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Friday, August 07, 2009

Civilian Affairs

Did you ever come across something in the Bible that caused you to pause and do a double take? You read it and re-read it, pondering the real meaning of it; even if you know the meaning, you may spend more time contemplating the impact of that meaning. This happens to me from time to time.

Most recently, I focused on 2 Timothy 2:4, which says, "No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer." Now what do you suppose that means? My mind immediately thought of all the preachers who get involved in politics. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, or even Rick Warren. These guys seem to sound the battle cry to fight for the issues at hand. Is this what the Apostle Paul was referring to when he wrote this letter to Timothy?

I contrasted them with people like Billy Graham - who prayed with and maybe even mentored high profile politicians - but never seemed to involved himself in politics. Could it be that Billy Graham has a different understanding of 2 Timothy 2:4 than Messrs. Sharpton, Jackson, Warren or others? What do you suppose that understanding might be? Or am I just imagining such a difference? Maybe the only reason that Billy Graham never acted like Jesse Jackson is because he was too busy doing other stuff.

I went on-line, to one of my favorite websites: http://www.biblegateway.com/ to see how this same verse is handled in other translations of the Bible. Here's how some of the more common translations handled 2 Timothy 2:4:

New International Version
No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer.

New American Standard Bible
No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.

The Message Bible
A soldier on duty doesn’t get caught up in making deals at the marketplace. He concentrates on carrying out orders.

Amplified Bible
No soldier when in service gets entangled in the enterprises of (civilian) life; his aim is to satisfy and please the one who enlisted him.

New Living Translation
Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them.

King James Version
No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

So the easy part here is to identify the soldier and the officer he's trying to please. The soldier is you and I, as Christ-followers. The officer is Christ Jesus, the Lord and God of the universe.

What we must discern definitions of things like "civilian affairs" or "enterprises of life." Here, my mind takes two schools of thought. I can just as easily shift from politics to business. And when I make such a shift, the list of names grows much longer. It turns out that I know way more enterprising pastors who make big money with business enterprises than I know of pastors who involve themselves in politics. Is that okay?

I mean is it okay for a man called and ordained by God to preach the gospel to also be a very successful businessman? The Apostle Paul wasn't. Virtually all of Jesus' chosen disciples walked away from their businesses to engage in the Lord's work. The Bible says the church (other Christians) are supposed to take care of people who do.

What are the motives of pastors who engage in business enterprises? Are they really greedy and money hungry? Or is it that the churches aren't taking care of their needs? (I suspect its more often the latter.) What about pastors who are taken care of, but turn each sermon series into a best-selling book? Is that okay? How does that fit with 2 Timothy 2:4?

You know, I am not here to judge or criticize anyone on any front, be it politics or business. But I remember counseling a very rich man one time. We read Jesus' statement about it being easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into heaven. I know God's character and nature makes it possible for a rich man to get into heaven. But I urged this dear man to pray and seek the meaning of what Jesus was saying. If I were rich ... I'd want to know very specifically what Jesus meant by that!

Similarly, if I were a pastor who felt called to politics or business enterprises, I think I should want to be very clear about the meaning of what Paul was saying in 2 Timothy 2:4. It seems to be a profound statement that definitely has a purpose.

The challenge for you and me is to know the meaning and purpose of such statements. I believe God puts them in His Word to challenge our thinking.

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous3:13 PM

    Really well written. Thank you for this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous3:15 PM

    Wow, I didn't know the Bible said that!

    ReplyDelete