1 Timothy 5:17-25  God honours those who are wise and who lead many to righteousness

1 Timothy 5:17-25

17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” 19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. 20 Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning. 21 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. 22 Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin. 23 No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. 24 The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after. 25 Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed.

Background

Paul advices Timothy on the more sensitive aspects of governance, particularly of elders, of leadership appointments and of general church discipline. The principles at work of honouring and debasing individuals in earthly institutions mirror that of the heavenly kingdom. In deed, God honours and rewards those who are wise and who lead many to righteousness. In today’s devotion, we also learn to exercise extra caution when appointing leaders. It is better for aspiring leaders while as followers to “grow” into an official appointment by virtue of their competence, servanthood and exemplary lifestyle.

Observation

The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 

Elders” generally refers to those who are older than the general age group and who are respected because of their maturity and wisdom. However, the elders who preach, teach and shepherd should be given double honour as compared to “non-teaching” elders. The quote “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” is a law lifted from Deuteronomy 25:4 meant to protect the welfare of working animals. The owner of the animal must not muzzle or restrict the animal’s freedom (while it is working in the field) by tying it up at the nose. This is meant to be read together with the quote “The laborer is worthy of his wages” lifted from Deuteronomy 25:15 where a worker should be paid according to the value of his work. Paul instructs with reference to the elder who work hard at preaching and teaching, that his wage and degree of freedom in discharging his duty must be reflective of the honour accorded to him. Preaching elders must be adequately compensated and given sufficient space and authority to do his work.

Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. 

Do not listen to or be influenced by reports if there are little evidence or dependable witnesses concerning an accusation against an elder. Experience tells us that one who is in a position of influence is prone to malicious attacks. However, an elder who has committed a serious offence must be rebuked in the presence of all. “Rebuke” means to publicly reprove or to convict. In so doing, the consequence of wrong doing may be made known to all as an effective deterrant that nobody is above the law. Paul charges Timothy to uphold the rule of law without prejudice: to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality. Every person regardless of their status and contribution to the church will be subject to the law without partiality. Because the integrity of the church as the pillar and support of the truth is at stake in these matters, Paul invoked the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels in his charge to Timothy. And failing to do so will incur grave consequences. 

Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin. 

Paul advices Timothy never to promote anyone to leadership positions hastily. For Timothy will most definitely share responsibility for the sins of the one he vouches for. The laying of hands denotes the impartation of authority and Timothy must never implicate himself by the sins of his charges: keep yourself free from sin. Concerning wise governance, Paul instructs Timothy always to be level headed in making judgments according to clear evidences and not according to sentiments. For those whose sins were evident beyond doubt, he is to deal with them impartially according to proper processes. But for those whose evidences of evil are circumstantial, he is to allow their deeds to be fully exposed before taking disciplinary action. Similarly, Timothy must honour those whose good works are visible to all. Otherwise, he should allow time for their works to be more evident before rewarding them.

Truth

God honours and rewards those who are wise and who lead many to righteousness.

Paul instructs Timothy to accord special honour to elders who work hard at preaching and teaching. Honour is not accorded due to one’s social status or expertise, but to his wisdom and exemplary influence. The principles at work of honouring and debasing individuals in earthly institutions mirror that of the heavenly kingdom. Concerning the last days, revelations on the fate of the Jews (and of humanity at large) are given to Daniel in the 12th chapter,

Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. Daniel 12:2-3

This prophecy reveals that on the day of judgment, special honour is given to those who possess the truth and who turn many to the ways of righteousness. Many churchgoers suppose that by going through the motion of confessing Christ while baptising themselves in the waters of Christian culture will earn them salvation and great honour in heaven. After all, believers are saved and seated with Christ at God’s right hand in the heavenly places by “faith” and not by “works”. Such accord the burden of the work of the gospel to a spontaneous response of Christian gratitude and not as a matter of obedience. They are of the opinion that they must first feel for it and not be “coerced ” by a command. And anything that feels forced is considered as “works”. Thus, their life direction remains inward and selfish, they have relegated the mission of evangelism and discipleship to an optional “work of gratitude” and not as an obligation of every believer. However, we know that all who walk in faith and obedience to the commandments of Christ will be rewarded and honoured. 

Therefore, every believer should seek honour and glory by acquiring wisdom so that he may live it out and lead many to righteousness. We may not address thousands, but doing our level best for our children and actively reaching out to those in our vicinity will suffice. 

All gossips begin with a speculative mind and a glib tongue.

Members of the community must possess zero tolerance for gossips and refrain from groundless and speculative conversations. If there is suspicion for wrongdoing concerning a prominent figure in the church, the matter must be brought promptly before the church’s council who will conduct a proper and thorough investigation into the allegations. Otherwise, such conversations have to be put to a stop. Some people enjoy groundless and speculative conversations surrounding people, organisations, and ideas etc; the things that news are made of. A speculative mind and a glib tongue is the devil’s laboratory, a filthy playground of endless possibilities. Paul instructs Timothy to set a culture of right thinking and speaking, not based on speculations but on truths and facts. Not out of malice but out of love.

In electing a leader we are making ourselves an integral part of what he does in private and in public.

Paul makes it explicitly clear to Timothy that he cannot absolve himself from the sins of the leaders he vouched for. As we know it, Israel paid dearly for their decision to elect Saul as king. When you appoint someone to leadership, you are no longer judged by the things you do as an individual, but by the things your leaders do whether good or bad; your life is in some degree intertwined with theirs throughout the length of their tenure. The leader’s private life has a bearing over the credibility of the organisation he leads. Nevertheless, good leaders do not arise out of a vacuum, they are influencers from inception, and will do anything in order to see things move forward with or without an official appointment. Therefore, it is better for aspiring leaders while as followers to “grow” into an official appointment by virtue of their competence, servanthood and exemplary lifestyle. When a leader is officially appointed, the organisation is in essence directing a portion of the followership towards him. Most organisations, being too eager to acquire talents, choose to overlook the implications of hasty leadership appointment. As a result, not only did they end up losing the leader they appointed, they are left with a trail of irreparable consequences. When considering leadership candidates, besides showing competence in the scope of responsibility, here is a list of attributes that are essential for an aspiring leader,

a. Personal sacrifice and servanthood. He must be willing to put the interests of the whole above his personal interests.
b. Integrity. He must be honest and willing to hold himself accountable to others concerning his private life.
c. Submission and humility. He must be willing to submit under the authority of God as well as the organisation and be open to corrections.
d. Personal discipline and purity. He must show himself faithful and reliable in the things entrusted to him.
e. Purity. He must pay attention to his own purity and not be given to greed and pleasures of the flesh.

Application

1. Do you have a tendency of speaking off the top of your mind without considering the consequences it may bring to the subject matter or to the hearer? Be mindful that an idle mind is the devil’s playground while a disciplined mind keeps troubles at bay. 

Paul provides guidelines for every conversation, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29. 

Unless our conversations serve the purpose of edifying and strengthening the hearer, there is no cause for words. However, if you find yourself struggling with chronic gossiping with evil intent, Jesus warns, 

“The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:35-37

Therefore, turn your heart from envy, deceit and all slander, and despise the filthy playthings of the devil. Instead, return to the perfect, to the glorious, and to what our hearts have always longed for: the eternal dwellings of God. By withholding your tongue long enough to allow careful consideration of your thoughts will go along way in making you a better person.

2. Are you accustomed to living for the moment without due consideration for eternity? Perhaps, eternity is unfathomable, it is too far and beyond the reach of your imagination. However, the bible promises for all who seek to fulfill His commission abundant living for this present age and the age to come eternal life.

3. Are you frequently plagued by haste, an overwhelming optimism and urge to jump into a decision? Practice letting your notions sit for a few more days, and you will realise the damage you would have caused if you have not waited. Proverbs 3:5-6 says,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.

Therefore, endeavour to live circumspectively in the guidance of the Spirit. 

Dear Lord, forgive me for my haste in vouching for others and putting my organisation at risk. Forgive me for every careless word spoken. Help me to grow in wisdom and to live it out. So that I may bring many to righteousness. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen. 


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