It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.
8 In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.
11 In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.
12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13 Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.
Requirements of Responsibility
The body of Christ, now as well as then, needs capable leaders and leaders-in-training to ensure that the body is orderly, well-kept, and that their needs are met. Before anyone should be put into a position of leadership, they should first be examined to see if they are up to the challenge. Leadership exacts a toll on people. And to the extent that leaders allow themselves to be crucified – to submit to the task of servant-hood and apply themselves to fulfilling their responsibilities well – will determine the success or failure of their leadership.
Paul lays out the expanded character requirements of Deacons here. It is important to note that all of these requirements should be the core foundational principles of EVERY Christian man and woman. We should ALL be found worthy to be chosen for roles of leadership. Jesus is our model; He led the disciples, and leads us now. How much more should we try to emulate Him so that we can be useful in the Kingdom of God?
Paul lists several important character traits that the Deacons should exhibit prior to even being considered for appointment to this office:
- Worthy of Respect
- When leaders act responsibly and show themselves devoted to the tasks at hand, placing a special emphasis on the needs of those being led, they are worthy of respect. When they abuse their office, or the responsibilities entrusted to them, they are no longer worthy of that respect. In that case, they should be relieved of duty, confronted, and be restored once the issue has been addressed and they have once again shown that they are steadfast in their walk with God and worthy of respect.
- Sincerity does not preclude hilarity. A person can be jovial, but should be very serious when it comes to ensuring that their responsibilities are properly and promptly executed. They should be able to set aside frivolity and indifference so that they can be clearly seen to understand the gravity of their calling, and be trusted to execute their responsibilities in such a way that any who watch will not have any reason to lay a charge against them.
- Many have indicated that this means that a Deacon cannot drink alcohol. In leadership, it is very important that the leader emulate the character that they wish to see in those whom they are leading. It is imperative that this example be exemplary. Imagine what a Deacon would have to say if they were called just after dinner and a glass or two of wine, to come out to the church to help with some immediate needs, or provide counsel to a member of the flock over the phone. Wine addles the brain. It is best to be sober-minded at all times, if possible. While not prohibited, great thought should be given when contemplating the consumption of alcohol both for timing as well as amount.
- Financially Content
- The candidate should be able to put into practice the wisdom that God has provided to them concerning financial matters as instructed in the Bible. This includes giving to the ministry of the church, financial planning, and with payment of all financial obligations. There may be times that the candidate has unusual circumstances – one of the leading causes of bankruptcy is medical debt. These should be taken into consideration. The person should not desire to pursue dishonest gain, be in a state of greed, or envious of the material success of others. If a person is faithful in the little things of life, they will be faithful in the big things of life.
- Biblical Understanding
- This requirement cannot be emphasized too greatly. The Deacon, in the role of meeting the needs of the body, needs to have a firm understanding of God’s Word. Not only should they have a firm understanding, they should have a great love of the Word. It is only when there is a great love of God’s Word that they are able to do what God has called them to do when leading God’s people. Because the office of Deacon is often the training ground for Elders (both lay-persons and ministers of the Gospel), it is critical that they show a commitment to the Word of God, and demonstrate through their lives that the understanding that they have in their mind is shown by their actions, speech, and thoughts as seen by others.
- A Clear Conscience
- When they are properly demonstrating in their lives the truth of the Word of God, they will walk with a clear conscience, being able to test God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will in their lives. This will further embolden them to walk more confidently with God.
If after demonstrating these characteristics, if there is nothing found against them, they should then be considered for the vital role of Deacon.
But this role is not only for the men. Women can also serve in this capacity. Paul gives a few qualifications for women to be considered. Because of the God-appointed roles of men and women by God, they will not have all of the specific requirements that men are required to display. The qualities of character that women are to display in order to be considered for the office of Deaconess are:
- Worthy of Respect
- Deacons should be worthy of respect. It is hard to follow a leader when they demonstrate through their words and actions that they are unworthy of respect.
- Careful Speech
- God has made women natural communicators. Because of this, the enemy likes to take the strengths that God provides and twist them to malign the image-bearers of God and by implication, God Himself. It is important that women who are to be considered for the position of Deaconess not engage in gossip, or accidentally (and especially not on purpose!) divulge anything said to them in confidence as they meet the needs of the body. They need to be above reproach in how they speak, and keep matters that are private from becoming public talk.
- God has provided women with a natural ability to harness their emotions for accurately judging situations (womanly intuition). However, the enemy does like to twist the good things of God, and women may have a tendency to be overly emotional or take the statements of others to heart before they are carefully evaluated to see if they have any merit. In this, it is a requirement that women are able to manage their emotions properly so as not to be compromised when these situations occur. Steady leaders are easier to follow than moody ones…
- Trustworthy in all things
- As with all positions of leadership, it is absolutely vital that the person be trustworthy in all things. If people are unable to trust their leaders, there will be a reduction in their ability to fully engage in the work at hand. This undermines the credibility of the leader, and eventually, people will just ignore them. When they are not longer trustworthy, they are no longer worthy of respect. It is hard to lead when no one will listen to you.
In any organization, their needs to be a hierarchy for decision-making and, as a necessary part of that, accountability. God has appointed men to be the head of the household, and women to be in an advisory role. While this may seem sexist to our generation, it is not that men are superior and women and children are inferior, but there has to be a chain of command:
- Jesus Christ is the head of the organization of the family
- Men are the leaders who are (ultimately) responsible for making the decisions and (ultimately) accountable for the success or failure of the family organization. Men are, as Christ, required to lay down their life for those he has been placed in charge.
- Women are in a very good position within the family organization – they (should) have great influence in the decisions that affect the family. They are required to submit. It has been said that submission is the willingness to duck so that God can throw a right cross at leadership when needed…
- Children are adults in training. Treat them accordingly.
When a man is leading his household faithfully and under the control and guidance of the Holy Spirit, it should be easy for those under his leadership to not only willingly submit to his authority but to rejoice and be glad in the decisions that he makes, for they will be in everybody’s best (long-term, and not selfish) interests so that they align with God’s Word and God’s plan.
When a Deacon is leading a life full of the Spirit and in step with the Spirit, he/she will be gain a boldness in their walk – a boldness from the confidence of knowing that God is leading them, that God is sovereign, and is has everyone’s best interests (within the framework of God’s holy and perfect plan) at heart. They will grow in knowledge and understanding of God’s Holy Word, as God reveals more to them so that they can be better servant-leaders. This confidence will be in a humble attitude, and should encourage those who have entrusted these leaders to greater trust and confidence in their ability to provide leadership to them.
A Qualifying Question
So, let’s ask ourselves a question: Am I leading my life in such a way that I would be considered for a position of leadership? And if I am in a position of leadership, am I leading my life in such a way that I am worthy of respect and above reproach?
A short prayer of preparation:
Father in Heaven, You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, to bear witness to the Truth. Guide me in Your Truth, and help me to live a life worthy of respect and above reproach. Help me to completely submit to You through Your Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. May my life be poured out to You as a drink offering. May it honor and glorify Your Holy Name. May it be in dedication to You and Your purposes. And may my life be lived in such way that others will glorify Your Name, and be drawn to You. Help me in the role that You have placed me in so that it may be carried out to its best and fullest extent. This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.