Welcome to Tuesday’s Podcast. Our reading today is 1 Timothy 3: 1-7 but today we’ll focus on verse 7:
He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
My parents had a small extension built onto their living room about 27 years ago – a bay window. Over the past year or so they’ve noticed that there are a few problems around the edge of the window. They’ve noticed damp patches on the wall. It’s become clear (we think) that the weight of the roof and the window are beginning to press down on the little wall the window sits on. It’s literally crumbling under the weight of the little roof and window? Why? The foundations were never adequate enough. From the outside you wouldn’t really know but take a closer look – you’ll see cracks are literally appearing. The foundations are sinking.
I don’t need to be a builder or an architect to know good foundations are vital to any building.
The New York Times Columnist David Brookes wrote a book called the ‘Road to character’ – in it he set up a really interesting question. For most of our lives there’s a real temptation to focus on our resume or a CV – in other words our accomplishments. But he said at the end of our lives – it’s the eulogy – that focuses on our character. What we were like. Were we kind? Did we live with integrity? Did we live with humility? Did we love those around us or live for ourselves?
Character is like really good foundations. Our character – our inside world – is the bit that no one sees but it becomes obvious if we don’t have enough of it.
This is especially true when we step into leadership.
If you’re heading to work today – there’s a strong chance that you work for someone. Or perhaps you have people work for you. Either way, our character – our internal value system: our integrity, trust levels, our humility, our honesty – all affect other people. If you’ve been working for a while, you may have had suffered at the hands of other people (sometimes unintentional) or worked in a really toxic team culture where there’s backbiting and rivalry. It’s not pleasant.
There are cracks showing in the spiritual leaders in Ephesus. One particular issue (which we touched on yesterday) was a heresy called Gnosticism which was really divisive – because it had a tendency to make people really proud and undermine the person of Jesus.
The reason Gnosticism was gaining traction was that particular leaders were peddling this stuff. They were very charismatic leaders – often gifted speakers & brimming with charm & charisma. It was hard to spot their corrosive theology when the individuals were so impressive. So, Paul’s letter – specifically Chapter 3 – is making a case that when we assess potential leaders we are to be more interested in their ‘hidden’ lives than their outward public roles. We should make effort to think through character – their foundations – before we take a look at their gifting.
Throughout 1 Timothy (& Titus) Paul sets out what he thinks to be vital to a good leader in the church. I can honestly say that when I went for assessment to train for ordination in the church of England I wasn’t scrutinized as much as Paul is advocating!
It says in verse 7 something quite striking ‘He must also have a good reputation with outsiders…’ We talked yesterday about gender stuff in Ephesus at the time. Why have a good reputation with outsiders? Surely that makes no sense. We shouldn’t worry too much about what other people think of us?
Paul’s focus is outwards – to those who are outside the church. Lord Sugar (of the Amstrad & Apprentice fame) once said this: ‘If you take care of your character then your reputation will take of you…’
Paul is saying if we take care of our character – our internal world, our foundation – then we’ll have an honourable reputation. He doesn’t want Christian leaders’ poor character choices to reflect badly on Jesus.
One of my University lecturers was having a debate with someone (it was 20 years ago) and I forget the details. But he did say “Christianity isn’t just about what you believe – it’s how you treat people”. To some extent, I think that’s true.
How we treat others – those in our care; those whom we work for – reflects on what we believe – which flows from our character. Am I a blessing to those I serve? And I am a blessing to those who serve me? It speaks volumes!
Father, help us to walk in integrity today. May those we cross paths with today see a difference. Amen
BIBLE READING: 1 Timothy 3:1-7
Here is a trustworthy saying: whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.