Pastors and Elders XI: The Requirements for an Elder (part VIII)

The first requirement for elders given in 1 Timothy 3.3 is that they are not given to wine.  Now those of you who follow this series will know that we have already found out in 1 Timothy 3.2 that elders should not be drunk and should be sober, so is Paul repeating himself?

Well, it could be that as sobriety is a very important character trait for elders and leaders.  However, if we look at the Greek word that is translated “given to wine” here it is “paroions” which comes from two words “para” and “oinos”.  Para means given to, and “oinos” is the Greek word for wine.

So you can see why the translators would translate this word “given to wine”, it is what it literally means.  However, the origin of a word cannot always be used to tell you what it means, and the components of a word cannot always tell you what it means (for example a butterfly is not butter or a fly!).

So, by digging into the Greek culture that Paul was immersed in and writing to, we find out that this one word “paroinos” was used firstly to describe people who got drunk a great deal.  Then its usage came to mean the kind of drunk who was a fighter.  You know some people get drunk and sad, others get drunk and glad, others get drunk and mad.  Well, paroinos became the word people used for those who get drunk and mad – those who would fight at the drop of a hat, those who would fight battles over nothing, over imagined slights; those who would get involved in battles that were none of their business.  Eventually over time the word was used for people who were always angry and always ready to fight, whether or not wine was the cause of this aggression and rage.  It would describe the men who would physically abuse their wives, it would describe the men who were always fighting and brawling; in inappropriate places for inappropriate reasons.  It was particularly used for men who didn’t have a high opinion of women as well.

And this is vital: don’t appoint a brawler to your leadership team.  You may think that you can work around it – you can’t!  These guidelines are given to Timothy for a reason – if you appoint people who are brawlers it won’t work.

And it doesn’t have to be physically fighting.  You know the kind of people who are always at the centre of every drama, are always quick to give their opinion on anything, who want to challenge everything and anything.  The problem with criticizing everything is that when you do have a valid criticism no one listens.  You do not want a leadership team where people are afraid to speak because they know the same person is going to fight them on their opinion.  You do not want a leadership team where there is drama.  You cannot keep drama out of a church – a healthy church should be adding new people, inspiring people and challenging people – so it inherently creates drama.  But you can keep drama out of your leadership team by refusing to appoint brawlers.

And don’t appoint sexists to your leadership team – of the male or female kind.  If someone is critical of people just because of their gender (or race or nationality) then that kind of bias will not lead to healthy leadership teams or healthy leadership.

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