September 17, 2013
1 Timothy 3:1-13
Today’s passage in 1 Timothy describes the qualifications of a bishop and deacons. These qualifications are very much suitable to servant leaders, especially elders of communities. So we look at these accordingly.
First Paul says that “whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task.” (1 Tm 3:1). It is all right to aspire to higher positions of leadership, as a way of serving God and His people more. But one must know it is a noble task. It is stepping into the very sandals of Jesus, caring for God’s flock. There are great responsibilities involved.
As such, the qualifications are stringent.
One, his personal circumstances must be exemplary. He “must be irreproachable, …. temperate, self-controlled, decent” (1 Tm 3:2). He must have no serious vices. He must be “not a drunkard, …. not a lover of money.” (1 Tm 3:3a,c). This is repeated in the qualifications for deacons. “Similarly, deacons must be …. not addicted to drink, not greedy for sordid gain” (1 Tm 3:8).
Two, his family life must be in good order. He must be “married only once” (1 Tm 3:2b). “He must manage his own household well, keeping his children under control with perfect dignity” (1 Tm 3:4). Indeed, the family is a small community, while the community is a larger family. A servant leader’s success in managing his home points to his capability to govern the larger community, “for if a man does not know how to manage his own household well, how can he take care of the church of God?” (1 Tm 3:5).
Three, his relationships within community must be good. He must be “hospitable,” …. “not aggressive, but gentle, not contentious” (1 Tm 3:3b). He must be welcoming. He must be like a father to all. He should work for peace and unity within the community.
Four, “he must also have a good reputation among outsiders” (1 Tm 3:7a). He must ensure that his words and actions bring honor and dignity to the community. By the way he conducts himself, outsiders should gain confidence that the community is going about God’s work, and thus should be supported.
In a word, a servant leader must have integrity. What does this mean? Examine yourself as you “study the way of integrity” (Ps 101:2a). Are you able to say, “I act with integrity of heart” (Ps 101:2c)?
- “I do not allow into my presence anything base.” (Ps 101:3a). Being with Jesus and serving Jesus, nothing base should ever be part of a servant leader’s life and service.
- “I hate wrongdoing; I will have no part of it.” (Ps 101:3b). Being called to holiness, a servant leader should abhor sin, and should avoid sin and occasions of sin.
- “Whoever slanders a neighbor in secret I will reduce to silence.” (Ps 101:5a). A servant leader cannot tolerate slander, maligning, badmouthing, calumny or character assassination in community.
- “Haughty eyes and arrogant hearts I cannot endure.” (Ps 101:5b). A servant leader is called to humility, even as he is given power, position and authority. He must know that before he is a leader, he is a servant.
As servant leaders, we step into the very sandals of Jesus. Let us then hear him say, “Whoever follows the way of integrity is the one to enter my service.” (Ps 101:6b).