1 Timothy 3:8-13 Fit To Serve

Fit to Serve

The very concept of servanthood which we hold needs to be rewritten. We to often envision servants as unqualified to do truly important jobs – but being a servant is the highest calling in the church. In John 13, Jesus gave one of the most vivid examples of servanthood in the scriptures when he washed his disciples feet. Moreover, when the disciples began to argue about who was the greatest of all, Jesus told them that the greatest must be the servant of all.

When needs arose in the early church the apostles did not do what we normally and unfortunately do. Our common solution is to just shove any warm body into positions of service in the church. But the disciples understood something which we all too often miss: you need to be qualified to be a servant of the Living God.

Warm bodies are not sufficient. Neither does languid faith or weak doctrine make you worthy to bear the title, "Servant of the Church of The Living God". To be certain, anyone who wants to serve God can do so without needing to be a super-saint first. But long before you enter a role of official service you need to be mature. The role of deacon or servant was first of all just a description of a job. But in due time it also became a title. My question for you this morning is "Do you have what it takes to be a servant?" Are you "Fit To Serve"?

Join with me please in reading 1 Timothy 3:8-13

Worthy of Respect

The requirement begins in 1 Timothy 3:8. Deacons must be men of Dignity. Having studied the role of deaconess last week you should notice that the same word is used of a Deaconesses in 1 Tim 3:11. It is also the same word used to describe the manner in which an Overseer will keep his children under control in 1 Tim 3:4, "with dignity". In brief it means being worthy of respect. If these men and women will be serving the Lord and serving His church and known by title as servants of such it is required that they be dignified so that their life and demeanor cannot cast aspersions upon Christ.

It is no accident that the first requirement given in Acts 6:3, when the very first official servants were being chosen, is that they be of "good reputation". We've already seen that reputation matters because a servant caries with them the full authority and responsibility to their master. If we dare to be called a servant of the Most high God you had better rise to the occasion, for it is God whom you serve!

When those who are outside the church discover that you are a church-goer, they develop certain small expectations of some general righteousness from you. Perhaps they will expect that you don't swear or tell dirty jokes. But if they discover also that you are an officer – a deacon if you will in that same church the level of righteousness they expect will raise. They will watch you.

Perhaps they will watch to see if your life makes a mockery of the faith you claim. Perhaps some will watch you to see if you are the hypocrite they expect that all church officials are. And maybe others will watch you to see if what you say you believe really does make you different somehow. Because if your faith doesn't make you any different from them, they will draw the conclusion that what you say you believe is powerless and pointless; unable to change you or help you. Moreover if they perceive your faith as too weak to help you, what reason would they have to investigate further into seeing if your faith should become their own?

If you want to be a servant of God and of his church you'd better have a good reputation.

The next three requirements all combine to describe someone who is self controlled.

Self Controlled:

Look again at verses 8-9 {Read 1 Timothy 3:8-9}. The requirements listed here are largely repeated in verse 11 for the deaconess but there they have a slightly different emphasis for each one. Each of the emphases are appropriately given for men and women in accordance with the usual sins each is prone to and must likewise avoid.


The requirement is first that a deacon not be double tongued. Being double tongued can mean a few different things, it can mean "Saying one thing and meaning another, and making different representations to different people about the same thing."1 in a word; insincere. We've all heard the saying, "loose lips sink ships" which is a clear reference to not being careful what you say and whom you say it to. But there is a greater issue here and that is that quite often a preponderance of words leads most clearly to sin.

In the eleventh verse the deaconess is required to not be a malicious gossip the word is literally διάβολος (diabolos) "devil". Don't be a devil woman! The word devil simply means someone who slanders or falsely accuses. Titus 2:3 carries the same instruction for the older women who are given charge to teach the younger women. Passing on juicy stories is not the right way to mirror Christ. And it is the fastest way not only to destroy someone else's reputation but most of all your own.

Proverbs 10:19 says,
"When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise."

Similarly we read in Matthew 12:36-37,
"But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

James considers the power of the tongue to be both a measure of the reality of our faith (James 1:26) as well as a dire warning (James 3:8).

We too often forget the great power of words! What you say matters my friends. A good servant of Jesus Christ will put a guard on his or her lips. Watch your mouth, it matters.


Both here in verse 8 as well as in verse 11 it is required that the servant of God not be addicted to "much wine". Being a Christian doesn't demand being a teetotaler2 but it does require self control. If you haven't got self control, don't touch it. If you do have self control, be careful. If others around you think it's a sin to drink, you'd better protect your weaker brethren.

Ephesians 5:18 orders us not to get drunk on wine (or anything else for that matter) we are to be full of the Holy Spirit of God not drunk on booze. Verse 11 also repeats this for the deaconess. She must be temperate.

This is not an area to trifle with. If you watch any sporting event on TV at all, and bother to pay a few seconds worth of attention to the advertising in between the action it's not long till you figure out that our culture is obsessed with Sex and alcohol. Neither of which is evil in and of themselves but both of which have been removed from their proper place and so abused and twisted by our culture that more than ever we must be careful.

I suppose our culture is obsessed with at least one other thing: the accumulation of money or things.

Not Fond of sordid gain

It is required that God's servant not be fond of sordid gain. Sordid isn't one of those terms we use too often but it's clear enough to understand in this context as getting hold of money or things the wrong way. Since the deacons are often in situations where the property of the church is under their control it is easy to see why this is a requirement.

In the eleventh verse the deaconess must be "faithful in all things". This is a very general requirement meant to summarize, I think, the broad qualifications of male deacons. It simply means "trustworthy". The idea being that a deaconess must have a consistent history of handling well whatever is given her to do. In principle at least this is nearly identical to the requirement of the deacon to be "not fond of sordid gain".

I think it was Kenny Jacobs who would make a joke whenever the treasurer got a new car. The reason we all knew it was a joke was because we have seen enough of Evelyn's character to know that she is completely beyond reproach in this area. A good servant of God is just that.

Later in 1 Timothy 6:5-10 we'll come to the solution of learning to be content with what we have, whatever that may be. Our primary goal in serving must be that we are serving God and the people for whom Jesus died; and not what we can get out of it.

There you have the first four requirements for a servant of the Lord all of them aspects of integrity:

  1. Worthy of respect – have a good reputation.

  2. Self controlled in your speech.

  3. Not addicted to mind altering substances

  4. And not greedy.

I urge you this week to carefully pray through these four issues. Take the fingers on your hand to use as a reminder.

Are you worthy of respect or are people justified in pointing their finger at you?

Let your middle finger remind you to be controlled in your speech so as not to offend.

Let your ring finger remind you not to be fond of sordid gain.

And just as you see people drink with their pinky hanging out there, let that pinky finger challenge you regarding your use or rather misuse of alcohol.

1Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2002), 4:234.

2I'll speak more on the issue of alcohol when we get to 1 Timothy 5:23.