In 1 Timothy, the reason Paul writes Timothy is to give words of encouragement and instruction in becoming a Church that is on the same page, working together, so that energy can go outward to the community instead of inward sorting through internal struggles. The message last week was about making sure nobody falls through the cracks. The Church the young Timothy is serving as pastor has tension among the leaders who are posturing and focusing on meaningless arguments (1 Tim. 1). Today, Paul gives Timothy a way to affirm leaders. People of influence and responsibility….
Paul says to Timothy, as you sift the gifts and character of people for responsibilities Be Fair, Be Impartial, Be Cautious, and Be Discerning. That is what I ask for people to do to me: Be Fair. Be Impartial. Be Cautious. Be Discerning. That is what we need to do for each other. When a new person comes into a church, it is sometimes tempting to think, “New Blood,” we need more workers…. Caution must rule the day. Would it make sense to give the job of treasurer to a stranger?
Pretend now you are applying for a leadership postion/job in this community of faith, and I am the perfect interviewer. many of you have experienced not getting a job because the employer held something against you unjustly (not fair), or you were not the right category (partial). You can’t prove it, but you know…The church is vulnerable to the same sloppiness. We can and must do better. 5-6 years ago I applied for a job in Sumas....You have applied for a job, How do I decide?
Be Fair…If I am a perfect interviewer, I must be fair…. I cannot listen to rumors. ever had a false accusation, a decision made that seemed to be based on untruth… 1 Tim. 5:19. the things we hear. In this day and age we hear all sorts of things about all sorts of people. You cannot believe everything you hear (amen?) I may even know rumors about you… as a perfect interviewer, if what I have heard has nothing to do with the job you, if its none of my business, if it’s harmless, I don’t care. If I only heard the rumor form one source, I will not give it a lot of credibility. If I have heard from multiple sources, or if I have seen with my own eyes, then I have to ask.
It’s true that you cannot believe everything you hear, but sometimes what you hear is true. I have to know. I have to know if you are an appropriate person. I need to know you have integrity if we are to entrust you with children, and not baggage, not a history. Notice what the Bible says. There is a measure of grace built in even if the rumors are true: underline the word, entertain. Entertain. Find out. Talk it through. People can change. Even if you have something in your past, as a perfect interviewer, I want to be fair, and fairness tells me you can be a changed person. So I entertain… consider…Rumors are not deal breakers meaning you will not get the job, it says when you hear then entertain the rumor….deal with it, work it through. Fairness means you still get a fair hearing.
Part of fairness is true guilt; 1 Tim. 5:20. If you are truly guilty of sin, then that means there must be some accounting. Taking this scripture together with other scriptures, the principle is clear that private sins must be dealt with privately, Paul is in this instance talking about public leaders known to all if it is truly a public sin only then is it dealt with publicly…. I want to be fair, not listening to frivolous accusations, but taking serious situations seriously. That’s what fairness is all about. If you are applying for a leadership position, if you have something that I need to know, isn’t it fair I know it. Just tell me. If I am applying for a job as the pastor of the church and I am in hiding from the law, don’t you need to know that?
It’s true that life is not fair…. I understand that and agree with it… but the point is that as people of faith, we must strive to be fair.
Be Impartial…1 Tim. 5:21 too often decisions are made by who is popular or not popular…. reputation… some people can get away with anything, and others are accused no matter what…. Its called favoritism… As a perfect interviewer, I will be impartial, giving you a fair shot at the job with no consideration as to your family, background… we see partisan decisions all the time in the world, I don’t want to see it in the church… One of worst sins is favoritism. It’s bad in the classroom/ family / Christian community.
There's a wonderful story about a Chicago bank that once asked for a letter of recommendation on a young Bostonian being considered for employment. The Boston investment house could not say enough about the young man. His father, they wrote, was a Cabot; his mother was a Lowell. Further back was a happy blend of Saltonstalls, Peabodys, and other of Boston's first families. His recommendation was given without hesitation. Several days later, the Chicago bank sent a note saying the information supplied was altogether inadequate. It read: "We are not contemplating using the young man for breeding purposes. Just for work." Neither is God a respecter of persons but accepts those from every family, nation, and race who fear Him and work for His kingdom (Acts 10:34-35). -- Kathleen Peterson.
1 Tim. 5:21. Anybody can apply. I must not have a preconceived idea. Notice how much Paul emphasizes the importance of this principle (first half of v. 21) As people of faith, may we give anybody an opportunity not according to who they are in the world’s eyes, but the gifts they have given by God. Shame on the Christian community when we pre-judge people, discount them, because of the school you went to, the place you live, etc. … I must not jump to any conclusions.
Be Cautious…1 Tim. 5:22. As a perfect interviewer, you have come to me and want to be a leader and I have to be cautious. “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands” is certainly referring to setting people aside for leadership. I am going to err on the side of caution… time. There may be people who have been hanging around the edges, not found a place to serve, and moved on. Maybe I missed an opportunity, or maybe my caution helped sort out who belongs and who doesn’t. I have to be cautious, because we are in this for the long run, we want to build from a solid base…”Do not be hasty” the scripture says. I know the waiting time after turning in an application is frustrating, but it is necessary, because it takes time. Years ago I remember talking to a woman that felt called to be a Sunday School teacher, she went to a new church, and after a month she left because they weren’t using her…. I have to side with the church on that one… caution means taking time.
“Do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.” Why does the scripture include that line? That is what we are to do while we are being cautious. Stay pure. Do not participate in sinful activities. I.e. you are applying for a leadership position: show me. Show me your sincerity, because I have to be cautious. We want people of integrity. We want the right people for the right positions, the right ministries. Anyone can come to the church, but if you are to get involved, as a perfect interviewer, I have high standards, and I want you in this for the long run. As the perfect interviewer, I neither want to make hasty and and ill-considered decisions, nor do I want to be indecisive, leaving you hanging forever. Caution finds that balance of taking necessary time, but being decisive when the time is right.
(BTW, 1 Tim. 5:23, I am not sure how this verse got in here. It seems to be a bit of advice for Timothy in not getting too stressed….)
Be Discerning…1 Tim. 5:24-25. To me, this is the X-factor. As the perfect interviewer, I want to be fair, be impartial, be cautious….I can do everything right in conducting this interview. But I must still be discerning, asking the Holy Spirit to show me. What’s your gut saying? What is the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart.
Humans are often different from what they first appear. Do not judge a book by it’s cover. This verse illustrates what one person called the ice-berg principle of people: 90% of a person is hidden from view… “the sins of some people trail behind them.”
The iceberg principle of people means I need to take a peak under the water. Discernment gives me that glimpse. I need discernment… You need discernment as you consider who to trust, who to believe, who to bless in leadership positions. we need discernment…attractive personalities often have weaknesses. Years ago I sat on a committee that hired a person. I ignored some red flags, I did not listen to the discerning spirit that this was not right. It was not good.
Discernment in Scripture is the skill that enables us to differentiate. It is the ability to see issues clearly. We desperately need to cultivate this spiritual skill that will enable us to know right from wrong. We must be prepared to distinguish light from darkness, truth from error, best from better, righteousness from unrighteousness, purity from defilement, and principles from pragmatics. J. Stowell
The final step to affirm a leader is discernment. As a perfect interviewer, I have been fair to you not listening to or ignoring rumors, I have been impartial to you refusing to make a decision based on your background, I have been cautious taking the necessary time for you to show me who you say you are, and now its decision time. I use discernment: the x-factor, where the Lord gives me/you an innate sense that not all is as it appears. Interview over.
Conclusion…In the real world, we do not have applications for jobs in the church like the world, but make no mistake, we must constantly be considering who belongs where. It’s a matter of trust. Whom do we entrust to do what? Trust is a wonderful gift. Some people, good Christian people, stay away from churches because they have decided not to trust anyone a whole lot. They’ve been hurt and don’t want to risk. Trust is huge. I don’t take it lightly. Yet God will accomplish greater things through a community of faith in which people are set apart for specific ministries, according to their gifts, abilities and opportunities. Paul is instructing Timothy in how to affirm leaders, recognize leaders. For our purposes this goes both ways, as the Lord leads us to get involved, we want people to be fair to us, to be impartial, to be cautious and use discernment. And as we select leaders, affirm leaders, fairness, impartiality, caution and discernment is vital.
May the Lord build a strong community of faith among us, faithfully serving the Lord Jesus Christ with leaders of integrity, well chosen leaders of whom we give our trust. May we be fair, impartial, cautious and discerning. Amen.