Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 228: Isaiah 34-36; Psalm 36; I Timothy 5

Timothy and Paul: now here is a complicated relationship. The elder speaks to the junior, the teacher to the student...and the attempt is made throughout this letter to communicate what life is like, what it could be like, and in no small degree what it "should" be like. The challenge for Timothy, and for us, is to read the words with discernment. Some of what Paul (or the writer, depending on your opinion as to who wrote the epistle in the first place) is attempting to convey to Timothy is sensible, even by today's standards. That is on the one hand. On the other is just how wrong Paul gets it...

As one parishioner of mine mentioned the other day: "Paul to Timothy? Clearly the man had never been married!"

Today's readings pose some of the same challenges. How does an elder convey to a younger man just how important it is for the young, the inexperienced, those who lack power and station to work within the system? Truly it is important...but in today's readings the advice breaches again into something that smacks of wrongness for us. What faithful person nowadays would urge someone under the yoke of slavery to "be a good slave" in order to exhibit a steadfast faith in Christ? OK, being a believing master means some respite for the slave. At least it should, but does this not support models of oppression that we know are wrong, are aberrant to a life in Christ as we have comes to know it?

Sometimes you can't reconcile this stuff, you just have to look at it with clear eyes and be willing to see that humans-faithful or not-are fallible. Paul's attempt to instruct the young Timothy is as much a lesson in how not to be as it is an attempt to offer up model of an effective life as an apostle and servant of the Christ.

A wise teacher once gave me this counsel: when it comes to serving God, remember that everyone is your teacher. Some will teach you things and you will say, "That is something I want to emulate." Others? Well, then you will say, "Yeah, I think that is something that I will not choose to add to my toolbox."

"It's all a matter of prayer and discernment," he said, "...that is the real key to figuring out which things to keep and which to let go of in the end."


  1. Paul does make some good points though regarding the of money although those involved with slavery were they not involved in it for "financial gain"???......seems a bit ironic. See you sunday along with boys hopefully

  2. That's the tension with Paul's letters to Timothy. There are some points where we nod our heads and say, "Yes, that's good advice." Other times, I just want to throw Paul over my shoulder and be done with him. His attitudes toward women, his tacit acceptance of slavery, his condemnation (in some translations) of sexualities are more then problematic for us today. It's like having a beloved relative at a holiday dinner say something offensive and bigoted. What do we do? Do we stand up, challenge that person and then ruin dinner? Can we afford NOT to?

  3. Yes we can afford to now, and hopefully would, however for alot of us what we say we would do and what we do unfortunately two different things. During St. Paul's time would we??? Not so sure. I'm not into bashing St. Paul as some of our currents leaders in the diocese have done. I think we have to keep in mind the times that these letters/ teachings were written. On the other hand from a modern viewpoint I can see your point. Thanks Fr. M

  4. At start of last commentary meant yes, we should stand up to an offensive, bigoted comment