An Approved Worker
14Don't let anyone forget these things. And with God as your witness, you must warn them not to argue about words. These arguments don't help anyone. In fact, they ruin everyone who listens to them. 15Do your best to win God's approval as a worker who doesn't need to be ashamed and who teaches only the true message.
16Keep away from worthless and useless talk. It only leads people farther away from God. 17That sort of talk is like a sore that won't heal. And Hymenaeus and Philetus have been talking this way 18by teaching that the dead have already been raised to life. This is far from the truth, and it is destroying the faith of some people.
19But the foundation God has laid is solid. On it is written, “The Lord knows who his people are. So everyone who worships the Lord must turn away from evil.”
20In a large house some dishes are made of gold or silver, while others are made of wood or clay. Some of these are special, and others are not. 21This is also how it is with people. The ones who stop doing evil and make themselves pure will become special. Their lives will be holy and pleasing to their Master, and they will be able to do all kinds of good deeds.
22Run from temptations that capture young people. Always do the right thing. Be faithful, loving, and easy to get along with. Worship with people whose hearts are pure. 23Stay away from stupid and senseless arguments. These only lead to trouble, 24and God's servants must not be troublemakers. They must be kind to everyone, and they must be good teachers and very patient.
25Be humble when you correct people who oppose you. Maybe God will lead them to turn to him and learn the truth. 26They have been trapped by the devil, and he makes them obey him, but God may help them escape.
How do we join God in restoring people from the lives they are trapped in? Do our words matter? How about our actions? According to Paul, yes and yes!
I’ve been reflecting lately on the importance of those who have helped restore me from the damage my choices sometimes produce. Just the other day someone said something in gentleness and firmness that helped redirect my thinking. For us all, God is in this business of leading us out of our captivity caused by our behaviour or faulty thinking. Paul made Timothy aware of two men who were teaching a theology that was “destroying the faith of some people” (v 18). This is serious, not only for the people being led astray but also for the two perpetrators themselves.
In our culture today it is common to communicate with others using caustic language and divisiveness, especially when we disagree. We are so saturated by this way of relating that it is sometimes hard to imagine another way. In this letter, what Paul suggests to Timothy might sound a bit soft, perhaps even weak. However, it is God’s way for each and every one of us.
First, Paul is blunt – people are trapped by the enemy. Even so, as he reminds Timothy, they are not stuck or destined to live this way. God may free them (v 25). Amazingly, though, it’s not totally up to God. He also uses us. And how we communicate matters. Neither are we to sit passively by nor engage in “worthless or useless” arguments with those held captive (vv 14, 16, 23). Instead, we are to be “humble” or gentle (v 25). Jesus champions this when he tells us to “love our enemies” (Matthew 5:44). The beauty of the gospel is that God wants to restore everyone, to free us all from the entrapment we find ourselves in!
Jesus, bring to mind someone in my life who is trapped. By your power and love, free and restore them! Also, fill me with your gentleness and love so that I can communicate with them in a way that reveals your truth. Thank you that you specialize in restoring us as you set us free.
I pray in your name, Amen.