“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach … He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. … For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.”(1 Timothy 3:1-2, 6-7, 13)
The older I get, the more impressed I am by how practical the Holy Spirit’s advice is. Here He is speaking through Paul to help the young churches choose good leaders. Some problems are foreseeable, so God tells us how to avoid them. And one of the things He is especially concerned about is the work of the devil, who will certainly do everything He can to bring down the church leader—and the congregation with them.
For example, He says that a leader should not be a recent convert. To be honest, this embarrasses me, for how many congregations have I been in where we are so desperate for people to serve that we grab the first warm body who says yes? But God is right, of course! New Christians need time to grow up in their faith—time to be spiritual children, to make their mistakes in a safe environment, even to learn some things the hard way without being responsible for harming other people as well. The last thing they need is to be tempted to spiritual pride—to fall into the same trap the devil did, thinking that they are much greater than they really are, and relying upon themselves instead of clinging to the Lord with all their strength. When we put spiritual babies into office, we damage both them and the church they serve.
God also says that leaders should have a good reputation in the community. That’s for a very practical reason, too. It’s almost impossible for non-Christians to hear and believe what someone is saying about Jesus when they’re distracted by the bad reputation of that speaker! Sure, they may have had a major change of heart after coming to faith; but if the bad reputation remains, it will be a terrible problem when it comes to evangelism. The devil will use whatever he can to discredit Jesus’ message.
God is practical because He intends to protect us in the real world we live in—to keep us safe and to grow the church so that many more people may come to faith in Jesus. Jesus chose to suffer and die for our sake, so that we would be restored to God as His own beloved children. He rose from the dead to give us everlasting life—forever found, forever safe in God’s kingdom. And now He entrusts us with that message. Better than that, He gives us specific directions on how to avoid obvious problems—because He loves us, and what we do matters.
Prayer: Lord, use us to bring others to You, even when we make mistakes or mess up. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
Originally published in The Lutheran Hour on September 21, 2022
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights reserved
1. Choose one of the other qualifications Paul lists. Why do you think it is so important?
2. What does it say about God that He trusts His work to you?
3. What does it say about you, in His eyes?