Answering Questions About Our Leaders
1 Timothy 5:17-21
I am thankful for Jerry and the wonderful sermon he brought to this church last week while we were out of town. It’s always a blessing to know when I’m not here that we have excellent men to stand before you and talk about what God has placed on their hearts. I told him that we were talking about the Eldership and asked him to continue that thought. I appreciate the sermon he delivered on our responsibility to their shepherds.
Today I want to address some of the questions that I have been asked about the Eldership. While we have spent a considerable amount of time in our Bible classes talking about the characteristics of the men who will serve us in this capacity, there are still some questions that we have not covered yet. I want us to close our series on the eldership by looking at these questions. So, look with me at our text for this morning in 1 Timothy 5:17-21, that’s where we will find the questions and the answers.
The first question we need to deal with this morning has to do with Double Honor. Actually the question was, Should the church pay an Elder for being an Elder?
My short answer is yes and no; but I need to unwrap that a little bit more I’m sure.
Honor is a tricky thing, I mean we know what honor is but often it’s pretty abstract. We talk about honor, meaning respect, but it has to be deeper. There is more to honoring someone than being polite and respectful. It is a way of behaving, a way of giving preference. When we give our Elders honor we do exactly what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 where he writes Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.
On Monday of this past week two I-beams were set in place at the new One World Trade Center. For many of us this is news didn’t cause a stir in our conscience, but for those living in New York, it was a day of celebration. You see those two I-beams established this new building as New York City's tallest skyscraper. And while the completion of the building is still over a year away, it was a day that rekindled thoughts and memories of the tragedy of 9-11.
Inside the skeleton of this building, there were celebrations and memorials held for the men and women who risked their lives and those who lost their lives. People wrote the names of friends and family members on the exposed beams, that will serve as a silent unnoticed memorial. One man talked about what it meant to write the name of his brother in law, a firefighter, who lost his life racing into the Twin Towers back on 9/11, on the exposed beam. He said “No one else may ever know it’s here, but we will and we needed to do something to honor a great man who gave his life to save the lives of others.”
An attitude of honor is what those men and women had Monday on the top of that skyscraper. They were remembering with fondness the contributions that these fallen men and women had made in their lives. They also realized that there was an empty space that could not be filled now that they were gone.
But the problem they had, and continue to have is that they know there is no way to adequately honor the fallen now that they are gone. All too often we wait to honor those we love and those who have made an impact on our lives after they are gone.
Paul doesn’t want us to fall into that trap. He reminds us to give our elders the honor that they deserve because of the difficult work they are doing in our lives. Paul says that they lead us and go before us; they wouldn't send us to a place they are not willing to take our hand and go with us. That they teach us how to live a life of Godliness through their words and examples, and that they even admonish or correct us when we need to be reminded of the high calling we have received.
We need to honor our Elders on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. We need to honor them with our prayers, or words of encouragement, and cards of thanks. We hold them in the highest regards in love, because of their work.
Paul goes a little farther here and says that our shepherds are worthy of double honor, which is financial support. Paul quotes from two passages; Verse 18 is a quote from Moses found in Deuteronomy 25:4, “For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain". The principle here was that when the farmer brought his oxen onto the threshing floor to separate the wheat from the chaff they could not muzzle the ox. Instead they were to allow the ox to eat some of the wheat as he works.
Then Paul quotes Jesus from Luke 10:7 when he says, "The laborer is worthy of his wages." Paul uses an Old Testament and a New Testament quote to set a principle that a Shepherd can be honored with words and financial support.
But he qualifies that statement a little, he says those worthy of double honor are those who labor in preaching and teaching. Now here I want you to remember our Second Rule of preaching, this is my opinion and if you disagree with me just throw this away. It is my belief that some men who serve as elders, should stay in the job field that they have and not burden the church. For example, I believe it would be a bit ridiculous for us to ask Chuck to sell his accounting firm and allow us to pay him to do the work of a shepherd. Over the past 10 years Chuck has shown the ability to run a business and be about the business of a shepherd.
But I have been a part of a congregation that had a paid Shepherd on staff. In this Church a man was asked to be an elder and a year later he retired from his profession. He decided that he was going to spend his free time doing the work of the church. So he set up an office at the building and spent his time encouraging the staff, visiting the hospitals, and shut in’s. He began to teach a class for our retired men, and became the regular teacher of the auditorium class. After a year of his new work, the church decided to honor him, by paying him a small salary. We had 3 other Elders, but we only had one paid shepherd.
The church honored all four of our shepherds, but only only the one who labored in preaching and teaching received double honor. That’s why I would answer the question should we pay our Elders with a yes and a no. I believe that in the same way that the oxen has the right to benefit from his labor, our Shepherds who work at leading and teaching in the church should be given the financial support of the church.
The second question we need to deal with this morning has to do with Disciplining and Rebuking an Elder.
Paul addresses two different issues here. First he discusses the fact that the congregation must protect her leaders. In verse 19 he says, Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.
Protecting our elders goes along with the idea of honoring them. I don’t want us to be ignorant here, there are people who will take out their frustrations and anger on the shepherds. I was told once that people always attack their leaders. In my experience, that’s been true.
Add to that fact that there are some people that are just mean. I would imagine that in your life time you have known someone who was pretty malicious and hateful. Something happened somewhere in their lives that have made them bitter and the only joy they have is making other people miserable.
A third problem comes from the fact that we are looking for men who will be responsible for our souls. Last week Jerry gave you the acronym POS. Do you remember what that stands for? Plain Old Sinners and sometimes sinners act like sinners. We are asking these men to make judgements about our spiritual wellbeing. We are telling them if we are not walking like Christ, we want them to come and talk with us about it. Now think for a moment, how well do you do with criticism? How do you respond when someone tells you that they don’t believe that you are as perfect as you think you are?
I have met very few people that deal well with criticism, and a whole bunch of folks who don’t deal well with it at all. Those who handle it poorly usually do one of two things; they sulk or they lash out. So when an elder confronts someone about their sins, there is the possibility that someone will lash out in anger. And in that anger there is a possibility that someone will make false accusations.
Has anyone ever made a false accusation about you?? Before Trista and I got married someone made a false accusation about me. I was working with a congregation as a youth minister and we had taken our teens to the Lads to Leaders convention in Nashville. On the way home, we were all piling into the vans and there was a young person who was number 16 in a 15 passenger van. I told the teen that they could not ride in my van, they had to go somewhere else. They objected and said all of their friends were in my van, and in my most compassionate voice said, “Tuff, get on another van.”
I thought it was over, but apparently this teen when home and told their mom that I was mean, and ugly, and a horrible person. That parent when to the elders and told them that I was having an affair with a teenage girl in our youth group. I mean why else would I let that girl ride in my van and not her child? The accusation was totally false, I denied it, the young girl denied it, and no one could tell of a time that I was ever alone with any of the girls in the youth group. But the accusation was made, and at the end of the day it cost me my job.
False accusations very often carry the same weight as the truth. That’s why we must be careful; there are people who get angry with their leaders and think they have the right to strike out at them and say whatever they want to say. That’s why Paul warns in verse 19, Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.
Paul is providing this protection. This means: don’t listen to baseless charges, and don’t automatically accept an accusation made against an elder as truth. The rumor mill is not just at the old country store or the back fence anymore, all too often it’s in the church. Good people have been ruined by unfounded accusations, and we cannot allow this to happen in the church and especially with our elders.
Jesus says in Matthew 12:36, But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. We must be very careful to guard what we say, because even if those words come back empty here, we will be held accountable for them on the day of judgement.
We also notice that Solomon writes in Proverbs 17:9: He who covers over an offense promotes love. We need to work and make decisions based on facts, evidence and witnesses, not rumors.
I want you to understand that Paul is not saying that an Elder is immune to accusations; what he is saying is that an accusation must be made on the basis of 2 or 3 witnesses. This goes back to an Old Testament principal in Deuteronomy 19:15-20 when God says, One witness is not enough to accuse a person of a crime or sin. A case must be proved by two or three witnesses. If a witness lies and accuses a person of a crime, the two people who are arguing must stand in the presence of the Lord before the priests and judges who are on duty. The judges must check the matter carefully. The witness who is a liar, lying about a fellow Israelite, must be punished. He must be punished in the same way the other person would have been punished. You must get rid of the evil among you. The rest of the people will hear about this and be afraid, and no one among you will ever do such an evil thing again.
While one person may strike out in anger and make a false accusation, it is much less likely that two or three people will make the same accusation.
The second issue Paul addresses here is found in verse 20 where Paul accepts the fact that there may be a time when a Shepherd is guilty of sin. Paul understood that Shepherds are not perfect. As a matter of fact they are plain old sinners just like we are. Paul says that if an elder is found guilty of a sin then he is to be publicly rebuked, his sin must be publicly exposed and rebuked.
Now we need to understand that the sin Paul is talking about here is serious and real. We are not talking about some minor shortcoming which everyone has. And we are not talking about how you felt slighted because the elder didn’t shake your hand in the foyer, or he didn’t come to your birthday party. I’ll readily admit that I have slighted people, not out of malice but out of ignorance. I just didn’t think far enough away from my own face to realize what was going on.
Paul is talking here about sins that would disqualify the elder from the characteristics he mentioned earlier in this letter. If an elder must be faithful to his wife to qualify as an elder, then unfaithfulness to his wife would qualify for public rebuke. If an elder is to be "not given to drunkenness", then drunkenness would qualify for public rebuke. Other sins qualifying for public rebuke would be violence, out of control anger, greed, false teaching, or lording over the flock.
Witnesses are required to verify the truth of the charges and a public rebuke is demanded. We must be ever so careful that our lives do not lead people astray or give unbelievers the ability to mock God or the church. And this is especially true of our shepherds. If our community sees that we take sin seriously, then it means that we practice what we preach.
Close in Prayer
Questions For You To Consider
Questions From Class
Why is the requirement that an Elder have a good reputation a bit unusual?
In a society where it is harder to know each other, how can we know if someone has a good reputation?
Is it easier to know if someone has a good or bad reputation?
Read 2 Peter 2:10, How does this text describe a self willed person?
How can elders disagree and still have unity?
Describe someone who is a lover of good?
Questions From the Sermon
What is your opinion on giving an shepherd double honor?
How can we honor our shepherds on a daily basis?
Have you ever been falsely accused?
Why must we protect our Shepherds?
How would we make an accusation against an Shepherd?