Paul started this third section of his letter to Timothy discussing the qualifications for a Pastor; depending on the translation, you might see terminologies such as an overseer or a shepherd.
I am surprised anyone qualifies, as we are all so broken, and many people I know should quickly shy away from being a pastor. I struggled with being a group leader in the recovery group, but there was a leader who was brave enough to tell the crowd what got him into recovery, and this brother in Christ took me under his wing and calmed me down on several occasions.
Fortunately, God sees us in a better light than we do and believes better things for us; (I am speaking bluntly because, by Paul’s admonition, he forbids women from being overseer’s of the flock,) so if a man had problems in the past, they might not have those problems now, because that man has put his faith and trust in Christ Jesus, and allowed for God to change him.
Now when it comes to skeletons in the closet, I am not sure how you prevent those skeletons, some of which should never again see the light of day, from being made public. Perhaps making sure you only talk with safe people is one way, but my trust-er is seriously damaged, and believingthat people can be safe is difficult. Another idea you can try is to keep your mouth shut; it works for me.
One of the methods of background checking, according to Paul, is to ask those that know the person what they are like. Many could see that as a problem especially if they saw you get hauled away in cuffs during the night. And even if you did not get arrested, what makes you think we neighbors can’t hear you screaming at your wife and kids. Look, WE ARE ALL BROKEN and have a propensity to blab/sin to make ourselves look better, and we will rat you out. Phenomenon such as this is highly prevalent in religious circles as we seem to be competing for promotions, I guess.
When we covered Pastors in the previous post on Timothy, I told you that I do not fully understand alcoholism. Oh, sure, I can comprehend the effects, and I have seen the damage it causes the person and their family. Now, I am not an alcoholic, but I had a terrible struggle with rage. The point of this is, having a cold beer, for me, is NOT a problem.
Yeah, I can hear some of you whining now about how I am making you stumble in your walk Jesus. We will get into that shortly. First, look at this, just in case you did not see Paul’s advice on selecting potential pastors.
So a church leader must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money.
(1 Timothy 3:2-3 NLT)
I am faithful to my wife, but I don’t always practice self-control, and my belly demonstrates that fact, however, I have seen what alcohol can do to me, and I must say, I don’t enjoy being out of control. I also know how much it takes for me to get out of control, and I make a conscious choice NOT to go there. So yes, when it comes to alcohol, I do practice self-control. By the way, I am not looking for a job, so I don’t care what you think about this startling revelation, but if you are a religious zealot and love to judge people, you need to know something.
God will be as hard on you as you are on others! He will treat you exactly as you treat them. (Matthew 7:1-2b CEV)
For the past twenty + years, I have gone out of my way to develop a sound and godly reputation.
Thanks to some terrible decisions many years ago, I ended up working for Home Depot; there, I quickly found out that cussing, among the employees, is a skill set, and I learned that skill. However, I had been straining to be the kind of Christian that my mother wanted me to be, and the internal emotional pressures were pushing me to my limits. To maintain my sanity while I worked there, I would exit the building at lunchtime. In a short time, I began taking my bible to the places I would stop for lunch. I spent at least thirty minutes at lunch, studying my bible, and I read every day, taking notes and writing down the questions and challenges I had for God about what I read. This reading program became a part of my morning breakfast stop before work. I would leave the house an hour earlier to spend the extra time in God’s word. And I would take my bible to dinner with me. I worked at Home Depot for seven years, and I operated on this pattern almost every day. The result of this behavior was that I became skillful with God’s Word and would respond to people’s questions about the Word of God, Jesus, and God’s nature and character.
Now I am up against another set of standards, but this time, for deacons.
1 Timothy 3:8-9 NASB Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, (9) but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.
Let’s start with this word deacon. First, there are a variety of translations, such as:
- Church officers (this makes sense to me as deacons, as far as I know, play a considerable role in church financial decisions.);
- Eugene Peterson’s Message gives us this, “those who want to be servants in the church.” Well, that’s a rather broad definition as some servants, like a friend of mine who before he retired, was a school principal and teacher, but now, among other things, rearranges the chairs in church several times a week.
- And lastly, the Tree of Life Translation calls them Servant-leaders. They, like Stephen, should be servants and leaders.
These deacons have similar demands to the pastors.
- One that catches my attention is the statement that they are not to be addicted to wine.
- From the TLV, not greedy for dishonest gain.
- Men of dignity. The word in Greek is honorable.
- Not double-tongued. Don’t change the rules to fit the status of the person. Be a person that people can confide in and trust.
1 Timothy 3:10 NASB These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach.
Tested is to approve or examine. No, we are not merely talking about taking tests, it is watching how the person trying to be a leader performs under pressure. How do they respond to people in the church clamoring for their spiritual help and guidance.
Note that Paul says these men must also first be tested, but gives no extensive definition like he did the pastors; however, he does give us tests we can use.
Reproach is the Greek word anegklētos and, according to Thayer, means that they cannot be called into account. In defining reproach, the dictionary tells us that this has to do with someone being able to censure you. To censure is the act of blaming or finding fault and condemning as wrong.
So, how or why would someone want to blame or find fault with your choice of a deacon?
Our first example has Paul speaking of women, but we can apply it to men as well.
1 Timothy 3:11 NASB Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.
We already covered dignity when we addressed the men. It is the Greek word semnos and means to be venerated for character, honorable. So nothing, in importance, has changed.
If we think that being a malicious gossip is reserved for women, then we are either naive or deceived as we men are quite skilled in this regard.
Temperate is another term that we covered, as it applies to abstaining from wine (in excess,) just like men.
Faithful applies to persons who show themselves faithful in business transactions, the execution of commands, or the discharge of official duties. This should be expected of anyone, especially since you are dealing with the church finances.
1 Timothy 3:12 NASB Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households.
I included the emphasis (italics) provided by the NASB.
Note how it says only one wife. Many of the men I have known, and at least one pastor, have been married several times. There is no need to get all judgmental; simply remember that we are ALL broken. The hope is that somewhere over time, we get that brokenness fixed.
I will let you in on a little private information; I am on my third marriage.
How did my brokenness affect my marriages?
Well, with the first, I was a novice raised under highly religious legalism, and seriously co-dependent. If you don’t know what it is to be co-dependent, it means that you become dependent upon how others think and feel about you and, therefore, create a relational atmosphere in your mind based upon their perceived like or dislike of you. If a co-dependent marries a broken individual, this can be an explosive mix. Add to the marriage the fact that she cheated on me twice. I can only handle it once. Still not free of the co-dependency that affected me, I married a second time to a woman with two children. The short of it, I destroyed this one. I know now, that my psychological problems and inadequacies caused that marriage to fail. The third marriage only happened in the last few years, but my desire and attempts to be married were initiated over twenty years ago. With only two weeks before we were to get married, my brother-in-law, the associate pastor, told me that he was disallowed from marrying us and that we would have to obtain counseling from the lead pastor. Now mind you, that lead pastor and I had been involved in a strained relationship which initiated about ten years prior. The other part of this disaster came into play as he had also played a role in my wife’s ill-fated marriage to her first husband. Combined, he saw no hope for us and made hateful accusations concerning the fact that we had both been married previously and had failed marriages. That day he seemed to forget how he also had a failed marriage. Since a rather large religious organization ordained this broken man to be the pastor, I guess the fact that he had been married before was no hindrance to his being a pastor now.
So, this term only implies that you should NOT be married to more than one woman at a time.
“and good managers of their children and their own households.”
Again, I am looking at the italicized words, and the word “and” does not change the understanding of the sentence, however, the usage of the italicized word“their” creates the idea that these deacons should be able to handle children, period. What that means, I am not sure.
The word manager is proistēmi and means to be set over or rule. There is nothing here that means rule with an iron fist, but considering that parental attitudes, the influence of education; and, governmental themes and laws have created a generation of children that will refuse to comply with reasonable demands, like sit down. (And we get to watch children like this at the daily riot.)
We will finish this section with this.
1 Timothy 3:13 NASB 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.
Well is defined as honestly.
And to obtain is to get possession of.
While there is the possibility that you may obtain some reward now, here on earth, but the greatest probability will be at the Bema seat.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10 NASB
On several occasions, I have talked about this idea of being recompensed. When you look at the Greek, it conveys the idea of rewards and wearing a victor’s crown as you might in the Olympics.
So if you serve, do it with honesty, and then allow Him to pat you on the back and say, well done, my good and faithful servant.
- Holding to the mystery of the faith.
- He who was revealed in the flesh,
- Was vindicated in the Spirit,
- Seen by angels,
- Proclaimed among the nations,
- Believed on in the world,
- And taken up in glory.
This is the Messiah Jesus that I serve.