It’s not uncommon for new Christians to believe they have a ministerial call on their life. A desire to become a pastor, minister, or serve in some such role as one ministering to a group of people. The Apostle Paul had this to say in his letter to Timothy.

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.

1 Timothy 3:1 (NIV)

King James provides this translation.

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

1 Timothy 3:1 (KJV)

I think the New Living Translation, however, provides us with a translation that more of us can understand and apply for our purpose today.

This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be a church leader, he desires an honorable position.”

1 Timothy 3:1 (NLT)

When I read this verse today I thought about the letter James wrote to the church and how something James said seemed to differ from what Paul said.

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

James 3:1 (NIV)

Then, after thinking about this verse from James, I thought about something Jesus said.

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.”

Matthew 23:8 (NIV)

On the surface, these three verses seem to be in conflict with one another. Even between the NIV, KJV, and the NLT, there’s a slight change in the tone that could leave us with a different understanding of 1 Timothy 3:1, which I’m using as a basis for comparison. The NIV and KJV say that it’s a “noble task” or a “good work”, respectively, while the NLT tells us the person “desires an honorable position.” Is it a task, work, or a position the person is seeking?

When I run into something like this I do a couple of things. I’ll go through and check other translations. Usually about 27 of them in total. Then, I’ll take a look at the original language and see what the word in question is and what it means.

Most of the translations I’ve reviewed today use the term, “work” in describing what the person is seeking. The Greek word being translated is ergou. Strong’s Concordance defines this as, “From a primary ergo; toil; by implication, an act.” Therefore, we can say that the intention of what Paul said to Timothy is that the person who wants to be a leader has a desire to work. To do something good, putting themselves into peril.

I’m fine with what the NLT tells us regarding being a church leader. We have different degrees of leaders based on the denomination of a church. I think it’s the driving force behind the desire for leadership that is important and reveals to us why these verses from 1 Timothy, James, and Matthew might appear to be in conflict.

In the Western world today, there’s a lot of prestige around leaders in the church. The NLT’s translation, “honorable position” is more suitable today than it was in Paul’s time. Some people see church pastors as rock stars and celebrities in the spotlight getting all the attention. They see the pastor come up to the pulpit on Sunday, preach the message, and then depart for the week to do nothing until the next Sunday. This is a common perspective on what it means to be in leadership today, and it’s attractive.

In Paul’s day, and in churches outside the Western arena, where Christianity is illegal or shunned, those in leadership face persecution and imminent death. The glamorous view many have in the West is strikingly absent. In this light, Paul’s statement to Timothy is a bit clearer. Anyone who wanted to stand in the face of danger to preach the Gospel, and do all of the work associated with it, was seeking to do something honorable for the Kingdom of God. They were risking their lives for the Gospel.

When we consider the hardship involved in ministry, James’ statement makes more sense to a certain degree. However, James says people shouldn’t want to become teachers because they will be judged more strictly. He doesn’t say anything about the hardship and persecution. We have to take what James said here into context with the time period and the relationship between leading and following. This is where this verse from Matthew comes into play.

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.”

Matthew 23:8 (NIV)

There were people in Jesus’ time who liked the status that being a teacher brought to them. Jesus is telling His disciples of them in Matthew 23 and, He’s telling them now, in verse 8, that they shouldn’t seek to be teachers for the sake of status or a title. This is what James is telling us as well. We ought not to appoint ourselves as teachers for the sake of status.

James is telling the people they shouldn’t desire to be teachers because of the status it gives. That is, for wrong motives, because God looks at people’s motives. The strict judgment comes if those who are teaching are teaching incorrectly, as did the Pharisees and other teachers of the law. Those teachers knew what Scripture said but taught in ways contrary to the Spirit behind the Scripture.

When we consider what Paul said to Timothy, we understand that Paul isn’t saying anything contrary to what Jesus or James said.

If God has called you to teach in a formal capacity, such as being a minister or pastor, then go for it! If you believe that you have a ministerial calling in your life, then you’re right! God has called all of us to minister the Gospel to others. The best way to start working on this ministerial calling is to tell someone about Jesus and what He’s done for you today!

Do you know God? God knows you, and He loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, right now, and He wants you to know Him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, be freed from death, and live eternally with Him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation today:

Lord Jesus forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart and I receive you, into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.