View print-optimized version

Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Today’s Scripture Reading | 1 Timothy 3:1–16

The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way— for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil.

Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money; they must hold fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them first be tested; then, if they prove themselves blameless, let them serve as deacons. Women likewise must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be married only once, and let them manage their children and their households well; for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth. Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great: He was revealed in flesh, vindicated in spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory. (NRSV)

Does anyone feel called to be a new church officer after reading this?! 1 Timothy’s high standards for the bishops and deacons who will serve the church are at once admirable and intimidating. Though these standards may reflect the difficult climate for Christians in the early church and a desire to present a respectable face to those who knew nothing of Christianity, there is no doubt that service to the church—both then and now—calls us to aspire to something greater than our standard behavior.

Early in my ministry I used to be very self-conscious about being a pastor—churchgoing certainly wasn’t (and isn’t) the norm for folks in their twenties and thirties, and I felt a need to push back against stereotypes that some of my peers often associate with Christians: that they’re judgmental, close-minded, and hypocritical. As time has gone by, though, I continue to find myself more interested in focusing on the positive aspects of my faith—serving others, self-examination, expanding my capacity for empathy and caring—rather than trying to directly push back against negative stereotypes that others might have.

Although it’s easy to read this 1 Timothy passage as a command to leadership to help Christianity look more palatable to the outside world, I instead have come to see this passage—and other aspirational passages from the early church—as an invitation to anyone looking to live a Christian life. Following Christ means that we continually examine our daily living—not expecting that we can achieve perfection but always desiring that we might be transformed into our best selves.

God, I am grateful for this journey of transformation that you have set me on, and I pray that my life may continually be shaped ever closer to the one that you have called me to live. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

Devotion index by date | Id like to receive daily devotions by email