Integrity and Relational Ability are Key Leadership Qualities (1 Timothy 3:1–13; Titus 1:5–9)

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project

First Timothy 3:1–13 is well known and finds a parallel in Titus 1:5–9. Both 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and Titus 1:5–9 lay out qualifications for elders and overseers,[1] whereas 1 Timothy 3:8–13 describes qualifications for deacons including, possibly, women deacons. A variety of qualifications is given, but the common thread seems to be moral integrity and abil­ity to relate well to people. Competence to teach, though mentioned as a qualification for elders (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:9), doesn’t receive the same emphasis overall. In these lists, we again observe the connection between the household and the church: managing one’s family well is viewed as requisite experience for managing God’s household (1 Tim. 3:4–5, 12; Titus 3:6; cf. 1 Tim. 3:15). We will reflect on this connection more in a subsequent section.

As noted earlier, different organizations have different missions. Therefore, the qualifications for leadership are different. It would be a misapplication of this passage to use it as a general qualifications list for workplaces. “Serious” may not be the right qualification for a tour guide, for example. But what about the priority given to moral integrity and relational ability? Moral qualities such as “above reproach,” “clear con­science,” “faithful [or trustworthy] in all things,” and relational quali­ties such as “hospitable,” “not quarrelsome,” and “temperate” are much more prominent than specific skills and experience.

If this is true for church leadership, does it also apply for workplace leadership? The well-publicized moral and relational failings of a few prominent business and government leaders in recent years have made integrity, character, and relationships more important than ever in most workplaces. It is no less important to properly develop and select lead­ers in workplaces than it is in churches. But as we prepare for jobs and careers, do we put a fraction of as much effort into developing ethical character and relational abilities as into developing specialized skills and accumulating credentials?

Interestingly, many of the early church leaders were also workplace leaders. Lydia was a dealer in the valuable commodity of purple dye (Acts 16:14, 40). Dorcas was a garment maker (Acts 9:26–41). Aquila and Priscilla were tentmakers (or leatherworkers) who became business partners with Paul (Acts 18:2–3). These leaders were effective in the church after having already proven effective in the workplace and gain­ing the respect of the wider community. Perhaps the basic qualifications of leadership in church, work, and civic spheres have much in common.

See Philip H. Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 246–47, for a brief discussion of the terms “elder” (Greek presbyteros) and “overseer” (episkopos).



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