International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending March 13, 2011
Purpose: To grasp that God expects Christian leaders to be not only transparent and accountable but also holy and humble
Scripture Text: 1st Timothy 3:1-13 (NRSV)
I Timothy 3:1-13
(1)The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. (2)Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, (3)not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money. (4)He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way— (5)for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? (6)He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. (7)Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil.
(8)Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money; (9)they must hold fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. (10)And let them first be tested; then, if they prove themselves blameless, let them serve as deacons. (11)Women likewise must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things. (12)Let deacons be married only once, and let them manage their children and their households well; (13)for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
One of the things that stands out in Paul's pastoral letters is all three letters were addressed to one of Paul's appointed pastors, either Timothy or Titus, and they cover many topics and doctrines, and vary in the instructions and teaching given by each letter.
The lesson is not intended to look back at history and the first century church, but rather to offer a valuable reflection on how best to select, recognize and train local church leaders, as well as pastors. Regardless of denomination, or label, the rules laid down by Paul to Timothy in the first century, are relevant to all churches, in all periods of time.
The phrase “The saying is sure,” applies every bit as much today as it did in Paul's time. It was important that the early church understood the responsibility of leadership. Bishops earned the position by being faithful as deacons and teachers, prior to being selected as a bishop; for the most part, the bishop was comparable to today's senior pastor. Today's standards have been lowered considerably when compared to the standards Paul suggested for Timothy and the church he was nurturing.
I am afraid today we fill offices and positions by one's willingness to serve rather than the qualifications taught by Paul. We can overlook almost anything, as long as the position gets filled. It should also be pointed out that many that qualify, for whatever reason, choose not to serve or lead.
The question for churches today is: what qualifications are we willing to sacrifice? Are Paul's qualifications unrealistic? Can we expect our leaders to adhere to such a strict code of conduct? Unfortunately the world has the same problem with is leaders. Notoriety has replaced temperate, sensible and respectable, and for the most part if we eliminated all of those that were NOT lovers of money, who could we get to run for public office.
As I read our text, I am haunted by the question is holiness and humbleness a gift from God? Or is it a characteristic of what all Christians should be?
Our lesson contains a lot of suggested behavior patterns for both men and women; it also seems to impose some type of apprenticeship, or training for those that wish to serve.
There was a time when a Christian was expected to live a separated life, that is, we were to separate ourselves from the things of this world. Nowadays it seems we take separate lives to mean, we separate our church life from our family life and both of those from our life at work. Unfortunately that is exactly what Paul was addressing, we should live one life dedicated to the principles taught by Jesus and Paul whether at church, home or work. Our problem may not be qualified leaders, but rather a qualified pool from which to choose our leaders. There is nothing in Paul's list that should be too difficult to abide by, not just for leaders, but for all Christian congregations. Hold fast to the mystery of your faith.