Read 1 Timothy 3:1-16
When I read 1 Timothy 3, I feel a bit overwhelmed… “Now a bishop (overseer) must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money…Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money; they must hold fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them first be tested; then, if they prove themselves blameless, let them serve as deacons.” I have two questions here: One, can leaders have any fun at all? And two: who is then qualified for leadership? This sounds like an impossible task!
If you spend all your time worrying about doing all these things correctly and not messing up, you will never attain the role of a leader. But if you are sharing the load, focused on what you can do well, and allowing Christ to compensate for those weaknesses in your life, you can certainly lead well.
What Paul eventually says in this passage about aspiring leaders is that the mystery of our religion is great! The foundation of all these attitudes and good character traits is Christ himself—taken up in glory! We do not have to do it all on our own, because of the One who paid the ultimate price to live with us, to work in us. If you extend an analogy that Paul uses in 2 Corinthians, we are but “clay jars.” We are ordinary vessels who can allow God to work in our lives. We can accomplish a great deal because of Christ in us.
The other thing that this passage purports is that leaders ought to be held to a higher standard of living, and I agree with this. It affects the witness of the church if a leader acts counter to what the Gospel proclaims. But does this mean that leaders can’t make mistakes, or falter, or have a past? Certainly not!
Paul, himself, was one of the greatest leaders in the early church. He was also one of the worst persecutors the church had ever seen before he met Jesus. In Christ, though, he was able to uphold a different lifestyle. He was blameless because Christ made him so. Ultimately, when I read this passage, I see the fruits of the Spirit coming out in Paul’s language. If you have Christ in you, you will act respectably, hospitably, etcetera, because Jesus compensates in our weakness when we share the load with Him.
The other thing I see coming out in this passage is specific gifts that different positions in the church require. Bishops or overseers require that someone be a good teacher. Perhaps you are not a good teacher, but that doesn’t mean that you should not be a leader in some other capacity. Paul counsels Timothy in these things so that he might be able to share the burden of leadership with others and wisely discern who would be gifted in what role.
Sometimes we tend to take on too much, or try to do things all of our own accord, rather than depending on Christ to work through us. These are always the times when something goes awry! But we are at our best when we don’t go it alone, but yoke ourselves to Christ.
For farmers, this may sound oversimplified, but bear with me. When an animal isn’t quite strong enough to do something on their own, they are yoked to another animal who can help bear the load, and bring up the average strength. Just so with us. When we yoke ourselves to Christ, He brings up the average! We can do immeasurably more with His strength, and then these offices don’t sound nearly so impossible.
- What leadership role(s) have you been called into in your life?
- Have you ever tried to do it all by yourself? How did that go?
- How might you “yoke yourself to Christ?” What would that look like in your life?