people. Maybe the gift is just Jesus Himself. Does it matter?

    Who wants to ‘keep’, or ‘be kept’?

    We’re just pilgrims on a journey mutually supporting oneanother.

    That works for me, and I could never go back to a system, although I do still relate to people within the system. They’re people too! well, most of em.

  14. This was a thought provoking podcast. It was enlightening to hear about Chicago before and after government intervention. You see the dynamics of the keeper and kept play out in how we approach mission work and charitable giving in the U.S. Thank you for discussing what was said (brothers keeper) by the President without making it a personal diatribe against him. American Christians and politics can be a volatile mix.

  15. When you started talking about “Am I my brothers keeper?” I was thinking, Wait, I’m sure that’s in the New Testament… It’s Gal. 6:1, right? Then when I looked it up, it said, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” I guess I always read that scripture and assumed that I should be my brother’s keeper and he should be mine. I have a responsibility to address sin when I see it. But there was always a yuk factor in that for me. I felt like I was rushing ahead and forcing an uncomfortable conversation. Not long ago, someone close to me told me she was having an affair. I didn’t respond in judgement, like the old me. My heart broke for her and her spouse and their children. I loved her right in the midst of her sin and was able to be honest with her, but this time it felt very right because my sharing came from a place of deep love for her and the others involved.
    I like the story Wayne told about the woman who wore prostitute clothes and the women in her life who didn’t feel the burden of setting her straight. The gave her space to grow and for the spirit to work. As they loved her without condition, she was freed up to hear the spirit reveal things to her. She trusted that these women loved her and it allowed her to feel safe enough to open herself up to their influence.

  16. Thank you for this opportunity to share. I often long to share what He is doing in my life but there is no-one to share with.
    ‘The voice in the belly will never leave me if I’ll learn to listen to Him. The problem is in overriding it. The side roads are alluring.
    Jesus can run His fellowship by His Spirit. Jesus can, by that Spirit lead daily. ‘
    I have found this to be true. I can also relate to overriding it because often He is telling me something I don’t want to hear. In the early days it was mostly ‘no’ to everything I wanted to do.
    If I tell anyone about ‘the voice’ they will quote to me about how dangerous it is to listen to it. God has told men to murder!!! It is threatening to people controlled by the system.
    Once I decided to say ‘no’ to self I heard Him more clearly and the more promptly I obey Him the more I hear Him.

  17. Michele, I guess that all falls into the category of ‘speaking the truth in love’. When I first saw the Dr. Carson speech, I thought it was a great example of ‘speaking the truth in love’. I really believe that’s how we grow up in Christ. There are three elements there: speaking, truth, and in love. We speak the truth without love we might be legalistic. If we just speak love it might be humanistic. If we just have love and truth, we’d miss fellowshipping. All three parts must be involved or it misses the mark. I think the ‘yuk’ factor tells us when they are or are not in balance.

  18. I love TGJ podcasts – thanks for pouring your heart out to us Wayne! In regards to the concept of the “Keeper and the Kept”, I have been invovled in fulltime Christian missions and overseas develeopment for over 15 years and have observed the Keeper and the Kept nowhere more than in poorly run Christian ministries like orphanages and church based “ministries” that offer continual handouts that do not lead to self sufficciency. Many of these programs offer opportunities for western “Christians” to feel good about themselves while doing very little to truly help or empower those in need. Good intentions are not enough to justify or legitimize “Good” works. While it’s easy to criticise Obama and government programs that didn’t work, as followers of Jesus we need to ask some hard questions about the quality, benefit, and potential harm of our charity work. I am currently based in Australia, here is a link to a very confronting article exposing some of what I am referring to in regards to the Keeper and the Kept in some “christian” run orphanages.

  19. I’m not trying to make a statement either way regarding President Obama. I am truly curious if he has actually posted this as his position on “brother’s keeper”…not facial expressions, or hearsay but actual documented statements of belief from him. I am a firm believer that reality can be faced and if this is in fact the reality, it would be nice to know. May justice and mercy trump political partisanship as we seek to walk out His grace on our God journey.

  20. Oh, and thanks Wayne for writing to the President. I hope you can connect with him someday. President Obama reads 10 letters a day, selected by staff to be proportionally representative of the issues on people’s minds. He also responds, personally, to each of these letters…some in his own hand and some with his handwritten signature. He likes handwritten letters. And he typically responds to those that critique him, not letters of praise.

  21. I wholeheartedly agree, Nancy. That’s why I pointed out the reality that is his character. It’s not hearsay or political partisanship, it’s very much based in reality. I base my conclusions on what he has done in his career, AND what he has said throughout it. There’s also his autobiography. If you want more examples, I’d be happy to give them. Sadly, there are plenty of lies he has told in recent years.

    Reality is not always pretty. It takes courage to face the unpleasant parts of it, and I don’t think God would want us to throw away common sense and what we see with our own two eyes just because others may see it as us being “partisan”. Jesus certainly didn’t cower when the Pharisees tried to discredit him. We shouldn’t either.

  22. I felt that Jesus spoke to me through this. I am in New Zealand. We have parties on the right and left too. I have voted for both sides, sometime thinking that the left will look after people better, not realising the keeper and the kept trap. In keeping the people dependant they control them. We need people who will create wealth as well as people who will just distribute the taxes to the poor. Recently I have asked Jesus about where to give my vote.
    I experienced it in the church as I was one of the needy and found I could never be healed as the leaders needed to keep me needy so they could counsel me and feel righteous and control me.

  23. I really enjoyed this podcast, especially the bit about the New Creation and the Tree of Life. The following link is for a free chapter that speaks of the two Trees and about the New Creation. It has been the “truth that has messed with me” but has set me free. If it helps someone cool, if not that’s cool too.

    Just recently I have been asking God to answer a lot of questions regarding my life, my future and my purpose. However he hasn’t been answering those questions. Then last night I just felt Him drop this thought into my heart “maybe you are asking the wrong questions”. I think God is wanting me to discover in relationship with him the questions of new creation, the tree of Life, and to let go of the questions of the old creation.

  24. Hi Wayne

    Ok so my intelligence fails me again … I get the whole keeper and kept and it’s got yuck factor all over it. I get the arrogance of Cain’s statement when he says ‘Am I brothers keeper’, blaming God for something he had done.

    My disconnect is that Cain didn’t seem to think he was his brothers keeper. Do most people think that God was saying Cain should have been his brother’s keeper and then so should we today? Are you saying that ‘the church’ thinks that if Cain had been his brothers keeper this would not have happened?

    I don’t believe in keeper and kept but have no reference point to Gen 4 being used for this? HELP!

  25. I can’t speak for what Wayne was saying. For me, I think whenever we try to control others instead of connecting with them, then that leads to all kinds of problems.

    Connection means to walk alongside others, listening, really loving that person.
    Control means to lord over someone, to not listen to them, but just boss them around, thus not loving them.
    Connection and true love builds people up. Control keeps people stuck and they can’t grow up or mature.
    Growth comes from rest and one cannot rest when being controlled.


  26. Steve, I think the point was simply that people use that language as a Biblical prooftext to create keeper/kept systems, when that’s not how it is being used in the text at all. Our conversation didn’t have a lot to do with Cain, just an excuse he used with God to bury his evil has become a mantra for religion and government to build keeper/kept systems that ultimately fail the people they seek to serve…

  27. Thanks Wayne and Hannah

    Ok so I am not as dumb as I thought … never heard someone use this particular language to support keeper/kept. I think that’s why I couldn’t figure this out … it’s the most ridiculous conclusion you could ever come to.

  28. The New Testament gives us the instruction to ‘bear one another’s burdens” alongside the acknowledgement that each of us must bear our own burden. This has given me the picture of walking together and sharing the load, not taking it. To lighten someone’s load, at least for a short time or to help them get a stronger grip on it. Always understanding that this is their package, not mine.

    We respect each other when we allow room for each of us to make our own decisions, sometimes not the best decisions (we think that we could do it so much better), yet sharing the journey with each other as Father shows each of us something new or reinforces a well known and loved truth. This is how He walks with us. Never forcing His will on us but allowing us time to see that our own choices can make our load heavier and our way more difficult.

    In the end it is all about loving each other as He has loved us!

Comments are closed.