“Use your fork.” “Keep your elbows off the table.” “Use a napkin.”
I’m fairly certain I’m not the only one whose parents used these (and hundreds of others!) phrases in trying to teach me how to behave and “mind my manners”, right? We do this to help children know how to act in socialized settings. We don’t want to raise animals, but humans who are effective members of society.
How much more so do we try to impact that which helps them to be disciples of Jesus who passionately follow Him? My parents also told me things like this:
“Be grateful to God.”
“Give God credit”
In many ways, the Apostle Paul was like a spiritual dad to Timothy. Much younger than the aged apostle, Timothy had a big, big task: pastoring the church in Ephesus. He probably wasn’t ready for the job. But the Lord put him there. And Paul was training him.
As we continue moving through 1 Timothy, we read in 1 Timothy 4:11-12
11 Command and teach these things. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
1 Timothy 4:11-12
New International Version
The priorities the seasoned apostle writes to his young protégé, Timothy, in this section (1 Timothy 4:11-16) expands on the previous section. The authorization of verse 11 is clear, profound, and provides the direction for where the Holy Spirit is leading Paul: “command and teach these things”.
As I have contended through this study of 1 Timothy, Paul is attempting to instill leadership behaviors into Timothy. Apparently, they were not natural to young Timothy and Paul is demonstrating the way a leader behaves and how he or she must speak.
Young and timid Timothy needed the force of the word “command” to show him the force of how he was to teach. The Greek word underlying our English translation (of “command”) carries the sense of giving instruction or direction straightforwardly with authority. It is important to note, however, there is nothing but love motivating these behaviors.
Paired with this is the command to Timothy to “teach” the truth of the Scriptures to the Ephesian church(es?). Timothy was to transmit the message he has received to those under his care. Again, love is the motivating factor for these leadership behaviors.
Oftentimes when I’ve heard 1 Timothy 4:12, it’s been directed to teenagers. And usually, I’ve only heard the first part used: “don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young”. While that application is not wrong, there is more happening.
And tied into verse 11 and this section (spanning across verse 16), the key is found in the back part of verse 12: “but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” Just as Paul operated as a leader, he instructs Timothy to model what a Christian is striving towards (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:1).
Leaders in the Lord’s church—and any place Christians lead—model what Jesus is doing in us. We don’t get the excuse of saying, “don’t look at me; look at Jesus.”
And as we lead the mentees in our lives, we must be able to encourage them to set an example for the world. And you know what that means? We must be an example to them.
Encourage the “Timothys” in your life today; be someone’s “Paul”. Command them to hold tightly the truth of God’s Word and to be a shining star of an example to other Christians and a world measuring Jesus by our lives.
And, by the way, sit up straight.
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Interested in more like this? Consider Joel’s 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, Joel walks 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.
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