I Timothy 3:8, 11, "Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;" "Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things."
This morning, an ever-increasing rate of sin plagues the world. As Scripture faithfully records for us, the successive generations of man show forth increased manifestation of evil deeds, with men becoming manifestly worse and worse. (II Timothy 3:13) Yet, regardless of the sliding slope of morality in the world at large, the standard of Godly conduct and moral living has not nor will ever change. God's standard remains just as pure as ever. God's measure stands pristine, and the door of discipleship continues to hinge upon a fervent desire to adhere to that standard more and more: better and better. When examining what the Scriptures declare about morality and righteous living, one of the pitfalls of thinking that people sometimes fall into is that of thinking morality is relative based on the individual. Now, the consequences can vary based on the person's knowledge (Luke 12:48), but the standard of righteousness remains the same. Ignorance might allow for lesser consequences for transgression (the fewer stripes analogy from Luke 12), but the standard is still the same.
When examining the officers of the church (bishops/elders and deacons), what moral code are they held to? Faithful examination of the Scriptures shows their moral requirements to mirror the faithfulness that God requires in all disciples. Since their moral code is the same, why would God inspire so much space in the Bible to record their moral requirements? The reason is simply stated (as Paul told Timothy in I Timothy 4:12) that officers in the church should show a good example to those within and without of good conduct and moral uprightness. Though the standard is the same, their office is one of service, showing a good example for others to follow. Therefore, let us examine some of the moral requirements that are penned for us in the study verses above.
The two verses above show some of the moral requirements for a deacon and his wife. By examining the statements side by side, we can easily see that the man and his wife are held to the same code. The difference in terminology between verses 8 and 11 defines what each means. For example, a deacon is "not to be given to much wine," while the same statement for the wife simply says "sober." The word "sober" defines for us what the previous statement declared for her husband. Does this mean a complete prohibition of alcohol? No, but it does show a complete prohibition of drunkenness. The same could be said for all the saints that have pledged to live an honourable life before God and men.
The first phrase for both is the same: grave. Both the deacon and his wife should show due seriousness and respect for the house of God and their lives. Whether inside or outside the church, people should observe this couple as not given to folly but rather showing an emphasis on gravity for an honourable life. The second phrase declares that a deacon should not be double-tongued and his wife not a slanderer. Again, the statement for the wife shows further definition to the term "double-tongued." Whether looking at the man or the wife, people should see honest spoken people. They do not derive pleasure from running people down, falsifying reputations, or perhaps even acting duplicitously depending on the crowd they are around.
Since we have already examined the statement about sobriety, let us examine the last couplet of phrases that we hope to spend the majority of our time on. The man's requirement states "not greedy of filthy lucre." The wife's statement says "faithful in all things." Someone who is greedy of filthy lucre is someone that desires fortune, heaps treasures to themselves, and is said to not be rich before God. (Luke 12:21) So, how does a man not being greedy of filthy lucre equate to the wife's requirement of faithfulness in all things? In this last set of moral code requirements in our verses, we see a window into a deep, profound truth.
One of the profound truths of the Bible as it pertains to Christian conduct and Godly living is that certain things hinge or build upon other things. In other words, without A, one never gets to B, and therefore never to C either, and so on and so forth. In college we call classes of this kind “prerequisites.” Without that baseline of knowledge, someone is ill-equipped to move forward in more advanced courses. Biblically, we see that certain doctrines can never be understood without certain baselines of knowledge. For example, one can never really appreciate the free grace of God solely by His mercy and purpose unless they have a grounded understanding of total depravity and man's utter helplessness by nature. The knowledge of total depravity cannot rightly be understood without some understanding of original sin and the representation of the first man Adam. Other truths in the Bible are the same way. Christ said that without a good understanding of the parable of the sower one would never come to good understanding of any of the rest of His parables. (Mark 4:13)
Practical living and moral conduct is much the same way. Without a firm foundation of faithfulness on certain things, we are guaranteed to fail in other things. So, for a man and his wife to be faithful in all things, they cannot be greedy of filthy lucre. Paul goes on this same epistle to examine this thought. Paul freely and poignantly declares the love of money as the root of all evil. (I Timothy 6:10) The love of money (filthy lucre) is not the root of some evil but all evil. In other words, without that foundation in place, a deacon, his wife, or any Christian for that matter is guaranteed to open the door to a wide variety and great host of immoral conduct.
Consider the world we live in today. By the ever-increasing pursuit of the almighty dollar, people have no time to come to church. Jobs increasingly require weekend duty, and the love of money drives people to continue working rather than declare that church attendance is more important than a job. Jobs increasingly require longer hours (some people even consistently working 60-70+ hours a week). Again, there is no time to read and study the Bible, pray without ceasing, or quietly sit and meditate (walk with God) about the truly good and remarkable things that come only from above. (James 1:17) What drives this? Love of money and discontent with a current status.
Some see money as the means by which to propel their reputation. The desire to be sought out by the greatest and noblest of this world makes some work feverishly to gain that standing. Since money is their medium, they pursue it fully. Others desire things they cannot afford but want now. How different is our country now than a few years ago? Much of the difference came in the form of financial collapse in certain key fields (housing being one of them). All of this stems from a love of money, filthy lucre, and the things that it brings. Paul said contentment with food and raiment was sufficient for the natural realm. That contentment with those natural necessities coupled with godliness is the great gain of this world.
Should someone ever fail in the exercise of knowing the proper place of money, other pillars of moral conduct are sure to fall. Faithfulness in all things starts with the right objective of money. What is it? Simply put, we should see it as a medium of exchange whereby the necessary goods of life are transferred. Any higher importance put upon it leads down the slope of "love of money." Again, these requirements in the deacon and his wife should simply be to "show the way" for other followers of Christ to walk in like manner. This is the requirement for all.
While I am not a student of history to the degree that many are, I have studied sufficiently to pick up a real gem from church history. In olden times (particularly during the frontier days of America), many people had to do business on credit. For farmers particularly, credit had to be doled out for life's necessities until the crops came in. In those days, church goers (particularly Old Baptists) were always given the necessary credit for the things they needed. Reason being: the common knowledge and report was that Primitive Baptists (or in that day simply Baptists) were "always good for it." There was a reputation of faithfulness in finances to pay off lawful debts. May it always be said of bishops, deacons, yea of all of us that we are faithful in all things beginning with our faithful handling of money.