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Men of the Cloth

April 9, 2011

The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality. Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin. 1 Timothy 5:17-22

This is why you need a full-time pastor-teacher. Teaching the flock is a full-time job. Every occasion is a chance to divulge more of the word of God, to dispense more wisdom, to dissect more earthy problems and apply more heavenly answers. For this 24/7 job, an elder in the church who performs this preaching-teaching function (they all should), on top of ruling “well” (beautifully, honorably, correctly), is worthy of a “price.” Those who “work hard” (i.e. grow weary from the toil) at preaching and teaching God’s word are really worthy of twice the price. Why? You just can’t do the job without serious study of the Bible for hours on end.

Paul is emphatic about Timothy “prescribing and teaching” dead-on truth. A called teacher of the scriptures is a student of the scriptures. He needs to know–he has to know–what that word means. He doesn’t want to miscommunicate the truth. If he does, the truth is no longer truth! The congregation should want their pastor buried in the word for significant portions of time.

Knowing that leading the church is a 24/7 endeavor, the picture of an ox threshing is a good example. Round and round. But it is unfair to disallow eating the grain while threshing.  Likewise, we don’t want our men capably running the church to be scrambling on the side to make ends meet.

Sometimes–maybe a lot of the time–ruling the church is a thankless job. Now with the invention of e-mail and texting, rumblings from the flock can be instantaneous. There are many who think their spiritual gift is to keep the pastor or leaders in line.  This is why Paul lays out some pretty stiff requirements for accusing a leader. There must be collaboration among two or three witnesses. This avoids a personal vendetta.

On the other hand, leading the flock is a high calling and honor, so to exploit the position will draw serious public redress. God will use the occasion as an example to all. This has to be no little slip up. There is intent and a distinct pattern involved (“continue in sin”).

Paul’s next beef is the unfair and partial application of God’s principles. Could Paul have said it any stronger–my goodness! “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus and his chosen angels…” In the process of leading and decision-making, you can’t defer to the big tither or the prominent business tycoon or the professional highly-paid athlete in your audience. I would add in nepotism here too. We’re talking of things done even “in the spirit” of partiality or prejudice here. James talks about this in his letter.Something about sitting at the footstool?  James 2:1-4

Lastly, don’t tap a guy for leadership too quickly. Perhaps this happens because of partiality or prejudice. Maybe there is an ulterior motive to installing a man who “will see things our way” or “who gives big bucks” or “who talks a big game.” Select only men proven and tested “in the little things.” If they are not seen taking out the garbage after a church dinner, they probably aren’t ready. As leaders, if you do fall into the trap of choosing someone prematurely, look who gets dragged into the sin!

One final admonition. Men of the cloth are 24/7 all about staying pure. They realize their work is on display and highly scrutinized by God and Christ Jesus and his chosen angels.

Scary.

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