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1 Timothy 5:17-6:2a: Have Character, Don't Be One Print E-mail
1 Timothy
Saturday, 23 September 2006

by Michael Moyers, Youth Pastor

Again Paul turns his attention to the important theme of church leadership which seems to be the core message to Timothy.  In verses 17-20, Paul is addressing the idea of respecting leadership within the church.  The way Paul phrases verse 17 you get the idea that there is distinction between duties of the elders.  It appears that some elders have leadership roles with the ability to teach while other elders were also leaders whose primary role was preaching and teaching.  Here we find a biblical basis to take care of our elder and support his family in a monetary way.  I’ve had people argue that preachers shouldn’t be paid.  Their reasoning comes from the idea that the preacher won’t confront certain issues or situations to protect their paycheck.  This viewpoint is not biblical at all. 

Take Brother William for example; he has not backed off any difficult passage or touchy situation that has arisen over this past year.  He has been straightforward and true to the text to the best of his ability.  The goal of showing “double honor” to our teaching elder is to allow him the ability to spend time meditating on the word and prayer.
We all have jobs with varying stress levels and responsibilities.  The responsibility of the elder to teach the word and oversee the souls of men, women, and children. is the highest there is.
Paul now turns his attention to elders who sin.  If there is an accusation against an elder it needs to be handled fairly.  Because of the high visibility of an elder and the responsibility that they carry, it is real easy to be critical and scrutinize every little thing.  Because of an elders leadership position every action can be misunderstood and their words misconstrued.  Negative criticism and a critical spirit can be very detrimental to the health of the church.  This is a tactic of Satan to bring contempt on our elders and diminish the teaching of God’s word.  Haven’t we all been guilty at some point of being critical or saying negative things about our elder?  Or how about being critical of each other? 

I was sitting in a restaurant recently and overhead conversations of several retired men sitting at a table near me.  One gentleman received a cell phone call from his lawn care service.  After disconnecting the man went on to belittle the lawn guy on how he did his job.  Another man at the table was going on about the poor service at the restaurant, while the other men chimed in with laughter.  When you look at this situation from a distance it looks so ugly doesn’t it?  This is often what we look like in our daily conversations.  Why is it easier to find the negative in people verses the good?  Isn’t it a form of pride when we start to resent people for not living up to our expectations?  What would our church look like if we looked for the good in others. 

Imagine this:  we drive up to Trinity Baptist church, park the car, and walk through the foyer but this time our response to the greeter is genuine and loving.  Next, we enter Sunday School prepared, and excited to be there.  We show respect to others by listening to their point of view and truly trying to understand them.   Any comments are intended to bring unity rather than dissension.  We then enter church where everyone is anxious to greet visitors and members alike.  As the service begins, unity permeates the sanctuary.  Everyone is there for the same purpose:  to worship and praise God.  Every song is sung from the heart and people are giving joyfully.  As the pastor presents the sermon, we look inward to see how it applies to us rather than our neighbor.  At the conclusion of the service, we search ourselves to see how God wants US to respond.  We stay after the service to encourage our pastor and others and show them how much we appreciate them.  Now the hard part!  We get to the restaurant for lunch!  After we order, we don’t serve up each other or the leadership with the meal!  Rather, we reflect positively on the Scripture and our church.  We choose to discuss how much we received and what we learned.

Try this: ask God to help you become more like Him and conform to His character.  This week as you interact with your family, friends and in your job, say only positive and encouraging things in your conversations.

There are times when elders can fall into sin.  The Bible is very consistent throughout on dealing with any believer who refuses to repent.  The Old and New Testament both require witnesses when bringing an accusation before the church.  This process protects the elder from false accusations which can damage a ministry even if allegations are unfounded.
Whether the problem is with an elder or each other, it is best to privately go in the spirit of love and clarify and deal with any misunderstanding.  We cannot let hurt feelings and resentment destroy the unity and health of the church.
In the context of dealing with sinning elders, Paul presents a way to avoid any future problems in which an elder might fall into sin or preach false doctrines.  Paul instructs Timothy not to rush in and ordain someone too quickly.  It takes time to see someone’s character and evaluate their doctrine.  Aren’t we to some degree partly responsible if we ordain a man too quickly and he falls into false doctrine?  In a sense we share in his sins. 
The character of some men is clear, their sins ‘are obvious’, but some are not so obvious, their sins ‘follow after them’.  This is Paul’s main point that if you delay the ordination then in time his sin and character flaws will be revealed.  This process is not ‘Murphy proof’ but it can help avoid ordaining the wrong men.
It seems in our society that we rely too heavily in the outward appearance to make our judgments about people.  Sometimes we overlook those who are unassuming and quietly serving the church with godly character.  Given time their godly character will be evident.
Paul brings this section to a conclusion when he starts talking about slaves and their relationships to their masters.  Slavery simply defined is forced labor by coercion.  Slavery was deeply imbedded into the Greco-Roman society and economy.  It was believed that there were 50 million slaves at the time, including one-third as inhabitants within Rome itself.  Paul in many other places has shown slavery to be morally wrong and against the Gospel.  He is not condoning slavery, but here is another example of a Christian who submits to an authority even to an oppressive one.  Submitting to authority in essence is submitting God’s authority. 

We should recognizing the fact that God has placed leaders in our lives and humbly accept our roles in life.  This kind of character protects our Christian witness.  How do we apply this to today?  As Christians we find ourselves working for firms that may or may not have Christian leaders.  Christian employees have found themselves making the same mistakes by not showing proper respect to their non-Christian employers.  Or we might find ourselves taking advantage of our Christian employers.  Either way by not showing proper respect to authority we will damage our Christian witness in the work place.
In conclusion, what unites church leaders and church members, employers and employees, old and young?  It is the word respect.  Try to outdo each other in love and respect.  We all have worth as a human being because God made us.  Let’s recognize this as we interact with each other.  ‘Honor one another above yourselves’.    

~ Michael Moyers ~

Last Updated ( Sunday, 01 October 2006 )

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