In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 3:8-13 (NIV).
Here we go again. It’s more of Paul’s ancient, woman-hating, busy-body commands on how we are to be judgy and overbearing and set up a bunch of rules to follow. I mean, it’s almost like he’s that “television preacher with bad hair and dimples” (as Jimmy Buffett would say) telling us that we are DAMNED, DAMNED I TELL YOU if we don’t toe the line just the way he says.
Keep a few things in mind. One, Paul is giving direction and advice to a student minister who is dealing with a contentious congregation. Many scholars think that, in Paul’s pastoral letters (like 1 Timothy) he was writing to Timothy about how to manage difficult people. That Timothy was in a situation where the congregation with whom he was working was, in fact, fractured and struggling. Paul advises order and how to restore it.
Another thing to remember is that Paul has a point. Deacons – church leaders a step below elders – should indeed be upright citizens within the church. They should be the kind of people we mentor and shape into elder roles. They should be the kind of people we want to work with to get things done. Yes, that goes for the women in the deacon role as well. We want church members to be the kind of people who are upstanding in the community in any capacity. Their good behavior reflects well on the faith.
Finally, it’s good advice in and out of church. Paul is giving good advice on how to organize our faith lives in ways that impact how we organize our entire lives. When I staff a project, I look for elder kind of people as leaders and deacon kind of people as individual contributors. I want women and men working with me who are upright and reliable, because you can count on upright and reliable people in a fight. There will be problems; there will be issues. People of good standing are the kind of people you can usually count on to help work a problem instead of running from it.
For further reading: Timothy 3:14
Lord, help me to better become someone in good standing in Your eyes and in the eyes of my brothers & sisters. Help me to live and act in upright ways.