Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 3:13)
It is good to serve the Lord, and those who assume the role of Elder and Deacon in the church bless the lives of others and are blessed. We should honor and encourage our leaders, and their families, because if they serve well, and we support them, we all benefit.
Yet, Paul’s term “excellent standing” seems a bit out of sync. Perhaps it is just a personal thing with me, but I have never thought of leadership as something we do to gain respect and prestige.
I checked out this phrase and learned that the term for “standing” has to do with a “threshold” or a “grade.” The Old King James even translates is “degree.” This only made matters worse since it suggested leaders are working their way up the rungs of a ladder.
And so I had to go back and reconsider my thought process. I realized, while good leaders don’t necessarily serve for the purpose of gaining respect and prestige, when they do serve well, these things come. How they are used for the kingdom depends on how a leader views them.
On one hand, one’s standing can be used to influence others. If others are watching, then what a leader does and says really matters. As a result, he has an opportunity to guide others closer to the throne of God and a life of sacrifice.
On the other hand, a standing can be used to inflate one’s ego. In this case, the goal becomes to make sure others are watching so one’s position can be used for personal gain.
If we think back over Paul’s list of qualities for both elders and deacons, it is easy to see the difference between these two approaches. The influencer lives a temperate life and nurtures his family in the way of the Lord. The inflated ego says one thing but means another, gossips about others who pose a challenge, and looks for a way to exploit the resources of the church for his or her personal gain. And the latter is often highly skilled in wrapping selfish intentions in religious sounding language and ministry jargon.
Over the years I have heard people struggle to describe this contrast in leadership style. Some say, “He is highly respected, and the good thing is, he doesn’t know it.” In other words, he has attained a degree of standing in the spiritual community of the church, but that was never his goal. Nor does he think about his position now that he has it.
And so, I guess I am comfortable with the idea of an “excellent standing” in leadership. I had better be, because this is a good translation of Paul’s teaching, and I don’t want to go argue with an apostle. I will also go so far as to say a leader should feel blessed if he finds himself in this position in life.
But like any position, he must let God use it. If he doesn’t Satan will.
Dear God, show me how to have an excellent standing. In Jesus’ name, Amen.