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The Problem of Pride (1 Timothy 3:6)

A church leader must not be a new believer, because he might become proud, and the devil would cause him to fall. (1 Timothy 3:6)

I recall becoming a youth pastor in my twenties and before long realising that I'd found the one thing I really wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was something that gave me enjoyment and a sense of fulfillment and purpose.

After five years as a youth pastor I was speaking at a youth ministry training conference and decided to stay on and listen to the speaker who followed me. He was an older minister, nearing retirement, and as I listened to him I heard God speak deeply and powerfully to my heart.

The words I heard were, "I want you to quit", and before I knew it I heard my heart respond, "No, I'm not going to!"

If God's words to me came as a shock, my own reply was a bigger shock. I realised that my motives for serving Him were not entirely about giving something to Him. They were also about getting something for myself.

As I reflected on this experience I came to realise that God was not calling me to resign but He was challenging me about my motives in serving Him. I realised that it's possible to be tirelessly serving God but if I'm doing it for the wrong reasons then it's far from pleasing to Him.

Motive therefore is important, and in this verse that further describes the criteria for leadership, Paul turns his attention from outward behaviour to inner motive.

Being a leader has the potential to make us proud. We can silently congratulate ourselves on our position, thinking it in some way proves we're a "better Christian" than others. We see leadership as a badge of honour, and responsibility as a way to prove our worth to others and even to ourselves.

Pride can show itself in other ways. For example, we all want to be liked by those we lead. Even more, we may want to be popular and praised. Your true motives will be revealed however when young people criticise you or refuse to behave for you. They will be further revealed when you find out another leader is more popular than you.

You may love the attention and sense of power that comes with authority. You might enjoy the spotlight and get a sense of pride when things are going well. But when things are not going so well, when it's winter, and you're tired and not feeling well, then your true motives will be revealed.

New believers are likely to want to abuse power, or give up leadership when it doesn't suit them. Mature believers will press on, knowing that leadership is about God's glory, not their own. They'll also understand that they have an enemy, the devil, who knows their weaknesses and probes those weaknesses in an effort to get them to fail and fall.

Reflection

Why do you want to be a leader? How pure are your motives? Reflect on some of the wrong motives for being a leader. Which are you particularly susceptible to? What do you need to keep reminding yourself of in order to keep your motives pure?