Welcome to Wednesday’s Podcast our reading today is 1 Timothy 3: 8-13 but today, we’ll focus on verse 13:
‘Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.’
A few weeks ago I went to see a friend of mine become Senior Pastor of the church of the church he has served for 17 years. It was really moving for a few reasons: firstly, to hear the Founding Pastors who started the Church over 30 years ago share many stories – of great battles & blessings; but also to reflect on their incredible faithful journey. To reflect on how good God really is. And also to see in my friend – who has just served another person’s vision for 17 years in a culture (and a Christian culture) where people want instant platform or success – I found that really powerful too.
Serving – diakaonis – is the picture that Paul has of the true calling in our Christian life. He’s talking specifically about Christian leadership but as with our Podcast yesterday, serving is one of the most powerful, Christ-like things we can do. We can serve our neighbours – simple things like putting the bins out (whether they thank you or not); be a blessing to your boss – not to be sycophantic – which usually means you’re out to get something or serve your colleagues. We serve others best when see it as serving God – without looking for payback; accruing relational capital – just wanting the best for other people.
Paul is making the case that ‘Deacons’ – another form of church leader – those who serve the church need to be people who are already doing that in their private lives. Paul is talking about a type of servant leadership. The ‘diakonos’ was the name given to a waiter.
That their home lives – personal lives have integrity. The goal is to raise up people who are already demonstrating integrity and place them into leadership – to look out for those in whom the Spirit is already at work!
But what exactly does Paul mean when he lays out one of the requirements of leadership is that leaders should ‘manage their children and household well?’
And when Paul talks about family – as we know – he isn’t talking about a nuclear family. He’s talking about Oikos – an extended family. Slaves (& their kids); your kids, other workers, clients, friends and the like. It’s a large group of people and was the building block of the ancient world. Fathers could lead their extended families like tyrants – being very abusive – or could lead with great integrity. Paul is looking those who lead their Oikos as servants – not tyrants. Serving means you’re about seeing others flourish – not just your own agenda.
One reason Paul addresses this, as we’ve already established this week, is that Paul is speaking to a number of specific cultural issues in Ephesus. And as we have talked of yesterday and Monday – he wants to warn against Gnosticism and some of the leadership culture that accompanied it. So it’s really important (to Paul) that leaders’ children are not mixed up or involved or influenced by Gnosticism. In the culture of the day it was expected that children honoured their parents. Some Gnostic teachers were so cult-like that they required total obedience to their teaching which brought them into conflict and confrontation with their parents – which made ‘managing’ family life challenging. It would also undermine any position of leadership in the church. So what do parents do? It says in Ephesians 6:4 ‘Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.’ Parents, particularly fathers, had a reputation for being very authoritarian and strict, demanding loyalty to the family. But Paul states that that leaders should ‘manage their households well…’ Paul is essentially saying that ministry starts at home. The goal of the Oikos, household, is discipleship. Fathers were expected to reveal God’s heart through the way they served in a way that was counter to the culture of the day. It doesn’t mean you have to be perfect and it doesn’t mean you won’t mess up – but the goal is to show and demonstrate love.
My parents came to faith before I was born. I’m a second generation believer. I’m so grateful to them for many, many things. They never forced me to believe – made sure I was baptised and taken to church – but I always felt I was given freedom. They also were painfully honest. They told great stories of God moving but I had a window into the times when things were tough. One of the things I take from them is my desire to be as transparent as I can with my own children about the ups and downs of faith. One of the reasons I knew faith was real to my Mom and Dad is that I could see their faith in the tough times.
It’s so tempting in the age of parenting courses and social media to rate yourself as a parent. My goal isn’t perfection. But it is to have integrity – I think that’s what Paul is speaking to in Ephesus and I think in a world where our kids have a diet of filtered images – the greatest gift we can give them is our time, our testimony and our truth.
Help us to manage our households in ways that are Godly and honouring to you Lord.
BIBLE READING: 1 Timothy 3:8-13
In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.
In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.
A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.