Monday, August 06, 2007

Be Diligent In These Matters

1Timothy 4-6

Paul has some strong words for his son in the faith, his young pastor friend in Ephesus. Timothy seems to have loads of potential, is favored by Paul for great ministry, and is the recepient of stern reprimands. There are three main themes in these last three chapters of this brief letter, Preaching the Truth, Handling Widows w/ Compassion, and Generosity w/ Money. Very modern issues that pastors must wrestle with today.

Timothy was exhorted to teach the Scripture truth, clearly distinguishing it from faddish beliefs that float around as novel ideas or popular slogans. It's hard to say it as it is in such a way that people will hear it, there aren't bonus points for ticking people off with truth, the point is that they get it inside of them. And it seems that Timothy was on the timid side, he let people look down on him because he was young. But Paul will have none of it...if you've been called by God, filled with his Spirit and you follow Jesus faithfullly, then be diligent, work hard, trust unwaveringly, preach boldly, pray always, serve skillfully.

The Church in Ephesus, like most churches in the early church, were located in large population centers where one was likely to find high concentrations of widows and orphans, the diseased, disabled, and dying. If enough of the Christians followed Jesus, they would eventually feel a compassionate obligation to care for these men and women in dire straits. And after awhile it would be necessary for some guidelines to be established for care that is sustainable, empowering, and practical. Paul has shrewd insights into the human nature, how people tend to treat each other, and what arrangements need to be made for successful, ongoing ministry. Pastors would do well to be people-wise like Paul; towards widows, the elderly, leaders in the church, and sinners.

Money will always be a central issues for churches; the gathered assembly of believers need it for their daily lives and for the ministry of their calling. To care for widows and orphans, they need money; to bring healing to the sick and broken, they need money, to help families out in tough times, they need money. Yet a preoccupation with money won't bode well, for then our eyes are taken off of God and the true help they need: compassion, generosity, love, truth. The members of the church deal with money issues every week, and whatever individual ideas of it they have, they bring into the ministry; thus Paul urges us to teach the truth about money, the truth about God's generosity and providence, and the truth about godliness and its benefits; to teach it by how we live as well as what we say.

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