Sunday, April 27, 2014

Character to server - 1st Timothy 3:8-13

"Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 3:8-13)
Paul presents three qualifications for deacons that are particularly interesting. First he states that they must not be "double-tongued." When people function in a way that brings them into personal, and often private, contact with people in the church, they must be careful to let their speech be true and consistent before all. Those who would say one thing to one person and anther to someone else can sow discord and even seed sedition and division within the church. Much harm can be, and has been, done by double-tongued people within the Body of Christ. Consider the case of Absalom. Absalom had committed a crime against his dad, King David, and against his family. For this reason he was banished from Jerusalem. After a while, Absalom sought to win the Kingdom for himself.
"Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way to the gate; and when any man had a suit to come to the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, 'From what city are you?' And he would say, 'Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.' Then Absalom would say to him, 'See, your claims are good and right, but no man listens to you on the part of the king.' Moreover, Absalom would say, 'Oh that one would appoint me judge in the land, then every man who has any suit or cause could come to me and I would give him justice.'" (2 Samuel 15:2-4)
After a short while, Absalom ruled the kingdom and King David was forced to flee. I have seen this same thing happen in the church. There are those who speak publicly of their support and trust in those leading the church, to only back-bite and slander in private. I have had those come up to me and say, "Why doesn't the Pastor let you minister more? He should be letting you do this and that on a regular basis." Spinning words of false flattery to gain advantage over people and to draw people over to their side. Their goal is the stealing away of God's people after their own ambitious desires.Such people are like a cancers in a church and Paul was wise to warn Timothy to pass over such in appointing deacons at Ephesus.

Secondly, Paul says that deacons should not be "addicted to much wine" while for elders he says that they must not "linger long over wine." For one the caution is over "wine" and for the other a caution over "much wine". It appears to me that the greater a persons responsibility and authority, so must be their greater temperance over wine. This applies to all positions of leadership and authority, not just ecclesiastical. It is a shame for someone in authority to be drunker than those who they lead; to have a greater "addiction" to wine than those they are responsible for. However, not only is it a shame but it also poses great danger. When a worker in an organization is drunk, their work may suffer, but when a leader or one in authority is drunk, they can place the whole organization at danger. Therefore, this principal is at work in the church as well as the market place: as one increases in authority and leadership, so should their temperance for strong drink increase.

Finally, Paul speaks of "sordid gain" with the key ideas of being "greedy" and "sordid". It is unclear if the concern was for deacons taking bribes to influence their distribution of food (someone paying extra to get a greater share for their family) or if his concern was for their behavior in the marketplace. Either way, Paul tells us that "love of money is a root of all sorts of evil." (1 Timothy 6:10) If such greed is left unchecked in a persons heart then their end will not end well. These people are like shipwrecks waiting to happen and it is a danger to place them in positions of authority and public service in the church. This may have also been the root cause of Paul's experience with Alexander. "Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm." (2 Timothy 4:14) What ever we do in the church, our character is of chief importance. Deficiencies in our ability to minister may lead to ineffectiveness in our service, but deficiencies in our character can lead to disaster in our own lives and in the life of our church.

David Robison

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