What does it mean to show partiality? If you asked just about any parent of more than one child if they showed partiality to one of their children over the others they would tell you no they did not. But if you asked the children in most situations you learn they felt like their parents were partial to some over others. Quite often it is the case that the Father shows partiality toward one and the Mother to another. I suspect every person who has gone to school for more than three days in their life has been in a class where it was obvious that the teacher had a pet in the class that they showed great partiality toward. Sometimes it is a whole group of students who are given preferable treatment. One of the most common complaints at workplaces is that the boss or bosses show partiality toward some or some group in the business that upsets the ones who feel they are not in the elite group. Even in church, one of the huge problems that we face all the time is some people feeling strongly that they aren’t a part of the “IN CROWD”. They feel that some in the church can complain about just about anything and get the attention of the leaders and force some kind of action while others have equally strong feelings in the opposite direction but feel no one cares or pays any attention to their strong feelings. One thing is obviously true, the only people who enjoy another person showing partiality is the one who is being shown the partiality. If one isn’t in the select group they feel empty, left out and insignificant.
By the way, this isn’t a new problem. Back in I Timothy 5 Paul had been giving Timothy instruction on how to behave himself as the evangelist in the church at Ephesus. The discussion had started about the widows who were to be taken in and helped by the church if they were widows indeed or widows who didn’t have any other family to take care of them. Paul told families that if they had widows in the family they were to take care of their needs. But if one was a widow, over 60 who didn’t have family to help and they were godly ladies who had served well in the kingdom to bless the lives of others they were to be taken in and provided for. He turned from that discussion to say, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” Then in verse 19 he said, “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. I charge you in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep the instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.”
Obviously, Paul wanted Timothy to see the elders in the church as men with authority and who were trying to do the best for the church. He was to respect them as a whole enough to show extreme care about any accusations made against an elder. In all times there are those who are sitting ready at any time to accuse those who are striving to lead the church in the right way of having wrong attitudes and wrong motives in life. But it is vital for one working in the situation Timothy did, to not play favorites. You must treat everyone, even the elders, in the same way, respectfully and with consideration. Don’t allow people to come to you and gossip about an elder or pastor in the church. But there are times when even these leaders in the church are wrong and need to be corrected. So, Paul’s challenge is not to accept an accusation unless there were two or more witnesses that come to you saying that this person who serves as a leader is moving in the wrong direction and you know it to be true, you are to take the personal responsibility to go to the person to rebuke the sin.
Two things stand out in this segment of Paul’s teaching. One if that instead of rebuking the leader in the church as one would another member just between the two of you alone, you are to rebuke them before all, that others will get the warning as well. I don’t know if this means before everyone in the church or before all the elders. I tend to think it is before all the elders instead of just with you and the individual. Is this risky for the evangelist? Certainly it is and very difficult to do. Yet it is the way God planned for it to happen in the church to keep everyone on the right path. But, notice, it is imperative that such actions be taken without partiality or favoritism. If we are showing favorites among the elders or shepherds in the body, we are harming them and the church as a whole.
Notice how Paul draws this point to a head. “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure. Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgement ahead of them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever.” Partiality is a bad thing everywhere. But don’t rush to rebuke others. Take your time and see what comes out. Not everything comes out quickly and be careful not to look for things against someone you don’t like anyway.
I do wonder as I read through this if Timothy’s stomach problems weren’t tied to the whole thought of rebuking an elder who was involved in some sin. It would certainly bring turmoil and cause your stomach to get upset.
It is worth a lot in life to constantly check ourselves to make certain we aren’t showing partiality in life. Thank God he doesn’t respect any particular groups of people over others. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we did the same?