Good morning and welcome to Monday. My name is Alan and it is my privilege to be with you this week finishing off 1 Timothy: Paul’s letter to his young apprentice. Thanks go to Helen for last week’s fantastic podcasts… But I’ll take it from here!
Today’s passage is 1 Tim 6:1-5. You can hear it in full at the end of the thought for the day. But for now I am going to focus on v1: All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered.
This is one of those passages that people outside the church hold up as an example of how wrong Paul – and by extension the Bible – is. How out of date and irrelevant the word of God is!
In this passage Paul appears to condone slavery. In fact slaves should show great respect to their masters. Those who would often beat and abuse them… show great respect. Surely Paul should be shaking up the status quo. He should be tearing up society’s rules and leading an uprising, at the very least he ought to be trying to undermine the system and sow seeds of dissent.
But no, Paul seemingly accepts the situation as it is. The question he is asking is not how do we overthrow the system and remake the world on the kingdom of God model, instead he instructs Timothy to teach various sections of society how to live – how to really live – in an unjust system in a broken world. Paul is in effect saying the situation may stay the same… but what transformation does God want to do in us believers so that we might thrive, so that God is glorified despite our circumstances??
We may not be slaves, we may have rights and freedoms enshrined in law, but we live in an imperfect world surrounded by imperfect people. And although we are not slaves, we are all under the authority of someone.
If you are a child, you are under the authority of your parents. They are in charge.
If you are a teenager… you are still under the authority of your parents… whether you like it or not.
Are you at school? The teachers are in charge. What if when we became Christians we exercised the freedom Jesus won for us and chose not to go in to school tomorrow? …you’ve got to go… you’ve got no choice.
Exercise your right to do no work… there are consequences.
Are you in paid employment? You will have a boss and for a certain period in your day and your week you have to be somewhere doing something whether you feel like it or not.
Now you may love school, you may love your job, you may have the best boss and the most fantastic teachers. You may feel passionate about your work, satisfied with your salary and your work conditions. Praise God. But I also know that there is a lot of discontent knocking around in the world of work right now. Whether it’s University strikes or low morale in the NHS or education; whether you’re affected by funding cuts in the council or pressure from falling sales in the retail sector, hear Paul speak into our situation:
All who are under the yoke of [the world] should consider their masters worthy of full respect.
We are all God’s children, chosen by him, set apart, called to live holy lives pleasing to him, bringing glory to him because we are different.
Jesus said, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Paul wrote, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse”
This is not the way of the world, this is not how your classmates or colleagues will respond to poor treatment… but we are to stand out, we are called to live differently. We fight back by refusing to bite back. We return hate with love, slander with kind words, we honour when we are dishonoured. We bless when we are cursed. We extend freedom, when we are enslaved.
God’s love is powerful, grace is transformational.
We remember Paul’s words in the letter to the Philippians, “our citizenship is in heaven.”
We will always have earthly masters, good or bad or somewhere in between. We are called to serve them and show them full respect… regardless… knowing that as we do we serve our one true master… the Lord Jesus Christ. And we know that he is good, he has our best at heart, he loves us and his plans are to prosper us and not to harm us.
Today, regardless of the situation we face, let us take Jesus at his word. Let us put our confidence in what he says, let’s not think that we can devise a better plan than his.
Have faith dear friends, persevere, love… and God will give us all we need as he leads us on.
Father thank you that your word, the Bible, is timeless truth. Thank you Jesus that you came and showed us and taught us how to live a kingdom life, the better life, when you lived and walked in this world.
We may face all kinds of struggles and battles in this world but help us keep them in perspective compared to what you went through on our behalf. Spirit equip us, prompt us and empower us to live and love in a way that brings you glory. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
BIBLE READING: 1 Timothy 6:1-5
All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare of their slaves.
These are the things you are to teach and insist on. If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.