elders: a closer look at their qualifications (4)

 

Are they giving and generous? Such a question must be asked of potential eldership candidates.

“… they should be … not greedy [aischrokerdes].” (1 Timothy 3.3 CEB)

“… supervisors should be without fault as God’s managers: they shouldn’t be … greedy [aischrokerdes].” (Titus 1.7 CEB)

To be sure, Timothy and Titus would have heard these directives with what they surely often had in mind when Paul wrote them: their opponents. Paul’s description of their opponents is scathing:

“They think that godliness is a way to make money! … But people who are trying to get rich fall into temptation. They are trapped by many stupid and harmful passions that plunge people into ruin and destruction. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some have wandered away from the faith and have impaled themselves with a lot of pain because they made money their goal.” (1 Timothy 6.5b,9-10 CEB)

“They teach what they shouldn’t to make money dishonestly.” (Titus 1.11 CEB)

Timothy and Titus’s opponents clearly had money, not ministry, as their reason for being and so, not surprisingly, also mismanaged their ill-gotten gain, resulting in their ever increasing spiral of destructiveness and self-destruction. They were the exact opposite of generous and giving, and so, were to be avoided.

Now just those who were to serve as elders in the churches with which Timothy and Titus ministered were not to be in it for the money the same must be true today. It must be asked of potential elders as to whether or not they: (a) are without fault as managers of what God has already given them and (b) if they are known to be greedy for, or with, anything.

These are questions that should be asked not only of those who could enter a church’s eldership, but a word existing elders should regularly ask of themselves, lest they become deceived into thinking they are immune to these temptations. Elders must resist serving with money for themselves as their motivation and must not be greedy for the power that comes from having control over money others have given.

“Don’t shepherd greedily [aischrokerdos], but do it eagerly.” (1 Peter 5.2b CEB)

Along a similar line, a church should ask itself: (c) does this potential elder candidate show hospitality?

We mustn’t forget that all Christians should be hospitable (philoxenos):

“Above all, show sincere love to each other, because love brings about the forgiveness of many sins. Open your homes [philoxenos] to each other without complaining. And serve each other according to the gift each person has received, as good managers of God’s diverse gifts.” (1 Peter 4.8-10 CEB)

And so, of course, an elder supervising a flock of Christians must be hospitable, an example to the flock of what it means to be such:

“… the church’s supervisor … should show hospitality [philoxenos] …” (1 Timothy 3.2 CEB)

“… they should show hospitality [philoxenos] …” (Titus 1.8 CEB)

But, what exactly did it mean to be hospitable in Paul’s time? What did being hospitable entail? Ben Witherington explains:

“… In Titus 1.8 there is the strong call for the elder to be a practitioner of good hospitality (literally a love of strangers/foreigners) … Part of this has to do with providing a rest stop with food and sleeping accommodations for traveling missionaries (1 Tim. 5.10). The inns of the Greco-Roman world were notoriously unhealthy and dangerous places to stay, especially if one was not prepared to blend in with the prevailing ribald behavior that went on in such places. Hospitality thus became a crucial means of helping the Word spread and be able to travel through regions of the Roman Empire without damage to or loss pf the messengers or to the message … Here in Titus, however, it would appear that Paul also has in mind the hospitality offered to fellow Christians who met in the elder’s or congregational patron’s house.

“We see the social networks being built and the role that hospitality for traveling missionaries plays in Titus 3.12-15. Hospitality did comport with those that the general society esteemed, and the practice of it gave Christians an opportunity to be welcoming to non-Christians and so show themselves not ‘enemies of society’ or haters of all things Greco-Roman. …

“Especially for an evangelistic religion that did not wish to be an exclusionary sect, but rather an inclusive one, the practice of this virtue was paramount.” (Letters & Homilies for Hellenized Christians, 1:115-116)

The early church, not having church buildings as we know them today, typically met in people’s homes. Such was the norm for the first three centuries of the church’s existence. Those who would serve as a church’s elders were often the same people who opened their homes for the church’s gatherings.

“He must be ‘hospitable’ (1 Tim. 3.2; Titus 1.8) because he hosted the church in his home for its meetings and received Christians from other places.” (Everett Ferguson, The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today, p.325)

The eldership is no place for an individual that wants nothing to do with others except for what they can gain for themselves from others. They should be known for being the servant of others, freely sharing what is their own with others. And so you should ask: are those who would serve as elders known for their giving ways and generosity to others?