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

April 29, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

conversation-1This past weekend, we had some friends, who were attending a wedding here in town, stay with us in the not-so-lavish accommodations of our two bedroom apartment.  The inadequacy of the lodging aside, it was a great time.  I had a chance to catch up with a friend of mine who I went to seminary with.  And while some of our conversation was lighthearted and jocular, some of it was more subdued and serious.  Our conversation took on an especially weighty tone Sunday afternoon when my buddy and I were talking about some of the temptations which war against our souls.  I expressed to my friend my own shortcomings and how I can sometimes arrogantly boast in what I do well while simultaneously trying to downplay what I do poorly.  “Don’t worry,” my friend retorted, “You’re not fooling anybody.  Even though you may try to cover up your shortcomings, we still know what they are.”  I chuckled at my friend’s response.  Mainly, because he was absolutely correct.  I can try to manage my image and make myself look better than I really am all I want to.  But I’m not fooling anybody, especially those closest to me.  For they know that I am a sinful, flawed, broken individual.

In our reading for today from 1 Timothy 5, Paul reminds us that, in spite of our best efforts to cover up our sinfulness, we’re not fooling anybody.  Paul says, “The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them” (verse 24).  Paul says that, for many of us, our sinfulness is so apparent that our reputations precede us.  There’s no use trying to plaster on an air of phony righteousness in front of others, for word about us has already gotten around.  But even if some manage to maintain a veneer of piety for a good long while, Paul continues, “The sins of others trail behind them” (verse 24).  That is, we will be found out for who we really are, even if it takes a while.  We’re not fooling anybody.

Contrast this with what Paul says about good deeds:  “In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden” (verse 25).  Paul says, just as our sins come to light, so do our good deeds, even if our good deeds are not at first readily apparent.  In fact, good deeds, by their very nature, are often not readily apparent, but are done clandestinely, for this is just as Jesus commands:

Be careful not to do your “acts of righteousness” before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4)

Truly good deeds have a secretive edge to them, says Jesus.  In fact, I have found a fascinating dynamic that seems to regularly work in the hearts and lives of God’s people:  Those who do the most good are often the least boastful about their “acts of righteousness” and the most honest about their sins and follies.  Conversely, there are others who are not nearly so concerned with the “acts of righteousness” that Jesus commands, but will gladly announce and receive kudos for any good work that they might do while, at the same time, working vigorously to cover up their transgressions.  I am ashamed to admit that, all too often, I fall into this latter category.

What, then, is the upshot of Paul’s admonition in 1 Timothy 5?  Simply this:  Honestly confess your sins and do good in Jesus’ name.  Don’t try to fool anybody.  After all, it won’t work anyway.  For this is the condition of every Christian:  he is a sinner who transgresses God’s law while also being a saint who does Jesus’ “acts of righteousness.”  And thank God we’re all in this condition together.  For it is this universal condition that allows us to offer Christ’s forgiveness to each other in our sin, all the while encouraging each other with Christ’s righteousness.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” -1 Timothy 4 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – 1 Timothy 6 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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