Read 1 Timothy 3:8-13.As Paul refers here to deacons (3:8-10,12-13) and deaconesses (3:11), he prefixes his comments on both with the words “in the same way” (3:8,11). “In the same way” as what? “In the same way that overseerers (vs.1-7) have “a noble task.” (3:1) and are to be selected chiefly on the basis of their character.
This vital concern for character is all to often lost in the shuffle of the process of consideration of such people. How is it the most important concern can be lost from sight? Often it is because we become preoccupied with all the details of the passage, compartmentalizing them and reading them apart from the whole of the text. But Paul never intended the matters he enumerated for elders (3:1-7) or deacons and deaconesses (3:8-12) to become detailed checklists of strict qualifications. A brief pause, a re-reading of the word and common sense will remind us of the truth of that statement. After Paul, can we even imagine Paul saying that overseerers must have “a good reputation with outsiders” (3:7), but deacons or deaconesses don’t? Can we in our wildest dreams picture Paul as teaching that deacons “must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience” (3:9), but elders don’t?
No, what Paul writes in this passage is not so much a set of qualifications (i.e. – a checklist of specific details, all of which must be met ), so much as a set of guidelines (i.e. – something that gives us an idea of the concept sought). Overseers, deacons and deaconesses after the same thing “in the same way” – a godly character. It’s about character, not skills. Their task is unlike others tasks – it is a noble task.
Paul is saying quite emphatically with this listing that God’s church is best served by people of godly character with average skills than by people with great skills, but who have no depth of godly character. The church must always choose, if it chooses wisely, character over abilities. After all, the church is most certainly not a business, but even if we insist on comparing it to such, we must remember it is unlike any other business on earth for it is God’s business. What God wills, and enables, his church to accomplish he will provide and what he wants to accomplish cannot be manufactured even by the best of all human skills combined. The church is a noble thing, demanding people of noble character who never forget that the task is noble, not merely human. Better a few godly men and women who serve wholeheartedly with sincerity, humility, prayer and an eye on God than with the flashiest, fanciest skill sets on the planet.
Heavenly Father, in Jesus’ name help your church not to be seduced by the siren song of the world in which it lives. Whiles the world banks on and worships unusual skills, finely-honed abilities and terrific talent, may your people, ever and always, worship you with their ceaseless, humble work from a genuine and godly heart. Amen.