Three Little Words

I’m convinced. The criteria people use to evaluate candidates for the pastoral office are just moribund. They are not even so last century or the century before that. They aren’t even so last millennia; they are the one before it. So I think the following requirements, standards, qualifications are without merit in this enlightened 21st century of ours:

I don’t think a pastor needs to be above reproach, sober-minded, or self-controlled. I don’t think a Call committee should consider whether or not he is as Aretha sang (r-e-s-e-p-e-c-t ed), or hospitable, or able to teach. Let him be a drunkard, violent not gentle, even to the point of quarrelsomeness. And who decided a pastor can’t be a lover of money? And talk about invasion of privacy! Who says the congregation gets to determine whether he manages his own house well? And submissive children? I suppose this means the congregation has got to require he keep his boys, boys and his girls, girls. Certainly it’s the height of arbitrariness to think he can’t be a recent convert and must be well thought of by outsiders.

Of course, virtually no Christian disagrees with these criteria from 1 Timothy 3. All Christians agree: that they don’t want drunks, rage-alcoholics, curmudgeons, and money-lovers for pastors. These aren’t just Biblical standards; they “rise” to the level of received wisdom.

The only requirement Christians have felt free to disregard beginning in 1853 and culminating probably in 2013 is the “husband of one wife.” And no the latest New Testament text can’t free us from the mud-boundness of our moribundity. Nestle-Aland 28 still says μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα. That’s literally “one wife male.” And yes, this is the Greek word that emphasizes the ‘maleness’ part of manhood.

However, the modern and now post modern world believes these three words fell from the pen of St. Paul without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This is Paul speaking out of his male chauvinism if not machismo. This is Paul speaking out of the narrowmindedness of his day, culture, education, or prejudices. O why resort to half measures? Just go with brazen unbelief: Paul never wrote this.

But the above only applies to those three little words. Unlike the 1930’s song by that name, most modern Christians would rather not hear, read, let alone mark and inwardly digest, these three little words. But they want to keep the rest. We demand the rest from our clergy, even the female “clergy.” They too are required to be sober, self-controlled, apt to teach, hospitable, and “not greedy of filthy lucre” [Isn’t the KJV the best? You don’t even have to know what lucre is but you sure don’t want your pastor or pastorette guilty of it!]

So, what do those Calling, assigning, or ordaining the fairer sex do? Do they take out 1 Timothy 3 and go down it like a preflight checklist until those three little words? Check, check, check; O never mind, the Holy Spirit didn’t really mean those three little words. They are timebound and therefore moribund to us. So, we are free to ignore them.

Ask Saul, Jezaniah (Jeremiah 42-43), or Jonah how ignoring words of God went with them. But hey; it’s just three little Words.  

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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