1 Timothy 5:17-18 (NIV) 17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”
On verses 17-18: Here Paul gives instructions on how pastors (also sometimes called “overseers” and “elders” elsewhere in the New Testament) should be treated. He says that those who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those who preach and teach the congregation. What kind of “double honour” did Paul expect the church to give their pastors? Of course part of that “double honour” includes speaking to them with love and respect and treating them well. From verse 18 we learn it also includes making sure that they are financially compensated for their ministry.
To support the notion that pastors should be financially compensated, Paul cites Deuteronomy 25:4. Paul’s reasoning is that if God shows concern for a hard-working ox, a church should show proper concern for their hard working pastors. As further support for the idea that the church should financially support their pastors, Paul cites Jesus’ instruction about workers in Luke 10:7. (By the way, that Paul calls Jesus’ saying here “Scripture” shows that in Paul’s mind Jesus’ words were the equivalent of holy Scripture.)
What can we learn from this? Churches must treat their hard working pastors honourably, including in the way they financially compensate their pastors for their ministry.
1 Timothy 5:19-20 (NIV) 19 Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. 20 Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.
On verses 19-20: Here Paul gives instructions on what to do if a pastor/overseer/elder is accused of wrongdoing. He tells Timothy not to entertain an accusation against a pastor/overseer/elder unless at least two or three witnesses are willing to go on record and make that accusation. If it turns out that the accusation is true, then a form of discipline should be applied so as to prevent the sin from taking place again.
1 Timothy 5:21-22 (NIV) 21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism. 22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.
On verses 21-22: Paul tells Timothy to keep these instructions about how to treat leaders without showing any partiality or favoritism (v21). He also tells Timothy not to be too quick in “the laying on of hands” (v22); in other words, don’t make the mistake of elevating someone too quickly to a senior leadership role. It’s a reminder that we should be careful about whom we elevate to a place of leadership (that includes not just in church but in business and in personal relationships as well). That person may be talented and charismatic, but always remember that character is what makes or breaks a leader. If you don’t know that person’s character well enough, give yourself more time before you elevate that person to a leadership level.
1 Timothy 5:23 (NIV) 23 Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.
On verse 23: Paul cared for Timothy like a loving father cares for his son. Thus in addition to all these instructions on how to take care of the church, here Paul gives Timothy some advice on how to take care of himself personally.
What’s the lesson here? Great leaders don’t just use the people who work for them; they care for them personally as well.
1 Timothy 5:24-25 (NIV) 24 The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. 25 In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden.
On verses 24-25: Some people are great at hiding their flaws, others not so much. Some people’s strengths you can notice immediately, while for other people you might not discover their strengths until much later. In any event, when a person has a major character weakness or a major character strength, that weakness or strength will eventually become clear with time. Like cream poured into a hot cup of coffee or tea, a person’s inner character will eventually rise to the top. Keep this in mind when deciding whether to elevate a person to leadership.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the hard working pastors and leaders You have placed in my church, those whom You have used to lead our church and to preach and teach God’s Word. I pray that I personally and my church as a whole would treat our pastors with great love, honour and respect. Help me also to be wise in how I deal with leaders, including how to choose leaders in my life. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!