“Word for Today” -1 Timothy 4 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

April 28, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

boy and vegetablesPeriodically, my wife Melody and I have the pleasure of babysitting our two little nephews, Noah and Nicholas.  And, much to my chagrin, Noah and Nicholas, along with my wife and her sister, can sometimes prove to be picky eaters.  I guess it’s something that runs in the family.  That means that, if food is placed in front of my nephews and they don’t particularly care for it, they’ll stare at it with a mild disgust, refusing even to try it.  But then comes the injunction from either Melody or I:  “You have to at least try a bite.”  And after a little more placid prodding, they’ll usually pick up their forks, taste the dish, and then immediately return their forks to their plates and say, “I’m done.  I tried it!  Can I go now?”  At which point Melody will usually chime in:  “Can I go now?  That’s not how you ask.  What do you say?”  Remembering their manners, and anxious to leave the table so they can go play, they’ll respond, “Can I be excused, please?”

These words are words that we all have to use from time to time:  “Can I be excused, please?”  If I’m in the middle of a conversation and I receive a phone call that I have to take, I’ll always say, “Excuse me for a moment, please.”  Or if Melody and I get invited to a party that we cannot attend, I’ll often tell the host, “I’m sorry.  Could you excuse us from your party?  We already have prior plans.”

In our reading for today from 1 Timothy 4, Paul talks about the importance, and even the necessity, of being able to excuse yourself from certain situations:  “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales” (verse 7).  The Greek word for the phrase “have nothing to do with” is pareiteomai, meaning “to excuse oneself.”  Indeed, this is the word that Jesus uses in a parable that he tells about a man who holds a dinner, only to have the invitees pareiteomai themselves:  “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me’” (Luke 14:15-19).  And although the excuses of the people in Jesus’ story were clearly illegitimate, Paul explains that there are times when a person has a legitimate reason to excuse him or herself, such as when people are gossiping, telling “old wives’ tales.”

I wonder how much dissension and distrust could be avoided if we would simply follow Paul’s sage advice in 1 Timothy 4:7.  If someone is talking bad about someone else, if someone is using ungodly speech, simply excuse yourself!  Simply say, “I’m not sure I want to a part of this conversation.  Would you please excuse me?”  And then walk away.  Yet, so often, we don’t.  Instead, we listen interestedly as someone breathlessly recounts the raucous details of someone else’s sordid life.

Part of the tragedy of not excusing yourself from such godless chatter, Paul says, is that you have less time to devote yourself to talk and words that are righteous.  That is why Paul later instructs Timothy:  “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and teaching” (verse 13).  Excuse yourself from gossipy words.  Devote yourself to God’s Word.  This is Paul’s instruction.

So today, if someone begins a conversation with a phrase like, “You wouldn’t believe what I just heard about…” and then proceeds to gossip, won’t you politely and gently excuse yourself from the conversation?  After all, you have some better words to listen to.  For you have God’s Word to listen to.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – 1 Timothy 3 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – 1 Timothy 5 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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