"Who's your favourite?" 1 Timothy 5:21cOct 08, 2023
21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.
One of the things that bothers people the most is favouritism. We have a bias toward fairness. And we have a tendency to look out first for those who are closest to us and most like us.
So we tend to overlook shortcomings in those we want to associate with, and to accept perhaps lower standards from those we want to work with. In fact, we often know the areas that need improvement, but choose to make excuses for them.
It really sounds backwards, doesn't it? We want the best for the people we know and love the most, and yet we may expect the least from them because we like them.
We all know stories of nepotism, where the boss's son or daughter gets the job or the pay cheque or the raise just because of who their parent is. We know how sometimes people get positions because of who they know, and not because of what they can do.
This section of Timothy is about holding those in authority in the church - the leaders, elders, and pastors - to a high standard. Obviously, we want what is best for them, and for the church - the body of Christ. But we also know all too well that the leadership of the church (or any collection of people) are people too - frail, fragile, fallible people, who will sometimes trip. And we want to be loving, we want to be patient, we want to have churches that are filled with joy and peace and sometimes that means that people overlook issues instead of dealing with them. And this is especially the case with those we like.
And Paul says, "Don't do it."
I'm thinking of how Paul describes the church as a body in 1 Corinthians. The body needs arms, legs, noses, eyes, hearts, stomachs, etc. All are important, all are essential for a body to be healthy. And all function differently to provide different things that the body needs to be healthy. When one part is deficient, everything suffers.
Many years ago, I visited my ophthalmologist, and was informed that I had the beginning of cataracts on the lens of my right eye. I was 44. When I asked what was going to happen, I was told that over time, the cataract would ripen, meaning it would get worse and worse, and I would eventually go blind in that eye. I wanted to know how long that would take, and I was told it could be anywhere from 2 to 20 years.
When I got home, I told my wife what I had learned. I said that the last thing I wanted to have happen was that I would slowly go blind over the next 20 years, so I was going to pray that it would get really bad, really fast, so I could get it over with.
I prayed, and it did. In about 9 months, I had implants in both eyes (because the left one developed cataracts as well), and I was able to get on with life.
Being human, there is a tendency to overlook things in ourselves and in others we like that really ought to be dealt with as quickly as possible. The reality is that the sooner we face the music, and do what needs to be done, the healthier the body of Christ is - or the workplace, or the home, for that matter.
Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, "If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell" (Matt. 5:29-30). I don't believe those words from Jesus are to be taken literally, but Jesus sure gets his point across.
If your eyes cause you to stumble. If you see things you want and can't have because they belong to somebody else, and it causes you to not appreciate what you have, or to do something stupid, you're better off not seeing it! If you are attracted by a man or a woman who is not your spouse... If you are fixated on someone else's success, or power, or finances, or resources, and that fixation causes you to envy or covet, your joy, peace, and love would be greater not seeing it.
If your right hand causes you to stumble. Perhaps there are other ways to see this, but to be direct, I believe the main implication here is masturbation. I'm not going to make an argument here other than to say that husbands and wives have a responsibility to the sexual health of their relationship and of one another. Their sexual fulfillment ought to be centered on one another, and not on self pleasure. And yes, that can be really hard to do sometimes.
How did we get here? Oh yes - how we are to deal with leaders who are no longer leading in a Christ-like fashion. If they are causing the church to stumble, it is better to gouge them out or cut them off than to allow them to make the body of Christ sick. Even if they are powerful and influential and popular and related to you - be clear eyed about the damage that is or could be done. Keep the standards high, and together we can be a part of the greatest gift from God that you can imagine - the church!