Shepherding at Church and at Home

I read from 1 Timothy 3 this morning.  1 Timothy 3 contains qualifications for overseers (vv. 1-7) and qualifications for deacons (vv. 8-13) and concludes with a statement on the nature of the church (v. 15) and the exalted Christ (v. 16).  I was struck by v. 4 in particular. 

He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive (1 Timothy 3:4)

The overseer is to keep his children submissive.  Most of us are aware of the reputation pastor’s kids have.  Undoubtedly part of the reason for this is because they hang out with deacons’ kids.  Kidding. 

The overseer is to have his house in order.  But in what manner?  By barking out orders and establishing himself as a heavy-handed authoritarian?  Paul says he is to do this “with all dignity.”  It is possible, but less likely that the phrase “with all dignity” refers to the submission of the children (Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles, 480; Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 177), though the NIV, NRSV attached the phrase to the children, as does John Stott (Stott, Guard the Truth, 98) and Quinn and Wacker (Quinn and Wacker, The First and Second Letters to Timothy, 261). 

The Greek word translated “dignity” in the ESV, NASB; HCSB; KJV, “gravity,” NKJV, “reverence,” is only found three times in the Greek New Testament, and only in the Pastorals (1 Timothy 2:2; 3:4; Titus 2:7).  It means, “a manner or mode of behavior that indicates one is above what is ordinary and therefore worthy of special respect” (BDAG, 919).  According to BDAG, the Latin equivalent is gravitas

So what does this mean for the overseer of God’s household and the father of his own household?  As the overseer parents his children, “he maintains his personal dignity in the process” (Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 177). 

Ah yes.  Dignity under the strain of children who have a different agenda than submissively and sweetly obeying the words of their father.  Ugh.

This is a call for fathers to “sober up” as they deal with their children (cf. Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles, 190).  Additionally, the word “all” demonstrates that there is a “full demonstration” of this characteristic (Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 162). 

Now that’s meddlin’! 

This is an important reminder for the overseer who is also a shepherd to children still under his care.  When chaos surrounds me, do I respond in kind by flying off the handle?  If I do I’m training my children to respond to the volume of my voice rather than my words.  It means I keep my composure, thereby leading and instructing my children not only with my words but with my life.  In doing this, I am more apt to reach their hearts not merely conform their behavior.  This is nothing less that the requirement to be an example in the church and in the home (1 Timothy 4:12).  This is not only the ideal, but a mandate of every overseer. 

May God give me, and my other brothers who have also been called to shepherd a church and a home, the grace to have obedient and submissive children with all dignity.


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