The Example of Deacons
Let us be reminded of Paul’s teaching about deacons: “Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim 3:8-10)
Deacons are not doing a side job that they hope will be recognized as great. They are not seeking glory and fame. Their motives are to be pure and their mind is on service. This is who they are. They are dignified men who hold to the truth with a clear conscience. They have been tested and have proven themselves to be upright and faithful. Their eyes are on the Lord, their heart is for others, and the Lord will reward them.
Deacons are not first chosen only then to look for ways to serve. They have already shown themselves to be examples of servants. They are called servants because they really do serve in special ways. Deacon is not a title as if it were a badge to be worn. Instead, to be a deacon is to take on the responsibility to serve the congregation in particular ways appropriate to the special needs of the group and as is fitting for the abilities of the one serving.
Deacons are given much to do, and this is one of the important reasons why they are to be men of high character — Christians who are dignified, honest, and honorable in the way they act and carry out their work. It is not a trivial matter, and their work is often far more than many will know because they do what they do without sounding trumpets before them. The group knows who they are (e.g., the church choosing the men of Acts 6 for special service), but they are not known for trying to be in the spotlight. When a group chooses one to serve in the special capacity as a deacon, they are showing that they trust him. A group knows that deacons may well be given tasks that require discretion and tact. These men are careful both with work and people, aware of delicate circumstances and the needs of others.
In that light, let us also be reminded of what service looks like. In Galatians 5:13-15, Paul wrote, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” While this applies to all Christians, deacons are examples of what it means to serve one another through love. Because of the connected nature of both service and love, we can discern what service looks like:
Sacrifice. This is seen in the perfect example of Jesus: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:5-8)
Taking the Focus of Self. Paul’s attitude is expressed this way: “What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (1 Cor. 3:5-7). “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1).
Uniting. True servants, because they are selfless and following the Lord, will seek to unite a congregation. In Ephesians 4:11-13, we learn that all saints are to be equipped to serve so that the body may be built up, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” Unity comes through service and edification, and deacons play an important role.
We thank God for all who serve in whatever capacity for which they are equipped. We also thank God for those who may be chosen to serve in special ways according to the needs. May we all glorify God in our own service.