Good morning and welcome to a new week of the Foundations podcast. My name’s Bryony and it’s great to be here to chat through some more of these really rich passages from Paul’s letter to Timothy.
The letters to Timothy are often grouped with his letter to Titus and called The Pastoral Letters. They are written from a the perspective of a mentor and spiritual father advising and coaching young men whom he loves dearly. They are packed with extremely practical advice and less of the theologically dense writing that can be found in Paul’s other writings. But they still pack a punch and I hope that like me you’ve been challenged as other members of the team have been unpacking these verses over the past weeks.
Today we arrive at the end of chapter 5, I’ll read the whole passage at the end so do listen on after the worship song to hear the scripture in full.
Paul here is drawing Timothy’s attention to the importance of good church leadership. He gives one piece of advice in saying ‘do not be hasty in the laying on of hands’ – this was the way church leaders were (and still are) commissioned. I’ve been to several ordination services which are basically the official moment that a trainee is accepted as a leader of the church. Those higher in authority, church leaders and bishops gather around and lay hands on the individual. These moments always feel weighty, you sense something important is happening even though, to be quite honest, you don’t necessarily understand all the words that accompany the moment! This is a deep moment where someone’s call and desire to be a leader in the church is agreed with by elders and they are commissioned for the task. Paul warns Timothy to not take this process lightly. Timothy is to take the appointing of leaders seriously and slowly with great consideration.
Paul also tells Timothy to ensure that clergy are paid well. Now I promise that Mick, Tom and Alan didn’t pay me to say this but there is a real challenge here when we think about the way the clergy are paid in our nation. Often they earn significantly less than those with the same level of skill and experience in other industries. Paul urges double pay, even, as the phrase ‘double honour’ refers to money not social respect – I imagine that’s the kind of suggestion that’s not on the table for most church councils in our country! Even so, Paul’s point is very clear, being a leader is something not to be taken lightly, by the individual and the community they lead. It is a role that should be honoured, rewarded even.
Paul’s other piece of advice to Timothy is to stop avoiding wine as a little would probably keep him healthy! Again Paul is giving fatherly, loving advice. All these tiny snapshots in Timothy’s life show that Paul is concerned with the little things, the small decisions and moments that make the difference. I once heard it said ‘how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives’ (Annie Dillard). Paul is aware of this in Timothy’s life, that it’s the little decisions, the everyday choices that will be the foundation he, and the churches he leads, build their life and ministries on. Paul doesn’t want anything to be a distraction, that’s why he addresses the seemingly small issues of clergy pay and wine drinking. He wants to clear the deck so that Timothy and the church can be as effective as possible in their sharing of the Gospel.
On this Monday we start a fresh week, a week made of hundreds of moments, a multitude of decisions. I wonder if we could pause and think about what we would want a Paul-esque letter about. Would it be advice on how to deal with a difficult decision at work, maybe we are struggling with a non-sleeping child? Would we want to know how we could best help a friend in need? Would we ask for advice on how to kick or start a habit? Now could we turn those ideas to prayer, knowing that we have a God who is infinite in wisdom and love and wants to pour himself into us, his beloved children?
God, I may know a little or a lot of the week ahead but I know that with you guiding my words, actions and thoughts it will be better than me muddling on alone. Help me to turn to you as a good father ready to lovingly guide and speak to me. I give you this week and all it will entail, and ask you to be Lord of it and me. Amen.
READING: 1 Timothy 5: 17-25
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and ‘The worker deserves his wages.’ Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favouritism.
Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.
Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.
The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden for ever.