“We’re going to do it anyway.”
That phrase stands pretty strongly to the determination of the person stating it. That phrase was mine and I was around 20 years old. It was a monthly church business meeting (I’m glad I don’t have those anymore!) and I was asked a question about a purchase we wanted to make in the Worship Ministry.
We were working to raise the funds and were well on our way to getting there. The congregation knew we were raising the money (they’d given to it) and we didn’t anticipate someone to simply state “let’s just go ahead and buy it so we’re not having to raise the money”.
When I was asked what I thought about it, I remarked how great it would be to not have to slowly raise the money. “We’re going to do it anyway so now is a lot easier”.
I meant we were fundraising and going to get the money sooner or later so it’d be great to get it immediately. But what people heard was a terse, arrogant statement by a college student. Those words stirred up a little controversy.
And I learned a great lesson about the power of words.
My senior pastor at the time, however, was wisely able to put an end to it. I believe he was putting 2 Timothy 2:14 into practice.
Keep reminding God’s people of these things.2 Timothy 2:14
Warn them before God against quarreling about words;
it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.
New International Version
The first phrase from the Apostle Paul to his protégé Timothy is a direct appeal for Timothy to fulfill his obligation to the people he served in Ephesus. While there are many things Timothy must lead the people to be, Paul is most immediately referring to what he’s been discussing in the preceding verses (certainly 2 Timothy 2:11-13 and perhaps as much as 2 Timothy 2:1-13).
Above all, Timothy was to warn the people in the congregations they are ultimately accountable to God Himself (“warn them before God…”) for their behavior.
The issue at hand was the verbal “hair-splitting” people were doing. As people who read the Bible and seek to live by its commands and principles, we understand the importance of words and the precision needed to properly understand what Scripture is teaching us. While Paul does not expound on what the issue of words is (undoubtedly Timothy was more than aware of what he was referring to), we can conclude two things.
One, it had “no value”. It was useless for the Christians in Ephesus to debate this controversy. False teachers were known to debate the nuances of words and use their wit and intelligence to sway people instead of actually teaching the truth. Debating pointless matters is pointless.
Second, it “only ruins those who listen”. The word Paul uses (in Greek) for “ruins” is the same word we get the English word “catastrophe” from. Listeners to these pointless, word-splitting debates and controversies experience catastrophe. The wisdom of Proverbs comes to mind, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts” (Proverbs 26:22).
Words are powerful and whether it’s pointless arguments or gossip, it ruins the listeners and only serves to make the speaker look powerful.
Are Christians today different from the Ephesian Christians of the first century? Do we debate often pointlessly about things that aren’t clear in Scripture, while unintentionally obscuring what is clear?
While we must work to quiet these pointless debates, the call on us in leadership roles today mirror Timothy’s. We shouldn’t become argumentative ourselves. Our attitude must be different. We are called to be different. We should put out the fire and not add fuel.
It’s no easy feat, but difficulty doesn’t mean we give up on it.
Paul didn’t. Timothy couldn’t. Neither can we.
An unchecked controversy on words can spiral downward to the point where it takes on a life of its own. Our job is to prevent that while not becoming a problem ourselves.