As with many of Paul’s letters, today’s passage contains a list. Some of his lists provide commands of things we are to do (e.g., Romans 12:9-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:14-22) and some provide warnings of behavior we are to avoid (e.g., Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:8-9). Today’s list provides characteristics of those who would be leaders in the church. However, with perhaps only a few exceptions, it speaks to how every Christian is to behave. Paul himself alludes to this in verses 14–15: “…I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household.”
I have to be careful when reading such lists for I often run the risk of missing what’s being communicated. It becomes easy to skim over the list of items and not pay attention to what any of them mean. In other cases, I may overlook or dismiss only some of the more bothersome, er, challenging items. And through the simple process of rounding up the law of averages, I may claim an entire list of attributes by being able to claim at least have of them.
For example, I can claim the following: I am the husband of but one wife, I am (usually) respectable, I’m able to teach (sometimes), I’m not given to drunkenness (anymore), I’m not (always) quarrelsome and (for the most part) I’m not a lover of money. Since I can “check off” half of the list (even if only occasionally) it should be clear that I’m cut out to be an overseer.
The problem of course is that I’m twisting the Scriptures to suit my own selfish purposes. In so doing, I put myself in authority over God by deciding to which passages I’ll acquiesce. Clearly that will not work for then everyone would feel free to decide which portions of Scripture they’ll follow and which they can freely ignore. Sadly, many of the problems the church faces today can be traced to exactly this kind of thinking. Perhaps it would do us good to read those lists a little bit more carefully (and skip the rounding up of averages).
Dear Lord, we thank You for the gift of Your most precious word. Help us to value it as the treasure it is. Give us a thirst for it and use it to change our hearts to be in alignment with Yours. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.