Too often people are employed and agree to a specific job description as one of the terms of their appointment. Could you picture a chef employed to make bread starting to make Blueberry Pies? Think of a welder doing woodwork or a dentist being an ophthalmologist.
Equally challenging could be given a job description and then required to perform tasks not included in it. There are too many elders appointed and ordained who are required to do things outside of the scope of their God provided requirements. One of my colleague’s Church Council had wrote into his contract that he would have to mow the lawns of the Church property. It was not a voluntary offering. It was a contractual requirement.
It is one thing to offer to do things outside of a teaching elder’s job description, it is another to require it of him. The elder’s whole life must be geared towards one solitary matter and that is the work of God. That is his calling and must be his life. I taught at a school for three years at one stage. This was a willing effort to assist the Church financially. Regularly I would participate in and even lead work parties at the Church to get repairs done as the Church could not afford to have contractors do it at a cost. Each Church differs where it comes to their personal needs. Some struggle financially, others struggle with few men able to do repairs, still other Churches are in areas such as “mid-city, downtown or rural” where they face many different challenges and the teaching elder would need to do whatever he needs to do make the Church work. Having said this though, his job description is clear … he must minister to the needs of the souls in the flock the Holy Spirit allocated to him and he needs to seek lost souls to be brought into the flock. Now we read:
Ac 20:33 “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” 36 When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.
Paul was appointed as an apostle with the main focus on the Gentile communities of the region. Although life was very hard with lack of resources and much persecution, his passion was to keep the main thing the main thing. That is, absolutely nothing would interfere with Gospel Ministry. Whatever he needed to do to make the ministry work he would do. Again in these verses we are exposed to Paul’s heart … his heart for God and his heart for the souls under his care. He wanted the elders of the Church at Ephesus to duplicate his Gospel Passion.
1) You shall not covet. Paul is about to say in his conclusion that an elder needs to trust God for his survival because if he is going about God’s work, God shall look after His servants. Never forget that the greatest work anyone can do is win souls and prepare those souls for their eternity with the Lord Jesus. If God appoints, God will care and provide!
Ac 20:33 “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing.”
There is more to just repeating the Tenth Commandment here:
Ex 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Paul is saying that his dependency was upon God and theirs needs to be too. To be distracted by money and possessions when doing Gospel Ministry will result in serving two masters. One can easily see what Jesus was saying when He said:
Mt 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
He followed this up by saying:
Mt 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
All Gospel Workers and especially Teaching Elders need to be singular in their focus. They have the great privilege of being God’s special servants to minister to the saints and care for their spiritual needs.
2) You shall work hard.
Ac 20:34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions.
Paul never shirked away from work to enable himself to do ministry. We remember how he worked with Priscilla and Aquila making tents. It was hard work, long hours and very tiring … by to survive, as he prayed trusting God, he did his part. He worked. He was not lazy. This does not mean that all teaching elders need to have a “tent making” work to pay their way whilst pastoring the flock. Sometimes it is. I have a friend who spent more than half of his working life after Bible School working as an electrician. He supported himself and his family and pastored a Church. Now-a-days this is seldom necessary in the western world. When people become Christians and are taught to tithe correctly, they automatically contribute to the operational costs of the Church, preventing the pastor from working in the secular world to finance his ministry. One other matter here is that through Paul’s tent making employment he was able to support his Gospel Colleagues as well. Where there is nothing wrong with people enjoying the fruits of their labors, some work to support Gospel Ministry. Not everyone is called to do this, yet some are.
3) You shall help the weak. “Weak” means to be needy or poor in a financial way.
Ac 20:35 “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Like then, like today, there are those who are without. Their poverty might not be because of anything they have done. Their lot in life might have been being born into poverty … but this does not mean we must leave them in that state. It is our duty as followers of Jesus to care for the poor, particularly those within the Kingdom of God. We don’t necessarily need to take much from ourselves to help those less privileged than we are. Paul demonstrated through his tent making employment that one ought to help those who become believers who are poor economically. Poverty is such a burden that most in that condition cannot focus on eternity with an empty tummy. I remember a clergyman saying to me as a new believer … “Fill the man’s tummy with food and then find him a job. Then he will be in an environment to listen to the things of God.” The great lesson to learn is that we never give to receive. There is never a payback time, yet like with Paul, following Jesus’ words … ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ The thrill of helping others is our joy in Jesus. It is also proof that we are no covetous. Again we have seen Paul’s pastoral heart as he spoke to these elders.
Lord Jesus, thank You for saving our souls and thank You for providing for our needs. Help us not to be covetous, to work hard and care for the needy within Your Kingdom. Amen.