Studies in 1 Timothy – part 13

1 Timothy 5:17-19

Last article we addressed the subject of those elders who rule and teach well being worthy of double honor. But what about the rest of the elders? The danger in writing an article like the previous one is that some elders might feel diminished, because of the “double honor” given to another. Another concern is that such teaching might somehow lessen the role and authority of the plurality of elders and give rise to a pastor-primacy model of leadership.

It is important to keep in mind that as Paul addresses Timothy, there is a certain level of spiritual maturity implicitly assumed; Timothy was no novice in ministry and leadership. In similar fashion, that is what we in Elders’ ShopNotes assume concerning our readership. The whole counsel of God comes into play, even if it is not directly stated in every article—all our teaching through ESN should be understood in the context of the clear New Testament teaching on church leadership, namely, an elder-form of church government, with no one man having authority over all other elders.

Having shown in the previous article that some elders are worthy of “double honor,” the question arises, “What about those elders, while not ’worthy’ of ‘double honor,’ are nonetheless working hard and doing well as elders?” If some are to receive “double” honor, are some then to receive “single” honor? Here are a few thoughts on this subject:

Elders should be appreciated.

“But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction” (1 Thess 5:12 NASB). Many elders put in a full day’s work in secular employment (as the vast majority of our readers do) and then put in hours of shepherding the flock, preparing for messages, meetings, etc. To be sure, you all (the elders among our readers) should be greatly honored for your sacrificial labor for the body of Christ.

Commitment levels vary

Not everyone is at the same place in their life situationand spiritual walk, so not everyone can commit to the same level. Some sacrifice more for the work of eldering than others. There simply is nothing in Scripture that leads us to expect that all elders should receive the same amount of honor, regardless of their level of service. Even apart from the concern of financial support raised in the last issue, honor in any form will not be distributed equally. There is nothing bad about this.

Our motivation should be to act honorably.

Regardless of whether we are honored here on earth for our work as elders, we should nonetheless “have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things” (Heb 13:18). Like Aaron the priest, we cannot grab honor to ourselves (Heb 5:4)—that is not befitting a believer-priest of God (as all Christians are), nor is it befitting the character of an elder who is simply a “steward of God” (Titus 1:7 and not to be “fond of sordid gain” (Titus 1:7) of any sort. We are not to even have a hint of the Diotrephes syndrome (“who loved to be first” 3 John 9) which so easily surfaces when someone else is honored above ourselves. Any honor we seek out for ourselves, which we manipulate or orchestrate for ourselves will be hollow. Honor is something that is ultimately bestowed by God, and He may or may not use humans as His channel for honoring you. Further, envying another’s honor may be evidence of our own liability to the syndrome—certainly not qualify as “conduct(ing) ourselves honorably.”

There is a myth that only a limited amount of honor exists to go around.

Do I feel that when someone else is honored, there will somehow be less honor for me? While most of us will deny that we feel this way, could it be one of the things that keeps us from honoring each other? Again, one of the ways the Diotrephes syndrome manifests itself is found in our resistance when a fellow elder is honored for his sacrificial labors when we are not.  Maybe it is when people speak highly of him, or commenting on his sacrifice or the astuteness of his preaching ministry. Can we bring ourselves to join in the honoring of him, and set aside our own desire for honor? This is exacerbated when we feel that our own work is not sufficiently recognized by others. The reality is there is no amount of human praise and honor that sufficiently compensates a hard working elder here on earth. Yet, most of us probably wish we had just a little more, and it is hard when someone else is honored and we are not.

Our true honoring will come from the Chief Shepherd.

We need to remember what Peter said toward the end of his life to his fellow elders, “When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:1-2). It goes without saying, that our desire is not for earthly glory or honor, but for the glory and honor that comes when our Lord says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” So we need to set aside judging others for the honor they receive here on earth but rather praise God for their good work and join in the honoring of them. We will get our due reward from the Lord—He will determine if we are worthy of it. May we, therefore, “humble [ourselves] under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt [us] in the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6).

Application

Some think that any honor given or received here on earth takes away from a person’s reward in heaven. If that were the case, then why would the Scripture say to honor others? In fact, it teaches that we should do so.

The irony is that it is rather self-serving for the elders to teach this to the congregation to honor the elders, just like it is for a teacher to strongly teach on Gal 6:6. So who will teach the congregation to do this?

The answer is found in the elders’ behavior toward each other—do the believers see the elders honoring each other? Here  is what one local church did. One elder recognized that two of the other elders were quite adept at teaching the Word. So he rallied the congregation to contribute to a fund to help build up the individual libraries of both elders. As you know, books and resources can be quite expensive. With the money collected they were able to purchase study and reference  books along with a bible-software program for the two eldersOn a particular Sunday, a presentation was made to publicly express that honor, with a short explanation of relevant biblical teaching and present them with the resources.

Other ways to honor the other elders include : comment to them on something you learned from their teaching, verbalize your appreciation of their gift strengths, show interest in their ministries, pray for them (and then tell them that you are doing so), give them a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant or coffee shop, send a birthday card. When someone criticizes them–defend their character.

Yes, there is enough honor to go around—if we all are willing to give it away freely. God just may be waiting for you and me to be His channel for honoring someone else.