“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
I heard my mother say this a lot when I was a child. Distinctly, I recall her explanation of it to me. Prevention really is the best medicine. Isn’t it so much easier to fix something when it is small than when it’s exploded to mammoth proportions?
The Apostle Paul would agree. In 1 Timothy 1:3-4 he writes under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration:
3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.
1 Timothy 1:3-4
New International Version
The Apostle Paul and his young protégé, Timothy, were together in the city of Ephesus with the congregations there when Paul set sail across the Aegean Sea for Macedonia. Leaving Timothy in charge, this might very well have been the young pastor’s first assignment.
And prevention was the order of the day.
The Ephesian church was slipping into some kind of heresy. We’re not really sure what all the details were, but Paul clearly labels them as “false doctrines…myths and endless genealogies” (verses 3b-4a).
In short, the Christians of Ephesus were taking their eyes off the teachings of Scripture and dabbling with unorthodox theologies and practices that would eventually lead them away from their love of Jesus (cf. Revelation 2:1-7). The experience the Holy Spirit had given Paul in his life helped him predict this would happen and so Timothy was charged to tell them to “cut it out.”
Are churches today immune from the dangers of toying with ideas and doctrines ultimately serving to be their undoing?
Can we get so caught up “promot[ing] controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work…” (verse 4b)?
One way I’ve witnessed churches doing this is making certain tenants of doctrine central to the faith.
For example, Christians agree Jesus is returning. Scripture is remarkably clear on this point. But over the past one hundred years or so, the American Church has argued over when Jesus is returning. And we’ve done so to the point of making what we agree on (His actual return) secondary to when He is returning.
And our controversial speculations have done very little to advance God’s work, but it has given us a lot to write, preach, speak, teach, argue and break fellowship about.
An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.
Imagine how much could be prevented in congregations if we were to stand up and speak life and order into the initial stages of heresy or problems.
The cause of Christ is bigger than controversial speculations, myths, and genealogies.
Let us speak life and grace into the controversies of our life in the church and prevent the mammoth mountain of rancor from overtaking the mission of the church.
Interested in more like this? Consider my book: 31 Days of Spiritual Wisdom: A Month in the Proverbs. Moving through a selection of verses from a chapter of Proverbs for every day of the month, I walk readers through a journey of spiritual formation applicable to everyday life. The goal? Knowing how to apply the wisdom of Scripture so we grow in our faith, become wiser, and show the world the life-changing power of Jesus.