An Overseer: Sober, Subdued, And Satisfied In God.

Not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” -1 Timothy 3:3

It is ultimately God that makes a pastor, not the Church. On the other hand, God works through means and has granted the Church the role of affirming and identifying those whom He has “called” to the work of the ministry. You can think of God’s appointing a man to the work of the ministry as having an internal subjective component (desires the work, is “called” by God to the work) and an external objective component (meets the qualifications through affirmation of a local church). If God has put the desire for this work in a man's heart, He will also work in this man in such a way that he grows in conformity to Christ-likeness so that he meets the qualifications described in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Simply having the desire for ministry does not render one qualified to take the office. That desire must work itself out in a number of visible and tangible ways. We now turn our attention to the next four items in Paul’s list: 

Not a drunkard

It’s quite easy to ruffle feathers on this particular point. Alcohol use amongst Christians is often a point of contention and the abuse of it has and does lead to great pain amongst many families. That reality is exactly why this is even listed in the first place. The fact is drunkenness is a sin. Let me state it again: drunkenness is a sin. I have arrested MANY people (when I was an officer) for drinking and driving and many other alcohol related offenses. It is a substance to be used with great caution. As a slave to the Lord Jesus Christ it is wrong to be enslaved to anything else. We are to be Spirit-filled and Spirit-led, and let nothing inhibit or impair the flow of the Spirit in our lives, be it liquor or any other intoxicant. That being said, we must not go beyond what is written (1 Cor. 4:6). While alcohol is dangerous, legalism is deadly because it parades as righteousness. 

Drunkenness is prohibited, but drinking in moderation is not. In fact we see the opposite. In the Old Testament law God commands and provides occasion even for his covenant people to enjoy alcoholic beverages in His very presence (Deut. 14:22-26), in the New Testament Jesus apparently drank enough to be accused of being a drunkard (Matt. 11:19), and his first miracle was to turn water into high-quality wine (John 2:1-12). The attempt to read prohibition into the Biblical pages falls flat every time. There is a latin phrase that is helpful in many areas: “abusus usum non tollit" - “Abuse does not take away proper use.” 

Abuse of ANY substance or excess in ANY area is harmful and dangerous. And a pastor is expected to abide by the same command in practice as every other Christian - he is not to be a drunkard. He is to control his appetites, and exercise wisdom in all areas. It’s best characterized, not by focusing on “how much is too much?” but rather by a proactive walking in and being filled by the Holy Spirit. For we know that whoever walks by the Spirit will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16).

Not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome.”

These go together. In essence, a pastor shouldn’t be quick to fight, they should be quick to love. They should be kind and reasonable. Another way this word could be translated is “tolerant.” A pastor should be able to tolerate a degree of provocation with grace and humility rather than seeing every challenge as a fight to be engaged(Prov. 12:16; 29:11, 2 Tim. 2:24-26 - “patiently enduring evil”). In so doing he models our Lord Jesus. That being said, a pastor shouldn’t go looking for fights, but he can’t run from all of them either. He should seek peace if possible, and engage spiritual warfare, wolves, or anything that threatens the flock of God with all the intensity and urgency that is appropriate as an under shepherd of God. Old testament leaders were chastised and condemned for their failure to protect and care for God’s people (Ezek. 34:1-10). David, the shepherd boy, is a good picture of this. A young man, while trusting in God, placed his own life in great danger to defend the sheep when threatened by a lion and a bear, even fighting them head-on when necessary. The balance must be struck for a man who desires to serve as a pastor between “contending for the faith and being contentious about the faith.” And even his contending must be done in a spirit of gentleness, not excess. So are they quick to argue? Do they major on minors? Do they have to have the last word or even a word in everything? Do they storm off in anger or yell when challenged or questioned? Are they gentle and gracious in general? These are all questions to consider in assessing this qualification. 

Not a lover of money.”

This does not mean he can’t have have money or be good at making money. It means he doesn’t love money. He is generous and kingdom oriented. He uses money for its intended purpose - to love others well. His lifestyle demonstrates “in God we trust” and exemplifies the reality that Christ is the true treasure of his soul. He recognizes the desire to be rich is a temptation and snare (1 Tim. 6:9-10) and labors for his soul to be content in God’s provisions, whether they be abundant or sparse. Unfortunately, many are in the ministry because they love money and profit through manipulation or other means. It has been this way since the 1st century. Our latin phrase from earlier is still true here: “abusus usum non tollit.”

Again, remember, all of these qualifications ought to be true of you as well, even if you are not a pastor or never will be. May the Lord grant you to be sober-minded, full of the Spirit, gentle, and free from the love of money. Satisfy your soul in God and in His provisions for you this week and forevermore. Don’t let self-examination be your final test. Consider asking someone close to you for a more accurate assessment since we are often self-deceived. Ask someone, “Do I struggle with drunkenness? Am I violent or quarrelsome? Do I seem materialistic? From my conversations and lifestyle is it apparent that God is my confidence or does my bank account or ability to plan and provide seem to be my refuge? How can I grow in these areas?”  As you do so, may we all grow together into maturity and christ-likeness. 

Examining With You, 

Randy Pauley, Pastor