If you read some of his other letters it might be fairly easy to assume that Paul was only concerned with the spiritual aspects of church life but this chapter would certainly challenge such an assumption. Being church isn’t just about understanding theology and seeking to encounter and live for God there are some very practical aspects to the way in which church life ought to be worked out.
I imagine that Timothy was a very gifted leader who clearly had an ability to preach the gospel well, but here Paul is giving him practical advice on how to look after the people in his church and to build a strong community. As ever Paul doesn’t mince his words. If you’ll forgive my paraphrasing, ‘Don’t tell the older men off, encourage them, treat them as if they were your dad.’ ‘Don’t refer to someone as a widow unless they’re really left on their own.’ ‘If people are capable of working and contributing to the community see that they do that.’ ‘Be careful that you don’t have favourites.’ And so on. It’s all good, practical, sensible stuff that acknowledges that good churches are made of people who need to be guided just as a shepherd must guide his sheep.
So how does this help us? Well, most of us will recognise the place we fit in the life of our church. Some of us are older, some younger, some are married, some are single. Some have children some do not. We should all be contributing to the life of the church as we are able. We should be looking out for one another and we should be working to ensure that we support our leaders and each other effectively. We should be seeking to contribute to church life and we should be working to avoid causing trouble.
Which of Paul’s categories do you most readily identify with? Are you living as his teaching directs? How are you contributing to the life of the church?
Lord God help us all to work together for the glory of Your Kingdom, living in unity, harmony and mutual support. Bless our leaders and help us to support them in all they do. Amen.