He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. (1 Timothy 3:3)
There is something incredibly satisfying about control. I'm sure one of the appeals of video gaming is the ability to control a character and through that character achieve control over an environment. Similarly, one of the appeals of sport is the capacity to gain control of a situation and to maintain control through skill and self control.
In these verses, Paul continues with his description of the characteristics of a leader. Again, we're interested in looking beyond the words he uses to the principles he's outlining so that we can apply these to ourselves as we take on leadership responsibilities in the church. The common thread that runs through what he has to say is "control". The ability to remain controlled is a crucial quality of a leader.
Someone who is not a heavy drinker has their actions under control. In those times water was not always safe to drink and so the use of alcohol was a safe alternative. Overconsumption was a temptation just as it is today for many young people. A leader needs self-control - they need to know when to say "enough". They need to ensure alcohol doesn't become an addiction - something they rely on to feel good or to numb reality.
Of course, alcohol is not the only potential addiction we face. Were Paul writing directly to us today he might have added drugs and pornography. He might have also considered adding other things that while not wrong in themselves, can quickly soak up our time and resources but we engage in them in order to feel good, for example, video games, Netflix, shopping and sport.
These are not bad things per se but they can be pursuits that start to control us instead of us controlling them.
Paul moves on to show that a leader must not only have their actions under control; they must have their reactions or their emotions under control. They must be someone who is "not violent...gentle, not quarrelsome".
I recall as a young adult being in a small group in which we each described characteristics of each other that we admired. One quality attributed to me was "gentleness", however at the time I struggled to see how this could be a compliment to a young male. I thought that gentleness was a negative attribute for a male, being synonymous with "weakness".
Gentleness however is not weakness. In fact, gentleness can be described as strength under control.
A gentle person doesn't overreact. They don't get aggressive or argumentative. They are someone who is not intimidated by opposition. Instead of simply reacting they are careful in their response so as not to inflame a situation. But they are not wishy-washy or weak. They know what they believe and stand up for what they believe all the while remaining calm and in control.
These are the sort of people we want leading in our youth groups. At times those we lead will frustrate us, disappoint us and even hurt us. When you've cultivated gentleness you won't overlook the behaviour but you will deal with it wisely and in a controlled manner.
Finally, a leader must not be a "lover of money". If there is anything today that rivals God for first place in our lives, it’s money. I recall an elderly minister once saying to me that the offering was the high point in worship on a Sunday morning. In a sense, it doesn’t cost us anything to offer praise and adoration to God, but money is a different matter!
When we offer our money to God we’re sacrificing that which we can spend on ourselves and offering it to Him to use for something of far greater value.
You may not have a lot of money at this point in your life, but what you do with the little you have speaks volumes. Our tendency is to want to control our own resources. Giving to others not only costs us money; it costs us the control we like to think money gives us.
How does this issue of control present a challenge to you as you take on leadership responsibilities? What things threaten to become addictions for you? What reactions do you most need to guard? How does God feel about the way you use money?