A Worthy Aspiration.
1 Timothy 3:1-13
This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.” – 1 Timothy 3:1 NLT
All men aspire to something. They each have goals and ambitions for which they dedicate their time, talents, and energies. For some men, having a successful career is their greatest ambition and it impacts their entire lives, as they spend every waking moment attempting to make it happen. A few men have legitimate and realistic aspirations for making a name for themselves in the competitive world of sports. Then there are those who simply aspire to be good employees, fathers, husbands, friends and members of the community. But Paul would give us a different aspiration. He would encourage us to aspire to something of a slightly higher nature. It is a job with few perks, a lot of responsibilities, high expectations, no income, a certain degree of anonymity, and some pretty lofty hiring guidelines.
The job Paul would have us consider is that of an elder in the local church. He states, ‘If someone aspires to be an elder,he desires an honorable position.” The word he uses that is translated “aspires” is the Greek word, oregō which means “to stretch one’s self out in order to touch or to grasp something, to reach after or desire something.” But it had another meaning as well: “to give one’s self up to the love of money.” In fact, Paul uses this secondary meaning in chapter 6 when talking about the love of money. “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10 NLT). It’s interesting that one of the qualifications or characteristics that Paul gives for an elder is that he must not love money, because money will become his aspiration.
Instead, Paul tells Timothy that it is a good thing to aspire to be an elder. But it would seem that Paul’s emphasis is less on the idea of a position or job, than on the qualities of the kind of man who would be recognized to fill it. Paul does not go into great detail on the job description of an elder. Instead. he points out the character requirements necessary to be considered as an elder. And I would argue that these qualities should be the aspiration of every God-fearing, Christ-following man in the church today. The Greek word Paul uses is episkopē and it means “overseer.” Paul seems to use it almost synonymously with another Greek word, presbuteros, which typically gets translated “elder.” Both words convey the idea of someone who has authority for and responsibility over the spiritual well-being of the flock of God. In the book of Acts, we have recorded a meeting between Paul and the elders from the church in Ephesus where he warned them, “So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock–his church, purchased with his own blood – over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders” (Acts 20:28 NLT). Elders had a high calling and a lofty responsibility to guard both themselves and the people of God. Therefore, they had to be godly men of strong character and impeccable morals. They didn’t have to be perfect, but they did have to strive to be blameless and above reproach in every area of their lives. It is interesting that the characteristics that Paul lists cover just about every area of a man’s life. An elder had to be a man with no compartmentalization in his life – no hidden or secret areas. His home life was just as important as his church life. Every one of the things that Paul lists would have been easy to assess and ascertain – by just about anyone in the church. The qualities Paul lays out are visible or external, open for anyone and everyone to see and evaluate. But they reflect an inner character that flows out into every area of life. The kind of men who were to be considered as elders were men whose hearts had been are were continuing to be transformed by God. They were men who were living under the control of and in the power provided by the Holy Spirit.
But shouldn’t the qualities and characteristics Paul outlines be the aspiration of every man? Why wouldn’t every man of God aspire to live the kind of life Paul describes, whether he ever gets appointed as an elder or not? The church needs men who are above reproach, faithful to their wives, self-controlled, wise, with good reputations, hospitable, moderate in all things, gentle in spirit, the spiritual leaders in their homes, and respected in their communities. The local church should be filled to the brim with men who are viable candidates for eldership. Remember, Paul told Timothy that if a man aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position. To aspire is “to stretch one’s self out in order to touch or to grasp something, to reach after or desire something.” What we should desire as men is not the role or responsibility, but the character of an elder. The position is honorable because the men who occupy it are honorable. Their character is Christ-like and holy. They are not perfect, but they are men who are willingly and regularly being perfected by God. The church needs more men like that today.
Father, some of us aspire for a position more than we do the character required to qualify for that position. We want to be recognized as something and fail to realize that our character is what qualifies us for that for which we aspire. You desire all men to aspire to live their lives in such as way that they naturally qualify to be elders in the local church. Raise us a generation of men whose lives qualify them to shepherd Your flock. We need shepherds today. We need men who, like David, are men after Your own heart, who love Your sheep just as much as You do. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men