“Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness.”
~2 Timothy 2:23-25a (NRSV).
So fits here very aptly with what’s to come in chapter 3—a focus on attributes of false teachers; the rank opposite role and position to that of the Lord’s servant, for the very ploy of false teachers is they deceptively serve themselves, marked via slick caprice.
What the Apostle Paul is saying to Timothy here, we too are to heed. We are to be watchful not to come under, or be entrapped by, their false teaching—“Avoid them,” Paul says (3:5b).
Attributes of Mischief Makers and Propagators (a.k.a. False Teachers)
These are highlighted in 3:1-9 but they’re lovers of themselves, of money, of arrogance, abuse, greed, recklessness, conceitedness etc. They hold to the outward manifestations of godliness—seeking to say all the right things and be seen in all the right places—but they deny the power of God by their lack of care, and by pride and arrogance (3:5).
These captivate “silly women” [and men] (3:6) by their witless charm and flattery. They’re constantly amused by pleasure and speak often about what they’re consuming and what pleasures entice them, never quite sensing the noose they slip around their squalid secular necks in their spiritual pretentiousness.
They’re ungrateful, treacherous and slanderous. They cannot forgive wrongs done them, demanding the highest order of restitution—but don’t be fooled; forgiveness is not part of their set.
Attributes of the Lord’s Servant
Run a mirror to the above and we run pretty close. The Lord’s servant is first and foremost avoiding “stupid” and “senseless” controversies. The intent is not a lack of resolve to address matters of knowledge, and lacks thereof, but it’s in the understanding that those arguing often argue without cause but their own winning esteem—ah, the classic false teacher re-emerges!
How can the godly be at home in a quarrel? It cannot be. Conflict is healthy only if both seek to gain the truth by it. The sorts of “quarrels” Paul has in mind are the sort that has us chasing our tails. The Lord’s servant is circumspect in their communication so matters of discussion don’t run off track.
The Actual Attributes
Instead of quarrelsome, the Lord’s servant is “kindly to everyone,” and always ready to issue the grace of selfless love. They’re teachers by nature. That is, they’re “patient, correcting opponents with gentleness,” and not brash and carefree.
These lovers of God are quick in their forgiveness of everyone and they’d rather miss the acclaim anyone can pile on themselves, for the true riches of God’s power. Their good acts speak handsomely for this power, especially as they try to do them in secret.
They take no great pleasure in pleasing people; witless charm and flattery are a personal abomination. Most of all they’re grateful souls, quick to make mention of their praise of God and of others—through tangible specificity—that they esteem.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.