Principles To Treat Everyone Right!Fr. Barnabas Powell
“Well, to be fair…” I cringed when I heard these words because I knew what followed was an attempt by the speaker to shut down the discussion. After all, everyone wants “to be fair,” don’t we?
Of course, we want to be “fair.” It seems to be an ingrained and foundational “sense” we humans all share. This idea that there should be an equality of treatment no matter who you are is also a foundational principle of “democracy.” This whole notion started with the ancient, pagan, Greek city-states before Christ, and that became a central aspect of the founding of our own American Republic as we abandoned monarchy for our constitutional form of government.
And yet, it hasn’t been the case in most of human history when “fairness” has ruled the day. Injustices, prejudice, and downright holocaust mark human history, especially in the 20th century when “democracy” was being “shared” with the world!
Look at our lesson today in 1 Timothy 5:11-21:
Timothy, my son, refuse to enrol younger widows; for when they grow wanton against Christ they desire to marry, and so they incur condemnation for having violated their first pledge. Besides that, they learn to be idlers, gadding about from house to house, and not only idlers but gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, rule their households, and give the enemy no occasion to revile us. For some have already strayed after Satan. If any believing man or woman has relatives who are widows, let him assist them; let the church not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are real widows. Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching; for the scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” Never admit any charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without favor, doing nothing from partiality.
St. Paul tells St. Timothy to lead his parish toward treating the needy, the leaders, and the whole community fairly based on some pretty powerful principles.
First, the Needy, specifically widows. Paul tells Timothy not to “enroll” the younger widows in the community’s widow’s support system! Paul’s reasons are telling. Encourage the younger widows to marry because if they are supported by the community, they will risk their own spiritual health. Better to have them marry and bear children and rule their households. At first glance, this strikes us moderns as “unfair” and “judgemental.” Careful! Paul’s motives are a father’s motives for his children: To see them be what they were made to be! Those in need, truly need to be willing to be “fathered” not just “mothered.”
Next, the Able, specifically those who have family in need. Paul goes on to tell Timothy to make sure the extended family participates in helping their kin. Again, we see the wisdom of a father here. Most folks instinctively know they should help their family in times of need. What most folks miss is the spiritual benefits and the practical benefits of keeping charity as closer to family unity as possible. When we foster this kind of spiritual maturity in our communities, we invite all involved to become more capable, not less! And we offer the wider world an example of what true “fairness” really is.
Finally, the Leaders, specifically those who “preach and teach.” Fascinating to see Paul address this here. I wonder what was going on at Timothy’s parish. Paul adds the leaders of the community to the “fairness” list simply because another powerful “fatherly” virtue is building the appropriate appreciation into your spiritual children for those truths that are most valuable. When we insist our leaders are cared for we display the truth that what they share with us is the most valuable “thing” we possess – our beautiful Faith. When we don’t do this, we display a devaluation of the importance of the Faith in our lives.
Today, we all want to be “fair” but that word is so filled with wrong expectations and motivations all too many times. It’s better to allow our Faith to shape our values and perspectives so that we live Purposeful Orthodox lives that truly display what we value most in how we set our priorities.
P.S. Dear Lord, our modern-day is not very awake to the dangers of delusion and self-centered living. We misunderstand even the basic wisdom of love and sober living. We need You and Your Wisdom to truly wake us up from a narcissism that poisons our relationships and our community. As we approach Your holy Birth, grant us to do and You have done: Make visible the everlasting love of God for all of us, and help us to love like You love. Amen
A Special Message from Fr. Barnabas: The season of the Nativity Fast is meant to prepare me and you to fully celebrate the awesome confrontation of God becoming flesh for you and me! And part of that preparation is the spiritual discipline of Generosity. Please remember your local parish in your year-end giving. And if you would like to make a gift to Faith Encouraged Ministries, please go here https://faithencouraged.org/make-a-donation/ and make your gift today!