What is the connection between long life and understanding? How does age produce wisdom? And what does godliness mean? These questions have been at the forefront of debates over the meaning of a pastoral qualification provided by the apostle Paul.This list of qualifications is a goalpost for the congregation to strive to possess. It relates to having a blameless reputation in our purity, thinking, appetites, dignity, hospitality, speech, sobriety, anger, patience, peacemaking, and management. Now, we want to devote ourselves to what Paul means by saying that he “must not be a recent convert.”
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”1 Timothy 3:1-7
Although Paul dedicates an entire sentence to this quality, the idea is found primarily in “recent convert.” In the original language, this compound word comprises “new” and “growing” to describe one fresh to the faith. He is a beginner, novice, rookie, or simply young in faith. It has less to do with physical age than spiritual maturity.
In fact, the term commonly used to describe the opposite of a recent convert is “elder” which originally depicted a man of old age. It communicated a sense of respect and authority based on his experience and wisdom. Over time, “elder” was used as a formal title to refer to those entrusted with leadership within a community. Suppose you are familiar with the New Testament epistles. In that case, you’ll notice that this term is used by the writers as a synonym for “overseer” and “shepherd” commonly meant to convey “pastor” or “church leader.”
So the idea of a recent convert is someone who is relatively immature in the faith. The antithesis of a recent convert is someone who is noticeably mature in faith. Therefore, when we read that a godly man “must not be a recent convert,” we should understand that a godly man ought to devote himself to a life of building his faith so that his godly character is developed, particularly when it comes to his humility (as the rest of the quality explains).
Experienced in Faith
Here in Houston, certain roads are hazardous to young drivers. So my wife and I decided that our children should avoid these roads when they first drive. It was not because they had no license but because they were still new to driving and lacked driving experience. The opportunity for a mistake was higher on these roads because of their distractions and busyness. We wanted our children to have more time behind the wheel, experiencing unexpected distractions in safer environments. And we wanted them to appreciate the power and responsibility behind a multi-ton vehicle that can cause destruction and fatalities.
Life is the same way. We need to live and experience various challenges and unexpected distractions in life before we can be allowed to lead in multiple capacities. A newly saved man behind the pulpit is just as dangerous as a freshly licensed teen behind the wheel. Both of them need time to develop and expose character in a noticeable way to others around them, which is what this quality means. So, I’m calling it seasoned humility. Godly men need to devote themselves to a life of building humility that is developed through experience and time.
At the same time, we must be cautious about the length of time. People are different. Experiences are different. Some people are thrown into the fire sooner than others. Some fires are hotter than others. Some people don’t feel the heat as others do. Therefore, we cannot draw a hard line regarding the years required to build a seasoned humility. However, we can observe others to see whether or not they have developed a sense of genuine, deep-rooted humility that might withstand the temptation to become prideful when responsibilities are given to them. So it is fitting for us to devote ourselves to learning and developing humility long before we have been granted responsibility.
Experienced in Humility
Before we get into some ways to build this kind of character, we need to consider the subject of humility. This verse tells us that a lack of humility generally results in us falling into the devil’s condemnation. Satan fell from his position of honor and authority because of his pride. The same thing will happen if we fail to develop humility through experience.
Humility is not humiliation. It doesn’t mean we must be a doormat for others to trample, nor must we possess low self-esteem. Nothing about this word suggests that we should limit our strengths or achievements. Instead, we should use our power and influence to help others before ourselves. This is how Paul describes humility when commanding the church in Philippi to put it on:
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”Philippians 2:3-8
There is no more excellent example of humility than that of Christ. He set aside all the privileges of being God to become human so that He may suffer death on the cross for the salvation of others. He models genuine, deep-rooted humility. He had power and authority. He had privileges and rights. But, He lowered Himself to serve others in a meaningful and lasting way.
Now, let’s look at five ways to build a seasoned humility to better be like Christ as a man.
Remember Your Weakness
Pride is often attributed as the fuel on which all sin runs. So the first step is to recognize your propensity to pride. It always lingers within your flesh, waiting for an opportunity to subtly and sinfully take action. One of the first steps in developing humility is remembering that you can easily fall into sin just as much as anyone else. 1 Corinthians 10:12 says, “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed that heed lest he fall.”
Stop Making Comparisons
We tend to compare ourselves with others in two ways. On the one hand, we seek to validate our weaknesses to create self-pity. It is a way of equivocating sin. Avoid doing this. Christ is our standard, not other people. We also compare ourselves to less mature ones to make ourselves more righteous. This results in judgmentalism. We should also avoid this, for we were once immature (Rom. 14:1-4).
Listen to Elders
Although it is evident, most of us need to hear it. Older men and women in your life have great wisdom and experience. Listen to them carefully and learn. In fact, ask them questions and be attentive to what they say and how they say it. According to Titus 2:1-8, the Lord designed the younger to learn godliness from the older. So pull up a chair and sit with some of the elders in your church to glean from their pool of humility.
Take Your Time
If humility is developed and exposed through time, don’t force your growth or responsibility. Take your time with forms of leadership. Start small. Grow slow. When we rush into something, we have disallowed the development that comes from gradual change and miss out on valuable learning experiences. It is common knowledge that success is difficult to handle, and it has a way of causing people to fall more than most things. So don’t rush into it.
Walk with Christ
An axiom goes like this: what we worship, we become. So worship Christ, for He is humble. Spend as much time as you can with Christ by studying your Bible, praying to God, learning about Him, and changing your life to become more like Him. The more you devote yourself to Christ, the more you will know Christ and become humble. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you each day and to make you a man of seasoned humility, just like Him.