Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Elder Recompense and Rebuke – 1 Tim 5:17-22

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain," and, "The laborer deserves his wages." Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. (ESV)
The quality an elder must have to be compensated for their hard work is to rule well. Jesus had a lot to say about ruling. His disciples had been arguing among themselves who was greatest and He used that to teach the most significant aspect of being a Christian. He taught that if we want to be first, then our attitude and our actions should show that we put ourselves last and a servant of all (Mark 9:33-36). Jesus demonstrated this in His own life and death on the cross.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45 NIV)
When an elder is ruling well, it will be obvious in what he is doing and the way they treat others.

Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? (Matt 24:45 KJV)
The first thing that is apparent is whether or not they are willing to serve. Jesus also gave an example in Luke 12:37. He said that the servants who were awake when the master returned will be served by him. While this refers to the wedding supper of the Lamb, it also shows that a real leader isn’t afraid to do menial tasks as he leads. I am concerned about leaders who are surrounded by people who do everything for them. I read that the new Pope, Francis, was called humble because he went back to his hotel to pick up his luggage and paid the bill himself.[1] This is a refreshing witness in a world that exalts leaders and expects them to partake of the best while ignoring the needs of others. Would you call a CEO who has an exorbitant salary and benefits while the company is losing money and laying off workers a good ruler?
If a leader ignores the clear teaching of Scripture and advocates other doctrines, would you call him a good ruler? That sounds like a rhetorical question but this is a serious problem in our churches and nation. In the next chapter, Paul has some harsh words for those who do exactly that. I think two of the worst offending doctrines that are being embraced and will bring eventual judgment are the redefinition of marriage (and all that is behind it) and disregard for life in the womb. I don’t know how anyone can daily meditate on the Bible and pray and support same sex marriage and abortions. Something just doesn’t add up. Leaders who, despite their deep spiritual convictions, have rationalized and supported these abominations should not be afforded the honor or power they so desperately want.
Paul mentions those who labor in preaching and teaching are worthy of double honor. Yet he didn’t demand this kind of recompense from those he taught.
You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:34-35 NIV)
The amazing thing about Paul is that he was generous. He was even willing to support those who worked with him while he also taught. Acts 20:31 says that he warned the Ephesians night and day. I suspect there was a lot more evening services then than there are now. Are our leaders generous with their funds and time? If they are then they are showing the marks of good leaders.
In teaching His disciples to be good leaders, Jesus pointed to the masses of people who were without shepherds. They were harassed and helpless because they were being told some very ungodly things about how to please God. Their shepherds were not rulers who were concerned for individual’s welfare but in keeping their religious and political system intact which guaranteed their position. Jesus pointed to the masses and told His disciples to pray for workers for the harvest. Then he sent out the twelve on their first hands-on short-term mission trip (Matt 9:35-10:1). He did the same with seventy-two in Luke 10.
Good leaders are looking for the needs of the people. It isn’t just the people in their own congregation, but the broader community. If all the leaders are doing is taking care of their own, then the clear desire of Jesus is missed. A good leader has to have a vision that reaches beyond to the nations (Matt 28:19-20).
How to Honor Leaders
Paul says that these leaders are to receive double honor. He uses Deut 25:4 to show that even an ox gets to eat while treading out the grain. He paraphrases Lev 19:13 and Deut 24:15 to extend that and show that anyone who works should be paid. Paul is talking of church leaders and not government or business leaders, but it certainly should apply to these as well – if they are demonstrating that they are good leaders. However, I’m sure that there are a few leaders who use this in purely selfish ways. The bottom line for our pastors who preach and teach is that we shouldn’t expect them to be paupers. They should be paid well and they shouldn’t be paid paltry salaries as schoolteachers are.

However that honor is not necessarily the double honor Paul mentions, it is only half of it. There is a trend in our nation to demonize our governing leaders. It doesn’t matter what their political position is. Someone is going to dredge up all kinds of filth against them, imagined or real. Honoring our church leaders is quite specific and should not allow any of the garbage that I see being spread over the internet and emails about our nation’s leaders. If it is true and verifiable, then they need to be held accountable, but most of the stuff I see is neither.
Honoring our leaders means that we don’t admit, entertain, receive, or listen to a charge or accusation against an elder. These words are used in various translation of the Bible. When I see the accusations made against government leaders, the word entertain stands out. Many of the accusations are simple made up to entertain or infuriate people. However this digresses from the very important topic of our church leaders.
The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts of the body. (Prov 18:8 NASU)
When someone starts griping about your pastor, what do you do? Do you entertain or listen to it and tuck it away in your heart so that you are more receptive to the next complaint? If the church isn’t being run the way you want, do you tell others in your circle of friends about it? All these things are forbidden by Paul’s admonition to Timothy. They are gossip at best and slander at the worst. The proverb speaks of a dainty morsel. It isn’t something large. These things should be overlooked. Honoring our leaders means that we don’t entertain ourselves with these things.
Honoring them means that when something is serious, it must be presented as evidence by two or three witnesses. This can get rather sticky. I’ve seen cases where accusations have been rejected because the person bringing the charge was alone with the leader. Then another brought the same kind of accusation, which was rejected for the same reason – no witnesses. After several of the same kind of charges the elder was confronted and denied any wrong. What should be done? Do several people at different times without collaboration with each other presenting the same problem constitute two or more witnesses? Sometimes we take make a literal interpretation of the Bible support what we want when there could be more than one way to make a good literally interpretation and miss a broader application.
We certainly need to be careful and in this case the key would be to receive (not entertain) a charge. That means that it would be investigated to discover the truth of the matter. It is probable that a person who is charged, as in the situation I described, with personal misconduct without others present, is also capable of convincingly lying to cover up the sin. Receiving the charge would be appropriate. Acting on the charge is much more difficult.
Double Accountability
What happens when the evidence reveals sin? Hopefully, the elder or pastor will repent when confronted. But that isn’t the end of it. Different translations of the Bible say that those who continue in sin or persist in sin are to be rebuked publicly (NAS, ESV for instance). Others do not include the word continue or persist (NIV, NKJV, KJV) so that the rebuke needs to be public even if the sin was a onetime thing. Since there isn’t a consensus on this, I think it depends on the problem.
The purpose of the public rebuke is to warn others. It is quite clear that when a pastor or elder sins or teaches something incorrectly, it will affect the congregation. Some will see it as permission to do the same thing or be lead astray by incorrect or false teaching. Paul provides a very good example in Gal 2:11-14 when he had to rebuke Peter publically for his hypocrisy. Peter’s actions led others, including Barnabas, into the same hypocrisy.

I’ve seen examples of worse things when a Christian school fired a teacher or administrator for inappropriate conduct with students then didn’t make it public or reveal it when that person obtained a similar job with another school. The behavior was repeated causing more suffering and grief. If the Catholic Church would have heeded Paul’s instructions, it wouldn’t be facing the problems with sexual misconduct in its priesthood. The problem doesn’t just exist in the church. We’ve all heard or read about lawyers, doctors, psychologists and other professionals who cover up for each other. How many managers in business are let go because of theft instead of being prosecuted?
Our Responsibility
What should we do when it happens or to prevent leaders from sinning? Paul instructed Timothy to keep his instructions without partiality, favoritism, or prejudice. That is probably the biggest difficulty we have. There is something about leaders that make us want to be on their good side. We want to please them because they are somehow special. You don’t want to cross the boss. Because of our innate ability to excuse the misdeeds of leaders, Paul reminds us that our decisions are done in the presence of God, Jesus, and even angels. At the foot of the cross, we are all the same. We need to be God pleasers instead of people pleasers.
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Rom 12:3 KJV)
This verse works two ways. First we have to make sure that we are thinking about ourselves correctly. That means that we shouldn’t be putting ourselves above others, but when we examine ourselves soberly, we realize that by God’s faith given to us, we aren’t less than the other person is either. I’ve had people tell me that I can’t contradict poor Biblical teaching because the other person is more educated than I am.
It doesn’t matter how educated a person is, if they are wrong, then they are usually more stubbornly wrong when they are more educated. Prov 21:11 says that a wise man gains knowledge when he is instructed. According to Prov 12:1, a person who loves knowledge, such as an educated person, should love discipline. However, those who hate being corrected are stupid.
Hopefully, we will not be intimidated by those who need to be rebuked and will do what is necessary knowing that it is for our good and the good of others.
Why should we take our time in appointing leaders to positions of authority? In this age, it seems like it would be very easy to know what a person is like by looking at their facebook page or following them on twitter. However, these are just surface representations of people. Certainly if a person has been crass on his posts, it would reveal some serious flaws for leadership in the church. However, it takes time and observation to know a person well. I’ve read that many predator types seek jobs in day care facilities, church Sunday school programs. They all seem to be upstanding people until they are caught. Paul is saying that if we are not diligent in examining a person then we are taking part in their sins.
Joshua and the elders of Israel made a treaty with Gibeon who had tricked Israel by pretending they were from a distant country. Joshua 9:14 says that they made the treaty on outward evidence and didn’t seek the counsel of the Lord. This committed Israel to support Gibeon and let them live among them. Both were contrary to God’s command when Israel entered the Promised Land. The key point with Joshua is that even though they thought they were being diligent, they didn’t seek God’s will.
Paul also ties the process of finding a worthy leader to keeping ourselves pure. If we aren’t walking with the Lord, we will probably find someone with the same flaws to lead us.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Tim 4:3-4 KJV )
People tend to flock together with others of like mind. You don’t often find liberals and conservatives in close relationships. People join churches because the preaching suits their preconceived notions of who God is and what He expects. Controlling cults and weird religions promote leaders who are not pure because the congregation is not. If there is purity in the church, then the congregation will take Paul’s warnings seriously and there won’t be a problem.
Honoring a leader when we are not pure is not honor for that leader. Jesus didn’t entrust Himself to the masses of people because He knew what was in them. He knew their motivation wasn’t right. It would not have truly honored Him to let them proclaim Him as Messiah or King (John 2:23-25).
We need to make sure we are walking with the Lord and then we will be able to make sober judgments about how well our leaders are ruling. When they are doing well, we need to let them know and honoring them. If they aren’t then we also need to know how to correct the situation in a godly manner.

[1] WINFIELD, NICOLE. "Pope Francis' Humility: Stops by Hotel to Get Bags." Yahoo! News. Yahoo!, 14 Mar. 2013. Web. 22 Mar. 2013. http://news.yahoo.com/pope-francis-humility-stops-hotel-bags-112502058.html

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