Guard the Tongue (2 Timothy 2:14–26)

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project
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In the next section, Paul counsels Timothy with a number of ex­hortations that could directly apply to the workplace. Paul repeatedly warns Timothy to avoid “wrangling over words” (2 Tim. 2:14), “profane chatter” (2 Tim. 2:16), and “stupid and senseless controversies” (2 Tim. 2:23). This is a good reminder for Christian workers that not all talk at the water cooler is profitable, even if it is not downright evil. Are the con­versations we engage in and the ways we speak helpful to those around us? Do our words serve as ambassadors of reconciliation and redemp­tion (2 Cor. 5:20)? Unhelpful conversations can spread like gangrene (2 Tim. 2:17), lead to ruin and impiety (2 Tim. 2:14, 16), and breed quar­rels (2 Tim. 2:23). One thinks of similar warnings in James (cf. James 3:2–12) about the destructive potential of words.

In fact, the most important form of witness to Jesus is the way Chris­tians talk with co-workers when we’re not talking about Jesus. Three words of gossip may destroy three thousand words of praise and piety. But Christians who consistently encourage, appreciate, respect, and dem­onstrate care by their words are a powerful witness for Jesus, even if their words are seldom directly about him. Humility and strictly avoiding judgmentalism are the surest ways to avoid stupid and senseless controversies.

Paul also urges Timothy to “shun youthful passions and pursue righ­teousness” (2 Tim. 2:22). This may remind us that employees bring their personal difficulties with them to work. Alcohol and drug abuse affect virtually every workplace, and “fully one quarter of employees who use the Internet visit porn sites during the workday . . . and hits are highest dur­ing office hours than at any other time of day.”[10] Another exhortation that can be applied to Christian workers is that “the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness” (2 Tim. 2:24–25a). Indeed, much of the por­trait Paul sketches of Timothy in this letter could be held up as something for Christian workers to strive toward. Paul, writing a letter to Timothy, becomes a support network for him. We might ask what kinds of support networks today’s organizations would do well to provide for workers.