I am continuing to write through the book of I Timothy and have been dealing with the qualifications of a deacon as detailed in I Timothy 3:8-13. Within the text we discover the deacon’s morals, the deacon’s manifestation, the deacon’s maturity, the deacon’s mate, and the deacon’s ministry. In I Timothy 3:8, we are introduced to the deacon’s morals. While these are specific qualification for the scriptural office of a deacon; they are qualities worthy of all that would seek a place of leadership within the body of Christ. Look with me at “The Marks of Leadership” as seen in the qualifications of a deacon as set forth in the deacon’s morals.
When Paul begins to describe the character of the man that would be suitable to fill the office of deacon, he simply states that the man must “be grave.” Paul is not projecting the modern image of one that is austere; possessing an unbendable spirit. The word means deserving of respect or honorable. It comes from a word that means to revere or adore, devout or religious. One writer points out that it was an adjective that applied to the pagan gods as well as their worshippers who maintained a godly majesty. When used from a biblical perspective it points to that which is ethically worthy of respect, stately or dignified. The man that would assume the stately office of deacon has gained the respect of those within the body. It is a respect that has been generated by his serious-minded approach to the things of God. He is a man that is consciously aware of God; an attitude that manifests itself in character, purpose, and a serious mind. While he knows how to have fun, he doesn’t possess a flippant or caviler attitude toward things of eternal worth. He would follow the example of Philippians 4:8, “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” While this type of spirit is a qualification for leadership, it should be manifested in the lives of all who call themselves Christians!
While some view “not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre” as separate entities, I see them as branches protruding from the trunk of gravity! The life of gravity manifests itself in the fruitful branches anchored in it trunk. The man that is grave is marked by his tongue, “not doubletongued.” The concordance defines “doubletongued” as telling a different story. Some say the literal meaning of the word is divided words. It goes without saying, it is not difficult to respect or give honor to a man that knows how to tell the truth! He knows the harm that can be caused by an unruly tongue; “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:6&8). With respect to truth, he is not doubletongued in his message. The nature of the office means that the deacon serves as a social and spiritual link between the pastor and his people. The man qualified to be a deacon doesn’t tell the people one thing and then tell the pastor something else. Guy King said, “Let us all be careful that people come to know that if we say a thing, we mean it, if we promise a thing we keep it, if we undertake a thing we carry it through.” He is not doubletongued in the meaning. He is alert to the trap of saying what he believes will be agreeable and popular at the expense of tainting or tinting the truth be it ever so slightly. He does not make different representations to different people about the same thing. The reputable man, worthy of the office of deacon is one that gives a clear presentation of the truth with its singular meaning to all that will hear.
The man that is grave is marked by his tastes, “not given to much wine.” Those of a more liberal vein would use this verse to justify the practice of social drinking. It is the mentality of the carnal man to walk as close to the edge of the precipice that divides the state of holiness from the indulgences of worldliness. Our day is marked by an effort to eliminate biblical standards rather than elevate them! The thought that is projected is this man exercises self-control. Lipscomb said that the phrase “not given to” mean not only not paying attention to but not giving assent to. He said, “The use of strong drink is entirely incompatible with a fully developed Christian character.” While others may indulge, this man has chosen to set aside a taste for “spirits” so that he might enhance his taste for the spiritual! His tastes have been governed by the principle of scripture and the projection of sin. The Word of God is clear; “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1). Words of admonishment to Solomon from his mother; “O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted” (Proverbs 31:4-5). If you doubt the destructive force of wine and strong drink take a moment and read of the shame it fostered in the lives on men like Noah (Genesis 9:20-21) and Lot (Genesis 19:33-36). In addition to principle, there is the projection of sin; “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (I Thessalonians 5:22). In order to see the forcefulness of the verse, one need only look closely at the definitions of a few words. “Abstain” means to hold oneself off or refrain. The word “appearance” means a view or form, and the word “evil” means hurtful in effect or influence. For the true child of God that cares anything about their witness and the weakness of a brother; they will refrain from anything that would generate a hurtful influence or effect when viewed by another! Try as you will, you will have a difficult time justifying its use!
The man that is grave is marked by his treasures, “not greedy of filthy lucre.” If one views the origin of the office to be in Acts 6, it quickly becomes apparent that these men will constantly be in touch with wealth and riches as they disperse and monitor the wellbeing of those in need. This being true, it would be imperative for a man that would fill the office be one that has a spiritual perspective toward “true riches.” Speaking to His disciples, Jesus said, “But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you . . . For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:31&34). Because the position is one of trust and confidence, the deacon must be financially content. It would be very easy to use the office for the purpose of physical profit or prideful promotion. Robert Gromacki said that the phrase is made up of two words; “gain” and “shame.” The office was not to be used for shameful gain!
The man that would be fit for the office of deacon is one that has generated the respect of others. They have observed his life in reference to his tongue, his tastes, and his treasures; his life has revealed that he is a man that is mindful of the things of God and doesn’t approach spiritual matters with a light-hearted and flippant attitude. He has displayed the moral character that is necessary to fill a role in leadership.
May each of us aspire to the high standards of God’s Word; acknowledging our areas of weakness endeavoring to elevate our spiritual character making us worthy of leadership within the body.