This isn't another post on tipping! It's a post on church leaders, table servers in the house of the Lord, Deacons.
Paul's instructions to Timothy remind us that deacons are "not to indulge in much wine, and not pursue dishonest gain." They are, like elders, to be sober and self-controlled. And they are to avoid taking advantage of others for their own profit and benefit.
It's interesting that the apostle says deacons are not to be given to "much wine," suggesting that some wine is fine, while requiring that elders are "not given to wine," suggesting abstinence. Perhaps it's the case that the elders drive the deacons to drink! But in any case, in neither office are people to be controlled and ruined by the grape.
Also, deacons must not be "greedy of filthy lucre" (KJV). The KJV brings out something of the ugliness of the disposition. Deacons are not to be greedy. And while "pursuing dishonest gain" (NIV) sounds more polite, such a pursuit is nonetheless greed for "filthy lucre." Avoiding this with deacons is particularly important since deacons will have intimate access to the lives of many in the congregation who they will from time to time be called upon to help. Deacons have as their mission to care for the practical concerns of the body, often involving benevolence. That is a terrible platform to give to someone who looks to exploit others for their own gain.
So, some practical questions may be helpful when thinking about potential deacons in the church.
1. Does the potential deacon drink alcohol? If so, have you observed or others observed self-control in the use of alcohol or does the person exhibit weakness or sinfulness in this area? Are they capable of saying "no" when offered alcohol? Do they use their freedom in this area in a way that does not cause others to stumble, being aware of newer and weaker Christians when they partake? Would you be comfortable holding the deacon out as a model for how to responsibly use and abstain from alcohol? Much good is done in the life of others when they have leaders and teachers who model the ability live free of addictions and compulsions.
2. Does the potential deacon exhibit godly generosity and self-denial or greed when it comes to personal financial matters? Are they primarily generous givers or hoarders of money? Do they appear to steward their resources in keeping with the priority of the kingdom or in keeping with their own desire for gain?
3. Does the potential deacon encourage others in generosity or does he/she foster selfishness and financial self-concern in others?
4. Does the potential deacon demonstrate pastoral care and self-sacrifice when interacting with others in need? Is the potential deacon someone who tends to blame others for their financial straits, or someone who primarily ministers to others even when their is admonishment or rebuke to be given? A blaming and punishing spirit isn't fitting for someone whose basic task is to solve problems and help others in difficulty. For such a person, each occasion to help will be embittering and harmful to others.
5. Is the potential deacon honest in his or her financial dealings? Do they pay their bills on time? Do they report accurately on tax returns? Is the person willing to "fudge a little" whenever the church's business requires sacrifice or large expenditures? A deacon must be a good witness for Christ and His church, so honesty and integrity in all his dealings is essential.
6. What is the potential deacon's attitude toward wealth? Whether they are wealthy or not isn't the issue. A person can be greedy for dishonest gain while living in a hovel or a palace. Some of the greediest people we meet may either be poor or wealthy. Does the potential deacon witness the wisdom of Agur when he says, "Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or, I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God" (Prov. 30:7-9). Does the man know how to abound and how to be abased? (2 Cor. 9:8; Phil. 4:11-13). Does he hold all things loosely or with a miser's grip? A deacon who knows how to be content will be a tremendous asset in teaching and modeling that contentment for others in the body.
Deacons filled with Spirit, evidencing self-control, are tremendous blessings from the Lord. They faithfully wait tables and therein multiply the ministry of the word and prayer in any congregation.