Reading the Bible Day 331
Hello friends! Thanks for a great day of reading the Bible live as a group last night. You all had wonderful insight, questions, and challenges to the reading. That's what this is all about! Today we conclude our study of 1 Timothy by looking at chapter 5 - 6. 1 Timothy starts off with leaving a bad taste in nearly everyones mouth but I think it ends in a way that we can all agree on. Paul tells Timothy to teach people "right actions" rather than "right beliefs" in this section. Of course, teaching and correct beliefs are important to Paul, this entire letter is about that, but he suggests here in this section that right beliefs will naturally come out of right actions. Do you agree with this or see it as the other way? I'll discuss this more in the questions to consider section. For now, let's read!
Scripture to Read
Questions to Consider
What does this reveal to me about Paul and what he considered most important at the time of this writing?
Do you believe it's more important that a church "lives out the faith" in action or get's their teachings right? ("Right" is subjective of course, but I'm thinking teachings being correct meaning what the majority of religious scholars agree on)
Paul argues that widows, orphans, strangers, and the poor should receive special attention. Do you agree with this? Why or why not? If no, who would you exclude or include from the list? Do you think our governmental structures support this? Do churches?
- Commentary -
We're still in theme of what a "well-ordered" congregation looks like according to Paul but there are two areas of focus that are narrowed down in for chapter 5 and the beginning of chapter 6 - how the church should treat its more vulnerable and needy members and how disciple should be handled.
Chapter 5 opens with "do not speak harshly against an older man" and then goes on a poetic rant about how we should treat men and women as fathers/mothers and sisters/brothers. Therefore, we can assume that the church was struggling with giving elders respect in their communities. Elders, especially in days before scientific discovery were the most venerated members of society because they were fonts of knowledge and experiences. It's a shame that in many cultures (Eastern Asia as a major exception) views the elderly with negative lights. For example, our culture whose god is productivity views the elderly as too slow moving or too unwilling to learn or adapt to the ever changing culture and thus often pushes them out of places of work or leaves them behind. Nursing homes are a convenient yet expensive way for families to leave their loved ones in good hands without the burden of them living with them. But something to consider in the day of information is whether wisdom is equal to knowledge and whether knowledge is equal to information? In other words, just because we have the entire worlds information at our hands are we necessarily wise? Elderly may not "know" the latest trends but they sure are wise. Paul's words here are a challenge not only to churches to have a strong home bound mission team (which we do and I'm so proud of it!) but to our greater governmental systems to provide better elder care especially as the baby boomer generation begins to enter the elder stage of life. (My dad is one I'm allowed to say that, ha!)
Further, the second section of this text writes about threats against good discipline. Paul frequently writes about correct beliefs (which is fair he was the chief theologian for these new churches he started) but this letter isn't about beliefs, it's about actions and behaviors. Paul writes a warning to the church saying bad character will lead to bad Christianity and they need to get back to the basics. The threats to Christian character according to Paul include malicious gossip (5:13) false accusation (5:19) as well as accusations all too justified because of too hasty decisions (5:22) (ie cancel culture), and irresponsible behavior (5:24). Therefore, according to Paul, good behavior will grow out of proper respect shown to others (5:1-2; 6:1-2), will thrive in a context where due responsibility is recognized (5:4, 8,16) and undisciplined or unsocial behavior is clearly criticized and held accountable (5:6, 13,24) and will be exercised by ignoring unsupported accusations (5:19) and by maintaining strict impartiality overall (5:21) (ouch Paul feeling a little called out here). There is much for any church leadership to meditate on here.
Finally, a word about the slaves being told to honor their masters. We must remember that this was written at a time where slavery was not a moral issue (was not highlighted until the slave trade) and thus we shouldn't have some awkward feelings of regret or embarrassment when reading this text. Slaves in the context of the gentile communities in which they belonged were the lowest tier of the economic ladder but it was not forced. In many ways it was similar to servitude to pay off a debt. While we cannot correlate the extreme impoverished to slavery it's a decent comparison for our interpretation today. What Paul is writing here is that anyone that owes a debt to anyone should should carry out their obligation with goodwill and sincere dedication, as though to the master in heaven. Do with that what you will, haha.
Praying the Hymns
Our prayer for today is inspired by hymn 331 in our United Methodist Hymnal - Holy Spirit, Come, Confirm Us. I invite you to end this study with a time of meditation on this hymn.
I love that this version includes sign language so that truly we all can participate in praise! Super cool.
1 Holy Spirit, come, confirm us in the truth that Christ makes known; We have faith and understanding through your helping gifts alone.
2 Holy Spirit, come, console us, come as advocate to plead; Loving Spirit stand beside us, grant in Christ the help we need.
3 Holy Spirit, come, renew us, come yourself to make us live; Make us holy through your presence, holy through the gifts you give.
4 Holy Spirit, come, fulfill us, you the love of Three in One; Bring our lives to full completion through your work in us begun.