Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure. 1 Timothy 5:22 (NIV).
It’s important to remember that Paul says this verse in the context of talking about dealing with elders. Here, he’s advising Timothy to not be too quick to appoint them. After all, these are the people who will manage the affairs of the church proper (in service to the church eternal). Such people should be upright and able to prove their merit for such a position. When Paul talks about the laying on of hands, that’s the thing to which he’s referring. Laying on of hands is an ancient custom signifying God’s blessing being laid upon the recipient. It’s a gesture representing the infusion of the Holy Spirit into a person and the commission of that person for their task in the church. If you attend a pastoral ordination or installation, or the installation of new church officers, in many (maybe most) churches you’ll see laying on of hands.
But there’s a caution here as well. Ephesians 5:11 warns us to “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Those of us in Christ’s church are to be His light in this dark world. We shouldn’t be quick to empower those who aren’t ready for power, but we also shouldn’t be blind as to the effects of darkness in our churches. One way to combat that darkness is personal responsibility. If you think about it, teachers, elders, and ministers can’t do their proper jobs if you and I don’t accept the mantle of personal responsibility. Being Jesus’ light starts with us, me and you, regardless of elders or pastors (who are human like anyone else). Carrying that light means both shining it into the darkness as well as responsible use of it. Sometimes we’re called to help others in dire need; sometimes it’s best to keep away and pray. Both can be ways of shining His light. That’s advice I wish I had heeded so many years ago.
This isn’t one of those “rules full of things Christians can’t do.” It’s a hard truth. It’s a tough piece of keeping it real. There really are things that are bad for us physically and spiritually. We do well to steer clear of them and, where need be, expose them as dangerous so that others can do the same. That isn’t to say we’re supposed to be tattletales or judgmental Pharisees who look down their noses at others. But we are to be judicious, cautious, and mindful when we encounter things that are sinful or even skirt the limits of propriety.
You know, like an elder.
For further reading: Acts 6:6, Ephesians 5:11, Psalm 18:26, 1 Timothy 5:23.
Lord God, I praise You for Your good instructions. I sometimes fail at following them. Thank You for a chance to do better today, and I ask for Your help.