Have you ever had the experience of meeting someone and finding them to be disagreeable in a variety of ways? Maybe they have a bad attitude or they have habits that make them out to just be the kind of person you don't want to hang around with. Now, imagine meeting that person and then after you've formed all your opinions you find out that they are a Christian or worse yet, a pastor. The effects can be catastrophic.
From the positive requirements of what the elder or pastor should be, Paul moves now to what we must not be.
Not an Alcoholic
Earlier Paul said, "Not a drunkard." Being an occasional drunk is bad enough but to be altogether mastered by alcohol is something else entirely. In 1 Corinthians 6:12 Paul declares, "…I will not be mastered by anything." Few things will wreak greater havoc on a home, personal relationships, society and the body itself more than alcoholism.
The scriptures do have much to say about the man who drinks. Wine may make the heart glad (Ps. 104:15; Zech. 10:7) and it just might be medicinally beneficial (1 Timothy 5:23) but it also causes everyone to become fools when it's consumption increases. And it's not just wine, any alcoholic beverage in enough quantity to impair judgement becomes sinful. Don't be drunk with wine but be filled with the Holy Spirit. Because many drugs (legal and illegal) also hamper the mind and unleash the fool within the use (or in the case of legal drugs the over use) of drugs also should be added to this understanding.
I can't leave this behind, however without at least noting that help is available. People who struggle with addictions are not somehow outside of the capacity of the Holy Spirit to help. So as a word of encouragement let me just say that God can deliver from addictions of every sort.
While it is imperative that an overseer not be an alcoholic it is equally important for every Christian to "not be mastered by anything." So if you are struggling or if someone you know is, it's time to reach out. Find the prayer support, find the counseling and find the wholeness and healing that God can bring into your life.
Not a Bully
I really like the sound of the NASB's translation "not pugnacious". But for the most part it's a completely meaningless translation simply because I can't think of anytime I've ever heard the word outside of this passage. The NIV renders it "Not violent" but that's only part of the issue because it could only describe what a man does. A much better translation would indicate the character behind the actions so I'll just pick: "not a bully." The ministry is no place for strong-arming someone into submission. Jesus wasn't afraid to clear the temple with a whip when it was truly a righteous thing to do. Yet he is preeminently described as being "meek". Meek is not a synonym for weak but rather for "strength under control" that is an excellent character description for Jesus, the almighty king of the universe who bore up under the punishment of evil men.
The gospel does not progress at the tip of a sword, or the blunt end of a fist. Even if your bark is worse than your bite you're not fit for Christian Leadership.
To the contrary, gentleness is the requirement given.
gentle means someone who is willing to endure other people with kindness, especially as they are in a position of authority. A godly man will not "steamroll" a person who disagrees with them, they will instead endeavor to lead them to repentance. This isn't Marvin Milquetoast but rather it describes someone who is more focused on the redemption of their "enemy" than on sustaining their own reputation or dignity in the eyes of others. A gentle person will self-sacrifice for someone else's benefit.
Ever know someone who is just itching for a fight? He's not fit for Christian leadership and he certainly isn't yet a mature Christian. On the positive side of this description, we would describe this person as a peacemaker. James 4:1 would indicate that wherever someone is prone to picking fights instead of being a peacemaker; human lust is at work.1 Whatever the desire, a lust for physical gratification or a lust for power, praise or prestige; it is unfitting for a man of God.
True enough we may be warriors in God's army fighting against the powers of darkness but we are not to be warriors against one another. Someone who likes to pick fights has no place in the ministry. And a Christian who picks fights needs to bring his attitude and heart under submission to God.
The last requirement in this section is simply "free from the love of money." It is used one other time in Hebrews 13:5 as a command that our character should be free from the love of money. Greed is nothing more than idolatry (Colossians 3:5) because it places money above the maker. Whatever you are fixated on is an idol, idolatry is certainly not godliness.
When we look at each on of the characteristics so far they deal with the way that inner character will overflow into daily life. Because the pastor in many ways represents Christianity to the watching world as well as to the church he (I) must be neither an alcoholic nor a bully itching for a fight. Gentleness and peaceableness should be the pastor's response even to confrontation. And every one of us here should likewise be gracious and peaceable individuals.
I submit to you that there are some very high profile "reverends" today who spout all manner of hatred and vitriol. These men are a shame to the office and will have to pay for their blasphemous life patterns.
Finally an overseer should not be a lover of money, focused on his income statements. Every believer's attitude toward wealth should be that of having an open hand – it is the Lord's wealth and if he gives he gives, if he takes away then he takes away. But whatever we have must be invested in eternity where moth and rust will not destroy it and market instability won't liquidate it.
So let's get practical:
Have you been mastered by something? It doesn't have to be alcoholism or drugs; if you are out of control somewhere let's partner together today to bring that under God's control. You have been bought with a price – honor God with your body.
What about Violence and anger quotient? If you're known for being hotheaded than God isn't controlling that part of your life. The adrenaline rush of anger can be just as much an addiction as alcoholism and just as destructive. James 1:19 tells us that we should be quick to listen and slow to become angry. My friend, if that doesn't describe you this morning I want to let you know that God is ready at a moments notice to start controlling your anger; but you are going to have to intentionally submit yourself to Him.
What about Greed? Greed is an equal opportunity disease, it afflicts the poor as well as the wealthy. One of most telling indicators of your spirituality or lack of it is what you do with money. God must become the Lord of your wealth (or lack of it if you so desire to name it).
1Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vols. 5-9 Edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Vol. 10 Compiled by Ronald Pitkin., ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey William Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-c1976), 4:528.