• 02Jun

    3 Breaking up Fallow Grounds

    20 - Preacher Diary


    Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers.     1 Timothy 5:1 (NIV).

    Does this mean that an elder is always right? Certainly not. A wise man may some times be deceived, and an elder could be wrong at times. But the point being made is that there is a certain way elders should be approached, and a certain way they should not be approached, when they do wrong. If the younger person gets so zealous to correct an elder person in a manner other than God has approved here, that person would be breaking God’s universal code of conduct, and so would be sinning. An elder so badly approached will reject the rebuke of the younger person, not because there is no sense in it, but because it was not properly directed. God says here that elders deserve a special kind of approach, in spite of their having done something wrong.

     The NIV translation says, “Do not rebuke an older man harshly.” The King James Version says, “Rebuke not an elder.” One word is central to both, and that is “rebuke.” What does it mean? The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary defines it thus: “reprove; speak severely to.” What does it mean to reprove? The same dictionary states that reproof means “blame; finding fault; expression of blame or disapproval.”

    Does that describe your approach to older persons when they err? Do you speak to them as if they were your equals? Do you speak severely to them? Angrily? With threats? Are you so quick to blame an elder? Do you talk to elders as if you were finding fault? Do you always pick holes in what they do? Do you correct them as if they have shamefully failed, and you their younger now have to show them the way? Do you speak in a manner that expresses blame and disappointment? As if you have power over them? As if you were their superior and they your subordinates? No. An elder so wrongly approached will rightly react against the proudly speaking younger instructor. He would still be wrong, but the younger one has committed an error also, trying to do a good thing in a bad way.

    How should an elder be approached when he or she does wrong? As a father. How would you approach your father if you thought he had not done well? Certainly, you would not speak to him as you would to your child or servant, as a proper child. The fact that he is wrong would not mean that he deserved no honour anymore. You would talk to him respectfully. You would not bully him. The elder man, in spite of his present error which one seeks to correct, should, according to the KJV, be intreated “as a father.”

    What does it mean to intreat (or entreat)? It means to request or ask earnestly. That means to be firm yet humble. To entreat also means to beg for, to beseech, etc.

    Two other translations of this passage are worth considering:

    The Amplified Bible:

    Do not sharply censure or rebuke an older man, but ENTREAT and PLEAD with him as [you would with] a father...

    The New American Standard:

    ... but rather APPEAL to him as a father...

     This is the method of approach to elder persons which God has approved to younger persons. God respects proper methods of approach. If you get so angry as not to respect God’s method, you’ll only have yourself to blame. Your temper and flesh may dictate a different approach. Your feelings may advise you differently. Other younger men or women may think you foolish for adopting God’s method. But you’ll only be helping yourself if you obeyed God. You might be tempted to be ‘radical’ and ‘drastic.’ (That is the language of young men.) You might be tempted to show that you are fed up, and won’t take any more ‘nonsense.’ But note: You can’t be wiser than God Who has recommended to young persons this approach to their elders. God Who created all men knows everybody’s soft spot. He is here revealing to younger persons that they will more easily have results with older men if they adopt this approach. Try God’s method if you want God’s result. Amen.

    Now, the next issue: how old should the “elder” or “older” person be? That question is better answered with reference to grammar. In English grammar, there are generally three kinds of words (adjectives) used to state degree; e.g. “tall,” “taller,” “tallest”; or “big,” “bigger,” “biggest.”

    The word with the -est ending (or suffix) is called the superlative, and the one with the -er ending (or suffix) is known as the comparative. The comparative is used when only two things are being compared, e.g. “John is taller than James.” The superlative form is used when three or more things are being compared, e.g. “He is the tallest boy in the school,” or “He is the tallest of the three boys sitting in front.”

    In 1 Timothy 5:1-2, it is the comparative terms “older” and “younger” that are used. It does not say, “Rebuke not an old man,” which would have meant all persons who have attained to a certain age which the society acknowledges as “old age.” It says “older” (or “elder”) and “younger men.”  In other words, the reference is not to any particular age, whether 70 or 80 or 100 or 50 or 35. Two people are being placed side by side: one is younger, the other is older. The age difference is not the matter. The younger may be younger by only five years. He should relate with that elder as if he were relating with his father. That is, he may be 35 and the one who has erred may be 40. At least the man is five years older than he is, so he is an “older” man to the “younger man.” How much more when the age difference is 10 or 20 or even 50? An older person is an older person.

    Suppose the younger man is the pastor of a church, whereas the elder man is just a member of the congregation? It still does not warrant the pastor to speak rudely to his elder. In fact, the books of 1 and 2 Timothy, and what we have read for text, were supposed to be instructions to the young pastor, Timothy, on how, politely, to approach the elder members of his congregation, even when they err.

    Suppose the younger person is a wife, how should she approach the husband? As a father? But he is a husband not a father. Afterall, the Bible says that in marriage the two shall become “one flesh”! If then they are “one flesh,” how could she still be `younger’?

    Well, our text would apply even more severely to a wife who is instructed by God to submit to her husband as her head. How much more when he is also her elder. In other words, this matter of a humble approach is more binding on a wife; in fact, doubly binding (Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:1). Even where the wife may be older, the first rule is still powerfully binding on her, such that her being older, accords her no rule over her husband.

     Elders may not always be right, but they deserve a respectful approach.

    1   ...Treat younger men as brothers,

    2   ...older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity (verses 1-2)


    God is concerned not only with older people, but with younger ones also. God cares about all people, in spite of their age. God Who has created all men knows not only the best approach to older persons, but also to younger ones.

    Most youths err not because they willfully want to sin, but because they lack supervision. The problem of many other youths derives from not having known any true family love. They lived and grew up in the streets, or under some harsh master while they were apprenticing for a trade. So it is very refreshing to them to see in an older person a brother or sister to identify with, the brother or sister they never had.

    Also, a father or mother presupposes a child, for it takes parents to make a child, and every child is a pointer to some parents. If God expects the younger ones to treat their older ones as parents, as fathers and mothers, then it is implied that the older ones should also take the younger ones much more than as brothers and sisters, as children, and thus create for them the home they never may have had. That would mean that God expects the Christian Body to provide the world with the ideal model of a family.

    Unfortunately, most of us have not approached the younger ones as sisters or brothers, much more as parents. We approach them as little children always prone to sin. We approach them as recalcitrant urchins. We bully them for every mistake they make. We shout upon them and intimidate them until we have succeeded to cow them. Then there remains hardly any more confidence for them to be themselves in our presence, for fear that they’ll make another of their apparently endless mistakes and get bullied to death.

    They are to be treated as brothers and sisters, not as slaves.

    How do you deal with your brother or sister when he or she does something wrong? You correct in love. In God’s house, do the same.

    Another point becomes obvious here: that young persons also, like the older men, are prone to do evil. It is not only older men who fail. The young ones also have their share of failings. But that should be no reason for them to be treated as babes. They deserve their own measure of honour, as brothers or sisters. Amen.

    But CAUTION: Do not, in the name of ‘Brother’ and ‘Sister’ beguile one another into sin, especially when men have to deal in these matters with “younger women.” That is why the exhortation in verse 2 which addresses the relationship with the female sex ends on a note of caution that this ‘family’ relationship should be conducted “with absolute purity.”


    Culled from The Preacher’s book titled: Breaking Up Fallow Grounds.”


    From The Preacher’s diary.

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