Renewing Our Values: “Handling Leaders of God’s People” – 1 Timothy 5:17-25

 Tleadersoday’s church is in what even the most casual observer would likely call “a leadership crisis”. First, the number of qualified leaders for congregations is much smaller than in decades. Entry into clerical training geared toward congregational ministry has curtailed in Catholicism and Protestantism. The ranks are thin in most countries today. At the same time, we have had significant issues with ministry personnel getting along with one another. Leroy Barber wrote an article about leaders some time ago, and I want to excerpt it as a way of beginning our lesson on handling leaders: “Leaders make decisions every day that affect the lives of many people. This list should be a reminder that our jobs are important and that we should be constantly working to improve ourselves. There are a few signs to look for that will warn us if a leader is headed in the right direction and can help guide when deciding to give someone our support. I call them the red flags of leadership:

1. The use of too many personal pronouns when describing the work of a team or organization. Most, if not all, great accomplishments are the result of a good team. No one does everything themselves, and when a leader over uses “I” and “me” to describe the work of an organization, you might have a problem.

2. When a leader surrounds him or herself with people who will not tell them no. A good leader purposely [surrounds himself with] people who will think for themselves and who will challenge decisions they make…

3. When a leader only [surrounds himself with] people who think … they way they do. You need multiple views on any given decision, and if a leader only surrounds themselves with a team that processes the way they do, this could lead to an organization with a narrow base.

4. When a leader has to criticize others to legitimize his … work. If an idea or vision is a valid one, it will stand-alone without putting down someone else.

5. When a leader can’t follow. When a leader is not a good follower, it is a major sign that they may be immature in their leadership. It is a major hypocrisy to ask people to trust and follow you and you are not able to do that well.

6. When there is no [Prophet] Nathan in the leader’s life. When a leader doesn’t have someone around them to point out when they are leading out of selfishness or emotion, then there is problem…

Barber’s list is helpful, and as a leader warning other leaders, it points to a prickly problem of leadership: how to appropriately treat others God has chosen for leadership. Clearly the Apostle Paul called out by name those who were violating truth in a gross and public way. I suspect there are times when it is necessary to do so – though we must be careful because we don’t serve as Apostles, and our sermon writing isn’t going to be canonized and Scripture!

Add to the problem of handling each other, and unless you left the country over the past three decades, you know that American Christianity has seems to have been stripped of its former innocence and rocked by scandal after scandal in its public leadership. The Catholic community has paid incredible sums in legal fees with wave after wave of charges against leaders. The Protestant community suffered through televangelist scandals that made all who held clerical titles blush with embarrassment. Clearly those in leadership needed to deal in a more effective way with those who were abusive, and those who brought derision to the name of Jesus Christ. We have to admit, the issues of handling leaders, even by other leaders, is a complex one. Two thousand years ago, Paul wrote to Timothy about his behavior as a supervisor of co-laborers in ministry, and both essential commands and stern warnings. He offered helpful standards and even some encouragement.

Key Principle: Dealing with co-laborers in ministry takes special care and wisdom, but if done well it produces long term relationships that increase both the joy and productivity of ministry.

Before we move forward, let’s glance backward to set the context. If you haven’t been following our study, I can summarize what led us to is point in three simple thoughts:

First, we noted this letter was geared toward teaching about BEHAVIORS that God instructed believers to exemplify as they sought to live out their faith. The book is not about the lost world, but about the world of believers.

Second, we noted in the section of the letter we are currently examining, from 1 Timothy 5:1 to 6:12, there is a particular focus on interpersonal behaviors, relationships between the young man who acted as shepherd to the church, Timothy, and those he served. We are reading his personal mail, and gleaning both prescribed behavior for leaders, and the goal of behaviors for all of us.

Third, we noted that Paul’s commands in the first part of chapter five were essentially two – respect believers of various ages in the church, and take a special interest in those who have found themselves in a position of need as a result of life’s troubles. We noted that respect looked a bit different for each group of people mentioned in 5:1-2, but the command to respect each person was absolute. We also made clear that those who are in need, like widows, are a SACRED TRUST to the body of Christ. We have been given a GIFT in the package of those who cannot care for themselves, because they give us the opportunity to show love, and offer care.

The section for the study in this lesson deals with Timothy’s relationship with those with whom he co-labored in the church – other leaders. Let’s first look closely at the words Paul instructed, and then carefully look for the keys to understanding the passage:

1 Timothy 5:17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” 19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. 20 Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning. 21 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality. 22 Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin. 23 No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. 24 The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after. 25 Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed.

Many people mistake this passage as some crass opportunity for a preacher to ask you to pay him more – but that isn’t what the passage is about at all. Preachers talking about payments due them is about as savory as Congressmen voting themselves another raise in an era of deficit spending. That isn’t what the passage is about, but it is often taught that way. Let me explain…

We must recall the first century church wasn’t structured exactly as our church is today. Long before hymnbooks, parking lots, dedicated church buildings with steeples dotting the landscape, professional clergy, church offices and printed bulletins, the church in a Roman city was a network of people who committed to follow Jesus and learn of him in small groups that met in the atrium (entry hall) or triclinium (dining hall) of Roman urban villas.

Back to the Beginning

Imagine that you lived in the first century, and as a Roman free man or woman, you heard about this man from Nazareth called Jesus. You were so moved by the love of the people that claimed to follow His teachings, you asked one of them to allow you to attend a little study and prayer group that met in their home several times a week. You visited and noticed their practices carefully. They greeted one another with a holy kiss, and they looked each other in the eye, listening to one another. You were amazed that bond or free, Jew or Gentile, Nubian, Scythian, Gaul or Roman – people didn’t seem divided, nor did they feel the need to separate by class when seated. In your class conscious society, you had never seen anything like that!

As they gathered, they held hands with one another and closed their eyes, praying… not a simple memorized set of phrases repeated over and over – but a prayer of such intensity, it was as though their God was in a room above them, intently listening. Following prayer, the people sat in a small circle as a man read from a scroll that contained a letter from the leader of church in another city. The reader paused periodically to explain the words he read as you listened intently with all the others. At the end, he explained the coming of Jesus as man’s Savior, and the story of a single God that stood alone in the Heavens as both Creator, and a personal deity that desired to have a relationship with His created.

The man who was reading the scroll acted as a Shepherd to the group. They called him an “elder”, the term you knew from the marketplace as a wise man or sage. He was not the head of the group. He was one of a number of men who served in this position, and they all served under one “overseer” who cared for the needs of the shepherds of each small home group scattered throughout the city. Though you were a part of only one house group, it became clear to you that you were welcome to join ANY of the groups in the city, as they were UNITED by common faith in Jesus Who was called the Christ.

I mention this story to make the point that the letter to Timothy wasn’t written to a “Pastor” of a church in the same way we would mean that term today. Tim was a city leader, a “Bishop” or “overseer” of a variety of men who cared for small flocks in the villa group setting. He almost certainly did not gather the whole group of believers in the city to hear him preach. In some periods of early church history, it is doubtful that everyone in the city actually ever met and fellowshipped with the overseer. His work was to select, disciple or mentor group leaders, and instruct them in properly exposing the truths from the Word of God. He was a shepherd of shepherds.

When Paul wrote to him in that capacity and said : “1 Timothy 5:17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching”… it was not for him to PRESS BELIEVERS TO PAY HIM, as though he needed “cover” from the Apostle for this instruction. The problem was that Tim was a SUPERVISOR of ministry personnel spread throughout the city, and he needed guidelines to help HIM know what was appropriate in that relationship. The issue wasn’t Tim getting money for Tim, but Tim knowing the value of what each man who was serving in the field was supposed to receive, and how to place a value on their labors.

With that in mind, let’s make clear four standards Paul gave to Timothy about those who worked in the small group settings of the house churches:

First, Paul called on Timothy to ACKNOWLEDGE the value of the work of men in the Word for the growth of the Kingdom.

Go back to the first words of Paul in this section. 1 Timothy 5:17 “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” The words expose several important truths:

1. Elders who led the studies were leaders, and they had the responsibility to oversee their flock, demonstrated by the term “rule”.

2. Some of them did a better job at that work than others, and it was something that Timothy was supposed to be able to measure, based on the words “rule well”.

3. Not all of them were dedicated only to the task of teaching and preaching, as was demonstrated by the term “especially”.

4. The men who worked at teaching and preaching were also performing real labor (something made clear in the reference to WORK in 5:18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

The idea that studying and preaching was a legitimate labor was perhaps the part of the acknowledgement that was most difficult for Tim, because Roman citizens were taught to revere hard working farmers, and tough bodied soldiers. The word for a “man of the scrolls” was often a derogatory use of the term like “Jew” or “Greek”- meaning a lazy sophist, a sitting sage, or a lethargic philosopher. In a variety of Roman works, philosophers seemed to be regarded by the masses as “loafers” who sat for hours reading scrolls rather than doing true manly labors.

Bear in mind that most of the men that performed these tasks also labored in other areas, probably in work that included business transactions and public records – because they became adept at reading and thorough study in those pursuits. That would not have been true of all of them, but it is hard to imagine a farmer who did not use reading and writing skills on a regular basis becoming the most learned of the community, and acting as a teacher of the Word. The point is that in an agricultural based economy, many would not have readily understood that studying the Scriptures and preparing the instructional diet of the community was true and hard labor, but Paul made it clear to Tim that it was exactly that when performed diligently.

Perhaps the issue for “double honor” was that other elders were not demanded to put the time into the arduous labors, but performed other labors in overseeing the congregations. We cannot be sure. At the same time, it may be that the real issue was that people knew these men had “day jobs” and were gainfully employed, and could not see giving them support in addition to their other income when so many needy in the community existed. Why give to the man who is preparing Bible study sessions when there are so many POOR that could use a good meal, or a little help? That seemed like a reasonable question.

In the end, God’s Word on the matter was this: take care of them. He said: “I provided for Levites and Priests in the atonement system of Israel by gifts and offerings of the Jewish people. They also worked in their own fields, many of them, but that didn’t mean God didn’t want them to have the support of the people.” In that way, God said, even if the men have work and an income, they are worthy of double repatriation (once from their day labor and again from their Word labors). This allowed the families of these men to be compensated for the hours of labor they would work “over and above” the menial work day.

“Tim needed to learn that those among his men who were charged with preparing God’s Word were doing an important work, and he was to acknowledge them in it.”

I have noticed in my time in ministry that there are many believers who DO NOT TRULY VALUE the Word of God in their lives. In individuals, the most obvious way to spot this phenomenon is when they look at you quizzically because you mention that you are daily in God’s Word. I have met people who are a regular part of a Gospel preaching church that don’t own or open a Bible. They feel it is the preacher’s job to know it, and claim they will give him a call if they ever have an issue. When I ask if they have ever called on him for that purpose, they shrug their shoulders. It is as if life isn’t all that informed by the Bible. I know of a number of churches that give scores of hours to labors among the poor with little regard for growing adept in handling the Word of God.

Men and women, the work among the poor is essential, that is sure. The neediest among us are God’s opportunity to extend His hands of care through us. At the same time, a church that grows away from the Word will move begin serving with Spirit-led help of hurting people, but quickly find themselves opening exposure to serious emotional and spiritual challenges without the resources and parameters of the Word of God.

Second, Paul called on Tim to make clear AFFIRMATION of his belief in the men leading the church.

Beyond acknowledging the value of the work in the Word, Paul instructed Tim to be careful about his emotional support for the men. He said: 1 Timothy 5:19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.

The sin nature of people and the nature of spiritual warfare combined with the sensitive nature of the work in people’s lives left men in ministry dangerously open to accusation. Some men would fail their Lord in purity matters. The enemy uses one true story to raise doubt in twenty false accusations. Add to that, some people would even honestly misread the attention received by ministry personnel, causing hurt feelings and raising questions about their integrity. In the years I have been in ministry, I have seen all of these develop.

What Paul told Tim was to make the standard of accusation high, in order to express affirmation to the men. Remember, Tim KNEW these men. He met with them all the time, and coached them. That didn’t guarantee they were not wandering into sin, but it did mean that he was involved and checking on them spiritually as regularly as necessary to help them walk uprightly. Paul knew that when a leader doesn’t show support for his team members, they lose heart. Even though men and women constantly fight their sin nature, God didn’t want them to serve under undue suspicion and lack of adequate support by their team leader. Even leaders need to be affirmed and trusted, if they have walked in a way to earn that trust. No one should get blamed for the acts of others simply because they hold the same post.

Third, Paul then balanced the need for affirmation with the requirement for ACCOUNTABILITY.

Note the words in 1 Timothy 5:20 “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.”

People have always needed to be able to trust the integrity of the men who serve Jesus by serving them. There is no sense in which they will be regarded as flawless, but they should be keeping themselves well inside God’s revealed borders for life. Men that do not must be held accountable. I am stunned by the number of men in ministry that have been discovered in violation to their sacred walk that have been left to continue. Some feel it is not good for the church to make clear the violation – but that is not the truth. Note that Paul says the men he is referring to are CONTINUING in sin, after they have been privately confronted. When men do not humbly repent in private, they must be dealt with in public for the good of the body of Messiah.

Obviously, whether in private initially or in public eventually, sin in leaders is a serious matter that cannot be ignored. It is true that sin requires repentance, and dealing with the repentant always requires grace. We dare not make those who fall into sin and now are contrite and vulnerable feel as though they are beyond God’s mercy and love. At the same time, the standards are higher for leaders, and they know that when they enter public ministry. I chuckle when I read articles about how obtuse leaders can be, because I see myself as one of these deeply flawed vessels. In Leadership magazine, Dave Wilkinson wrote the following to pastors…

Have you ever wondered why your pastoral resume doesn’t evoke more enthusiasm? Do you ever think, “What are these people looking for?” Perhaps the question should be, “What aren’t they looking for?” because with the numbers of applications pastor nominating committees receive, their first task is to eliminate applicants. Here, then, as a public service, are statements certain to stop a resume dead in its tracks.

• “I believe empathy is overrated.” •
• “In the five churches I have faithfully served over the past two years …”
• “My hobbies are pit bulls and automatic weapons.”
• “I am willing to sacrifice my family for the sake of the ministry. I am also willing to sacrifice yours.”
• “I have learned to cope with financial crisis at every church I’ve served.”
• “I require an attractive secretary and/or organist.”
• “My extensive counseling of church members has proved a rich source of pointed sermon illustrations.”
• “I’ve been told that every sermon I preach is better than the next.”
• “My personality has provided me ample opportunity to develop conflict-resolution skills.” [Resume Stoppers, Citation: Dave Wilkinson, Leadership, Vol. 12, no. 1.]

How does this apply to the larger picture of leadership? Timothy had to find mechanisms to measure the effort, effectiveness and diligence of the men under his charge. We do no favor to men if we allow them to be lazy in ministry and not correct their behavior. It is uncomfortable, but essential. If you promote everyone regardless of their effort and effectiveness, you kill productivity. If you overlook undisciplined behavior, you encourage sinful developments.

At the same time, it is easy to overreact to accusations and quickly allow stories to be accepted as TRUTH. Let me caution you about this as it regards media ministers. I don’t always like what I hear from men in ministry when they appear before the cameras. At the same time, we need to be careful, because modern media is a FILTERED venue. The interview can be clipped, and the intent of a statement changed or contorted. When Paul told Tim to be careful about accepting too quickly accusations, he used some interesting language. The word accusation: “katagoria”: literally from kata: around, down from and “agora” the market. It meant a charge list from the “word on the street” from the marketplace. How often do we quickly believe a Facebook post of an article excerpted from an interview? If people would stop and ask the speaker to clarify before reposting, that would at least show some effort.

Note that not EVERY BELIEVER was to make it their job to rebuke the elders. The term elenghko means to call attention to, to chasten. This was the work of Tim as their supervisor, not as someone who just dropped in for a visit. One of the things that really puts a smile on my face are some of the things Pastors hear about their work…

One pastor said that the following have been said to him about his sermons (and I had to clip it out):

• “You always manage to find something to fill up the time.”
• “I don’t care what they say, I like your sermons.”
• “If I’d known you were going to be good today I’d have brought a neighbor.”
• “Did you know there are 243 panes of glass in the windows?”
• “We shouldn’t make you preach so often.”
• One of my personal favorites; was when someone told me, “Preacher that wasn’t half bad.”

Be those words as they are, the principle is still true – Leaders need accountability.

Ultimately, WE HONOR OUR SPIRITUAL LEADERS BY TREATING THEM FAIRLY. We watch and we listen, but we expect evidence to believe something that is damaging to them. Be careful! Do not jump to conclusions based on what someone tells you. The formula, “I want to think well of you, but I have this report and I want to be sure that we are walking together properly…”

The rest of the passage unfolds some COMMON DANGERS and PITFALLS that Tim needed to be aware of if he wanted to lead the other elders well.

Paul included four temptation areas that Tim needed to guard against:

First, there was a temptation to miss a BLINDING BIAS. Paul warned: “Keep the standard impartially.” (5:21)

5:21 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality.

The term bias was prokrimatos which is taken from two words – “before” and “judge”. Simply put, it meant “Do not PREJUDGE”.

Bias is damaging and dangerous. You can’t tell by the cover! During the preparations for an evangelistic crusade in Latin America, a very poor, unshaven man came to one of the week-long biblical counseling courses. It was unusual to see a man of this condition attending an in-depth training session. Most often, those with a better education and social standing are the ones who take an active role in this type of intensive preparation. The illiterate man attended every class, but those in leadership didn’t expect him to do much counseling. Several weeks later, all of the available counselors were busy when a physician walked in. This shabbily dressed man immediately greeted the doctor and took him into a room for counseling. Once the director discovered what had happened, he became deeply concerned. When the doctor came out, the director asked if he needed any help. The physician replied, “No, thank you. This fellow has helped me very much.” The next day that same doctor showed up with two other colleagues and asked to see the shoeless man. By the end of the week, that illiterate man had led four doctors and their wives to Christ. God needs nothing more than available servants. Christian Reader, Sept./Oct. 1991, p. 61

Paul said to Timothy, “HONOR YOUR GROUP LEADERS BY EXPECTING THEM TO ACT WITH INTEGRITY.” Don’t skip over bad behavior, and don’t give them a pass in acting rightly. It might sound odd to place an expectation on our leaders to live consistently and call that an honor but it really does honor our leaders. Integrity means that a person’s private life and public life are consistent, that the leader is seeking to live a lifestyle that reflects the values of Jesus. A person with integrity is brutally honest about his or her shortcomings and failures, but they’re not content to stay there. They want to grow, to move forward, even while being honest with where they fall short.

One writer said it this way: “Leaders are to be examples to God’s people of the beauty of virtue. But when they fail, they become examples of the ugliness of sin. So when a leader sins, it becomes a very serious concern for the church. The church must face up squarely to the fact that the one who was expected to be a model of godliness has become just the opposite, so he must be rebuked in front of those to whom he was a poor example. What an awesome responsibility leadership is!

I appreciate the words of Ray Stedman: “Timothy might well have felt inadequate, but notice whom the apostle summons to his aid, whom he says is watching: “in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels.” God the Father is involved. He is in the congregation. He knows what is going on; nothing is hid from his eyes. Christ Jesus, Lord of the church, head of the body, is present also. Jesus can work from within. He can touch men’s consciences; he can get at their hearts. And the elect angels are involved, these personages whom the book of Hebrews tells us are as “ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who shall be the heirs of salvation,” {Heb 1:14 KJV}. I do not know exactly what these angels do, but it is very important and significant. Paul tells Timothy not to be intimidated. If it requires action, act — patiently, lovingly, thoughtfully, carefully — but act.” (Though Ray is with His Savior, you can still be blessed by his Bible teaching at

And so must any good leader. We are called to make sure those under our care are acting as they should be. If they aren’t and we “overlook them because of a bias” we damage the whole organization and fail to lead as Jesus would have us.

Second, there was a warning about HASTE, a call to be patient and train the team members well before appointment (5:22).

1 Timothy 5:22 Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin

The act of “laying on of hands” is a symbolic placement of trust in and bestowal of office upon a man. Following the idea of judicial transfer established in the sacrificial system of the Hebrew Scriptures – a man could confer his sin to an animal – there was the idea that an office appointed by God in Heaven could be symbolized as conferred by men on earth. We don’t make Pastors, nor do we ordain men in the technical sense – God does. Just like a wedding is the physical symbol of a Heavenly made bonding, so the “laying on of hands” is a physical symbol of a spiritual act of God, who Alone calls His workers.

Paul told Tim to SLOW DOWN and take a good look at men BEFORE he conferred on them the public measure of endorsement. Failure to do so would allow the men’s sins to be cast against Tim as well. I am thankful to God that in my career I have been surrounded by men and women who have lifted me, and been an example to me! What grief comes from passing men to a congregation when they are clearly not equipped to lead them!

Third, Paul warned Tim about NEGLECT – in this case to his body. It is possible to ignore the vessel and over-engage.

I don’t think the work of ministry is somehow HARDER than other kinds of work. What I do believe is that ANY WORK performed well takes tenacity, particular energy on any undone task, and can allow you to become stressed out. At the same time, in PEOPLE WORK, it is possible to easily get torn up over the disappointments, and that appears to have been happening to Timothy. Paul wrote:

1 Timothy 5:23 No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.

Tim needed to watch out that leaders in ministry did not get so absorbed in the work they did not use their head about caring for their body and their heart in a proper way!

I have often been reminded of this simple story: One New Year’s Day, in the Tournament of Roses parade, a beautiful float suddenly sputtered and quit. It was out of gas. The whole parade was held up until someone could get a can of gas. The amusing thing was this float represented the Standard Oil Company. With its vast oil resources, its truck was out of gas. Let those who follow Jesus and lead others be warned. The lack is not in the resource, but in the appropriation of it.

Peter Drucker, the secular leadership guru of the 20th century, said: “A leader is one who has followers. An effective leader is not someone who is loved or admired. He is someone whose followers do the right thing. Popularity is not leadership, results are. Leaders are highly visible. They, therefore, set the example. Tim needed to look to his own body, so that he could teach others to look to theirs as well.”

Part of ministry should be about ENCOURAGING A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE – mentally, emotionally and physically. I find great refreshment in learning – those who know me know that is true. I take courses all the time, because they stretch my mind, and help me stay sharp. For Timothy this meant taking wine for stomach issues – for other men it is something else. I like Ray Stedman’s comment: “In writing this, Paul very likely was reminded of something about Timothy that he felt needed correction. Timothy, evidently, was leaning too far toward total abstinence from wine. We know there was a lot of public drunkenness in Ephesus at that time. The reaction of almost all Christians to public drunkenness is, ’I don’t want anything to do with that.’ There has sprung up in the church a widespread attitude that the Christian position about drinking should be one of total abstinence; that no Christian ought to drink at all. But that completely sets aside the record of the Scriptures that our Lord drank wine, and so did the apostles. Paul is evidently warning Timothy about total abstinence, especially because it was affecting his health. Timothy had not taken a balanced position. Paul warns him, ’For your health’s sake, don’t do this.’”

I have taught on this subject before, and we don’t really have the time to go far with it here. The point I would stress is this: Don’t always assume the most radical position is somehow the most GODLY. Our behaviors need to be set by the Scriptures, not by the most austere monks of Christian society.

Fourth, Paul called Tim to be careful about MISJUDGMENT of those he appoints (5:24-25).

1 Timothy 5:24 The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after. 25 Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed.

Note the word evident in the last verse. The word prodayloi is a combination of “before” and “manifest” and means “open” or “obvious”. The fact is that it takes time and skill to recognize the hardest workers, the most valuable to the team, and those who are not accepting responsibility well. Look at both sides:

Learning to properly value them: “A gem dealer named Roy Whetstine was strolling the aisles at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show when he noticed a blue-violet stone the size and shape of a potato. He looked it over, then, as calmly as possible, asked the vendor, “You want $15 for this?” The seller, realizing the rock wasn’t as pretty as others in the bin, lowered the price to $10. The stone was subsequently report to be a 1,905-carat natural star sapphire, about 700 carats larger than the largest stone of its kind. It was appraised at $2.28 million, [but that was later challenged]. The bottom line price may never be known, but what is clear is that it is worth more than $10! (Adapted from Online Leadership Journal AOL, via Wanda Vassallo). Sometimes it is hard to tell the value of a diamond in the rough, or a gem that hasn’t been tumbled… and the same is true of ministry leaders.

Another reason Paul said that men must be more carefully watched over time was pointed out by Ray Stedman: “Some men are skillful at hiding sin. They appear to be very dedicated, committed people, but there is rotten evil in their hearts all the time. If you get into the habit of electing people to office or appointing them into some responsible position without giving time to observe them you will get into trouble. ’Time will tell,’ the world’s proverb says.

The truth is that some men get caught up in the trappings, before they show their character…A newly promoted colonel had moved into a makeshift office during the Gulf War. He was just getting unpacked when out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a private with a toolbox coming his way. Wanting to seem important, he grabbed the phone: “Yes, General Schwartzkopf. Of course, I think that’s an excellent plan.” He continued: “You’ve got my support on it. Thanks for checking with me. Let’s touch base again soon, Norm. Goodbye.” “And what can I do for you?” he asked the private. “Uhhh, I’m just here to hook up your phone.” From Leadership Journal, submitted by Ron Willoughby, Augusta, Georgia.

The fact is that ministry is designed as a TEAM SPORT. If we don’t take care of the team, we all lose…

Dealing with co-laborers in ministry takes special care and wisdom, but if done well it produces long term relationships that increase both the joy and productivity of ministry.