Worthy Worker (Part One)
Please read 2 Timothy 2:14-26 in your Bible.
Image by James Best, (C) 2020,
First there was the refusal to shake hands. Then there was the tearing of papers. It was a rough morning in Mrs. Marple’s kindergarten class! Say, what did you think I was talking about?!
Today we’re talking about being a “worthy worker;” a follower of Jesus who lives out the faith God has given. Speaking of work: picture two factory workers talking. The woman says, "I can make the boss give me the day off."
The man replies, "How would you do that?" The woman says, "Just wait and see." She then hangs upside down from the ceiling.
The boss comes in and says, "What are you doing?" The woman replies, "I'm a light bulb."
The boss then says, "You've
been working so much that you've gone crazy. I think you need to take the day off."
The man starts to follow her and the boss says, "Where are you going?" The man says, "I'm going home, too. I can't work in the dark."
We’ve gotten pretty well acquainted with the church in Ephesus. A young man named Timothy was the sole employee of that church and the Apostle Paul loved him so much he wrote Timothy a couple training manuals. We’ll see this morning what the second manual says about the kind of workers of whom God approves. This ought to be a big concern to us, because one day we’ll stand before God for our biggest job performance review ever, and we REALLY want that promotion!
Our aim is to be worthy workers.
1. V. 15 sets forth the goal for our daily life: being approved workers.
DO YOUR BEST proves some effort is required on our part. The word means to “make haste, make every effort, be zealous or eager” to receive God’s approval. God graciously supplies us with all we need to live holy and fruitful lives and He forgives us when we sin. Our part is to exercise our will, to put for the effort, to make the right choices; to do our BEST.
Seek God’s approval by avoiding evil and pursuing good. This requires CORRECTLY HANDLING THE WORD OF TRUTH.
Given the repeated emphasis on sins of the tongue, (QUARRELING, CHATTER, ARGUMENTS), Paul was evidently concerned about the church’s attention being diverted from approved doctrine to false teaching.
CORRECTLY HANDLING meant to plow a straight furrow, lay a direct road, or quarry a symmetrical stone. It is handling God’s word in a straightforward way, letting it speak for itself, not trying to bend the word to fit one’s preferred meaning. Indeed, the best use of the Bible is to use it at as close to the literal words on the page as possible.
Skeptics accuse the Bible of being unreliable as interpreters have bent it to support a variety of teachings. We have to be careful to not give them evidence that is true.
A benefit of being approved is not having to be ASHAMED in this life and especially not on Judgment Day when all worker’s projects are tested (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). It’s embarrassing to claim to understand God’s will and then be proven wrong. It’s much, much worse to be judged as wrong by God on Judgment Day, when it’s too late to do anything about it.
2. Worthy workers in God’s kingdom avoid evil and do good.
Paul supplied five examples of evils to be avoided. The first is QUARRELING mentioned in verses 14, 23, 24. QUARRELING was condemned as being of NO VALUE. It is like “empty calories” or “junk food,” it does nothing to sustain or improve life. It is worthless and wasteful.
Worse, it ONLY RUINS THOSE WHO LISTEN (often the innocent bystanders, not those arguing). Disputes over words cause divisions which unsettle people, turning them away from God and turning them on one another.
There are two kinds of people who are prone to quarrel. One kind is the Know-it-alls. Because they refuse to concede there’s something they don’t know better than you, they will argue. The other kind is the Drama Queens who like to quarrel because it’s one way of creating some drama. We see a great deal of QUARRELING on social media and in relation to Washington politics.
GODLESS CHATTER (16) is the second example of evil to be avoided. Chatter can feel as if it is the least evil of all the sins of the tongue. Sure it’s superficial and wastes time, but where’s the harm?
The Apostle Paul would allow none of that; he use the word GODLESS to characterize CHATTER properly: as evil. To me, cable news networks and talk radio are two modern examples of chatter. The Worthy Worker has no time to waste on typically sinful verbal fluff.
Third, Paul called on Timothy, a young man, to FLEE THE EVIL DESIRES OF YOUTH (22). We might think of sensuality, impatience, arrogance, and self-centeredness as usual YOUTH sins. I prefer to see this as Paul’s condemnation of immaturity. Immaturity is understandable when you’re young, untrained, and inexperienced. However, when you’re old enough and taught better and don’t do it, that’s a sin. However you define the sins of youth, we are to FLEE from them.
The fourth example is strongly worded: DON’T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH FOOLISH AND STUPID ARGUMENTS (24). These inevitably lead to having the QUARRELS mentioned in verse fourteen. This reference to arguments makes me think of trying to prove whose football team is better, or comments left on websites that make letters to the editor look tame by comparison.
The fifth example to sins to NOT be RESENTFUL (24). In our Adult Bible Study we’re finding out about the toxic nature of grudges and all forms of unresolved anger. Resentment is a self-inflicted wound. The person at whom we are needlessly angry is very likely to be unaware of their offense or care about it. Why should we?
To complete the moral picture, God gave Paul five examples of good to be pursued. The first is a set of four virtues found in verse twenty-two: PURSUE RIGHTEOUSNESS, FAITH, LOVE AND PEACE. The word PURSUE means we’re not waiting for these virtues to fall out of the sky and hit us on the head like a cartoon anvil. We must take an active role in cultivating them.
What challenged me this week was the commentator who pointed out that these virtues are exercised in relationships. You can’t know that you have these virtues or develop them on your own. We need the church and our families to do it.
The second example of pursuit-worthy virtue is to CALL ON THE LORD OUT OF A PURE HEART (22). To CALL ON THE LORD is a reference to prayer. As the Bible teaches, God hears the prayers of those who are PURE of HEART. This is a moral state, but also refers to sincerity; single-mindedness.
The third virtue is kindness: BE KIND TO EVERYONE (24). In recent national events we’ve seen that tolerance, patience, and gentleness can be in short supply. Isn’t this a place where the Church could show leadership in our culture?
Whatever one’s position in the church, home, or society, kindness is a virtue that is supposed to distinguish us from unbelievers. I know how tempting it is to want to win arguments and votes, but the urge to win can never replace kindness.
The fourth virtue is to be ABLE TO TEACH (24). Some believers have a Spiritual Gift of teaching, but all believers are teachers. All parents are teachers; that’s God’s plan.
Being ABLE TO TEACH requires first that we are learners. We never want to be the “old dog” who refuses to learn “new tricks.”
Then we must develop our skill in teaching as we gain experience passing along what we know in all the virtuous ways we’ve discussed. It’s no accident that teaching is listed between kindness and gentleness.
Fifth, GENTLY INSTRUCT those who OPPOSE you (25-26). Gentleness is always appropriate, but is especially needed when instruction is given, and most of all, when instructing opponents.
Note the chain of reasoning. The HOPE motivating our offering instruction is that GOD WILL GRANT THEM REPENTANCE. Then their REPENTANCE will lead them to a KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH. The TRUTH will cause them to COME TO THEIR SENSES. (Literally, “return to soberness.”) Becoming sensible, the opponents of faith will ESCAPE THE TRAP OF THE DEVIL, WHO HAS TAKEN THEM CAPTIVE TO DO HIS WILL. It’s impossible to escape a trap when you refuse to recognize you’re in one.
Our aim is to be worthy workers.
Today is “Church Vocations Sunday,” where we’re supposed to encourage people to consider careers in full-time Christian ministry. As I am currently working on a letter of recommendation for a young lady who aspires to be a chaplain, we’ll call this a successful Church Vocations Sunday and expand the topic to do what Paul did; use work as a figurative way of explaining what it means to be a Christian.
So here we go: a Christian’s job description.
#1 - Show up for work. The believer’s workplace is wherever there is someone who can be helped with an act of service or witness. How many times do we fail to act on opportunities to talk about and demonstrate our faith?
#2 - Follow the boss’s instructions. Our boss is God, the founder of the company. He’s put instructions in our hearts and in the Bible, so no excuses.
#3 - Cooperate with your coworkers. Whether they’re in management or on the floor, your fellow Christians deserve your very best love and treatment.
#4 - Wait patiently for pay day. The best rewards for a job well done come after “retirement” from this company. You can trust the Boss to keep track of your hours, but because He is generous, your envelope will contain something extra.
Show yourself to be a worthy worker!
Zondervan Bible Commentary, Alan G. Nute
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, #11, Ralph Earle