1 Timothy 5: 21 comes in a section of Paul’s First Letter to Timothy concerning rules for presbyters, that is, those who are chosen to be the religious leaders of each local church community. In this particular verse, because of Paul’s own experiences, he is telling Timothy to take care in selecting them.
The presbyter, or priest, or pastor holds a position of immense responsibility. The primary responsibilities are those of preaching and teaching. This means that they must be well prepared in the teachings that they are to preach to their flocks. They are to know the difference between what is true teaching in accord with the gospel passed on to them by the Apostles, and anything that even suggests a false, or misguided teaching. They are the local shepherds of God’s flock. They are to be guided by their love of God first and foremost. They ought to be moved by the fear of the Lord that leads to wisdom. They hold within their responsibilities, the spiritual well-being of every soul in their flock, their church community.
Because they hold such an important position in the community, they are often subject to adverse criticism. But those criticisms must meet the strictest limits of the truth backed by indisputable evidences. They are not to be offered, or promoted lightly. It is for this reason that Paul is telling Timothy to choose the presbyters wisely. This does not have to be difficult, or seemingly impossible. All men and women are sinners, but some men and women are clearly more down the road of holiness than others. Those whose characters are sound, whose faithful and humble example leads others to holiness, and whose preaching and teaching skills are evident, will be easily recognizable.
A presbyter ought to be a person of prayer, first and foremost. Kindness, compassion and love for his flock ought be recognizable in the pastor. A person whose life preaches the Gospel values and not worldly things, or the self, whose teaching brings people to love God above all else, is the one that would make a proper and good presbyter. But the pastor ought not be one so ascetic that he avoids the simple, pure, and good pleasures of life. God made these things too, to be used in moderation, for they too are good. In short our pastors are to be known to be good people who love God with all their being and their neighbors as themselves. And we, the people of God, are to support them, especially with our prayers and our love.
Lord, we know our need for good shepherds to lead us in God’s ways. We pray that you give your great graces of love and humility to all those who feel called to the ministry. Strengthen them in mercy and kindness. Light their minds with the fear of the Lord that leads to wisdom, and give them fill them with a love for you that shines like a beacon in the darkness of this world. We pray these things in the name of Jesus. Amen!
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