Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 18 September 2018

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. 1 Timothy 1:3-4 (NIV).

We love pedigrees, credentials.   We love having people go ‘into the family business’ as if that somehow confers special blessing or knowledge on them.   How many politicians, general officers, pastors, celebrities, CEOs, and high-ranking officials in society are children of the same?   You could drive yourself to frustrated distraction simply naming all of them.

That’s the point, you know:   frustrated distraction.

Frustrated distraction and false doctrine:   WE KNOW BEST.   The Baptists say that (and mean it) but so do the Catholics, and the Lutherans, and the dozen or so other reformed denominations, and the atheists think we’re all messed up.  But we’re each guilty of it.  “I know better than you.”   Throw “because the Bible says” and you’ll either look educated or immensely stupid (maybe even like a total jerk).   Some folks thrive on doctrine, on insisting they know better than anyone else.   More than once I’ve been accused of being a know-it-all and, to be fair, the accusers sometimes have good points.   I’m sure I’m not the only one.   In fact, turn on any of the political talk commentary shows on cable TV and you’ll see a ton of people convinced they’re all correct.

More than a few are false doctrines there, at least as far as I understand them.  And all of them are frustrating distractions.

The ancient Jews believed in citing genealogies and pedigrees.   God had proclaimed that the Levites would be His priesthood, and the Jews of Bible times took that seriously.  The Gnostics of the first century took this further, believing in a New Age system that mashed Judaism, philosophy and nascent Christianity together into a self-focused belief based on who you were rather than God.   Paul saw that and cautioned his pastoral apprentice to steer clear of these things.  Further, he advised Timothy to teach others to do the same.

Yet what has changed?   Aren’t we still tangled up in the knot of “who are your people” over “who does God say you are?”   A Harvard degree carries bigger vocational clout than one from the University of Phoenix yet graduates of either may have the exact same degree.   It’s nice if your dad, grandfather and great-grandfather were all in the same ministry business but, to be frank, so what?  Oscars mean more than simply great movies.   Nothing new here.

What matters is what God says about us, not what we say about each other.   Credentials and pedigrees can be great things but they can also lead to frustrated distraction.

For further reading:  Acts 16:9, Titus 1:14, Titus 3:9, 1 Timothy 1:5

Lord, help me to focus ONLY on what You say to me and about me.