3:3, He must be “free from the love of money.” He must not be greedy. Since elders will be handling the church’s finances, he must be trustworthy. Note that a poor man can be consumed by the love of money, while a man who built a successful business can be humble and giving. Furthermore, an elder will focus on God’s low-paying but highly-fulfilling work. There will be times when an elder will have to leave work early to rush to the hospital or attend to a spiritual emergency.
3:4–5, He must be one who “manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity.” Nothing speaks to a man’s preparation to lead the church as loudly as his leadership of his own family. “If a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?”
This is so much more than just, “did he force his kids to attend worship so long as they were under his roof?” This is about influence! Did he model the person of Christ in his own life, or did his children see that the he was a different person away from the pews? Did he take the time to speak to his children about the Lord (Deut. 6:7) or did he leave that responsibility to others? Did he help his children develop a faith of their own, so that they would become devoted to Christ throughout their adult lives, too? Did he appreciate the danger of the world and protect them from the worst elements of it (1 Cor. 15:33)? Did he have the self-confidence and concern to put his foot down and prohibit them watching trash, to prohibit them running around with worldly people?
Now, each situation is different, and children are free moral agents who eventually make up their own minds. I speak humbly, fully appreciating that my own leadership has not yet been fully tested. But the responsibility of leading a wife and children through the world toward heaven is identical to the responsibility of leading a church—it is to feed and protect. In fact, in the Greek, the word “manage” in 1 Tim. 3:4 is the same as the word “rule” in 5:17.
For that reason, I am most comfortable with viewing this as a results-based qualification. Not just: did his kids behave while they were under his thumb? But: did he impart to them a faith of their own? Are they Christians now? You can often judge the quality of a man’s influence after his physical presence is taken away (Phil. 2:12, 1 Cor. 3:10-15).
Paul’s letter to Titus is even more challenging, saying an elder must “have children who believe,” (1:6). The Holy Spirit took all the guesswork out of an elder-candidate’s effectiveness in leadership, and invites us to simply look at the results.
3:6, He must not be a “new convert.” It will take a while to mature in Christ and earn the confidence of brethren. A man appointed too soon may become puffed up with pride, thinking of his position as yet another feather in his cap, alongside athletic trophies and club presidencies (Matt. 20:28, 23:10).
3:7, He must “have a good reputation with those outside the church.” This does not suggest he has never experienced persecution. His Christian character is well-known to the community. He is a shining light to the people he meets—his neighbors, his teammates, his coworkers, his grocer, his mailman.
The qualifications of elders listed in Titus are similar to those in 1 Timothy, though a side-by-side comparison brings out a few extra details.
Titus 1:7, He must not be “self-willed,” that is, stubborn or arrogant. The selfless mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5–8) will be required to make the efforts and sacrifices necessary to lead the church. An elder must have a forbearing spirit to yield his will to others when an issue is not crucial. He must be open to the suggestions and concerns of the congregation in practical matters without getting his feelings hurt (Prov. 15:22).
1:8, He must “love what is good.” An elder must not be involved in evil, or smirk at it. His charge is to encourage the members of the congregation toward righteousness, not to snicker knowingly or shrug his shoulders when a member is involved in sin.
1:8, He must be “just.” An elder must be fair in his dealings with others, without favoritism.
1:8, He must be “devout.” An elder must be reverent and involved in worship. He will make worship services a priority. He will not be chronically late, nor play on his phone during singing, nor wink at those around him who do. He will be an example of how to participate in class, and how to partake of the Supper. He will pray in private due to the anxieties weighing on him. —John Guzzetta