Thrice in Titus 3 (verses 1, 8, and 14), Paul talks about being ready for and doing “good work”.
But what is good work?
From the context it seems clear that he isn’t talking about livelihood. Rather, Paul is talking about something else. He says in verse 8 that they are “excellent and profitable for people,” which seems to speak of human flourishing. Then in verse 14, Paul says that good works “help cases of urgent need” and are fruitful.
And, perhaps what is more telling is, in verses 9-10 Paul lists what good work is not: foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, arguments about the law, and stirring up division. These things, he explicitly states, are unprofitable and worthless.
At a glance, it feels like Paul is reminding Titus that we have limited time on Earth (and he may have had the imminence of Christ’s return weighing on his mind), and that we need to make the most of it.
My question now is, what does this mean for leisure activities that have no apparent “fruitfulness”? For private hobbies like games or watching TV or movies? Should these things be put aside in favor of other endeavors?
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; deprive, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
2 Timothy 4:2
Never before have I felt so “out of season”. For those of you who don’t know, I’m not currently in vocational ministry, and I feel like God has been calling me away from vocational ministry for this next season of life. I feel aimless and uncertain. I don’t know where I fit, what I should be doing, ministry-wise.
I am out of season, and this has had a very negative impact on my spiritual health. Since I haven’t had something that I was working toward, I let my training slip. Skipping my Bible for one day turned into two days, then a week, then three. I would come back and read again for a day or two, then lapse once more.
But Paul instructs Timothy, a young pastor, to be ready “out of season”. I used to think that this meant to be ready even when I’m “off the clock”, but right now it feels like so much more.
Be ready, when I don’t have to be.
Be ready, when no one expects anything of me.
Be ready, when I don’t seem to have a reason to be.
I must confess that through these last few months since my position came to an end, I have not been ready to teach. But I’m back, and I’m striving to be ready.
Second Timothy 2 shares the idea that a Christian (and the pastor specifically) is a like a soldier. Personally, I don’t feel like I’m on the front lines anymore. Or at least not right now. But, even being out of season, I’m a soldier. Perhaps the closest analogy to where I’m at is the national reserve. I’m here and could be called upon, so I must be ready.
I’ve always understood 2 Timothy to be a letter from Paul to Timothy, guiding and instructing him as a young pastor. But the letter closes with Paul using the 2nd person plural, not the singular I would have expected. So, even in a personal letter, it seems that Paul was writing with the intention of having Timothy read it out to others.
This is particularly interesting to me because it seems like so much of the letter is specifically written to pastors: guarding the truth, working honorably, being wary of godlessness, recognizing the usefulness of all Scripture, and a charge to preach the word. Apparently, as much as this letter addressed things Timothy needed to pay attention to, it was also meant to instruct the congregation.
To what end? Perhaps to stir within the hearts of others who feel the call to ministry. But I feel like, more than that, it is to show the congregation what is expected of their pastor – both so that they can hold him accountable and so that they can strive to support him.
2 Timothy 3:1-7
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
There are three references to being prideful. Two references to being unsatisfied. A slew of other negative things that are uplifted today. How do I balance the command “Avoid such people” with the fact that I’m supposed to reach the world for Christ? Am I just supposed to evangelize “nice” people?