Bad shepherds feed themselves on money, power and sex. Good shepherds must overcome these bad shepherds by showing genuine concern for the welfare of those entrusted to the care of the church, as Timothy did. (Philippians 2:20).
Since my name is Timothy, I can’t resist writing some blogs telling how Timothy was a hero of the Bible. In this blog, I praise Timothy as a good shepherd.
We know about Timothy from stories in the Book of Acts and from comments by Paul in several of his letters that are preserved in the New Testament.
From these sources, it is clear that Timothy was a good shepherd.
What qualifies someone to be treated as a good shepherd?
First, they must not be a bad shepherd.
Bad shepherds “lack understanding; they all turn to their own way; they seek their own gain.” (Isaiah 56:11). “They do not care for the flock.” (Ezekiel 34:3). Instead, “they rule[ ] them harshly and brutally.” (Ezekiel 34:4).
They “pursu[e] dishonest gain” (1 Peter 5:2). They “lord[ ] it over those entrusted to [them]” (1 Peter 5:3).
Bad shepherds “feed only themselves” (Jude 1:12).
With shame, we must confess that many churches are led by bad shepherds.
All too many church leaders seek their own financial gain. All too many church leaders seek their own power. They rule harshly and brutally, lording it over those entrusted to them and feeding only themselves.
All too many times, these bad shepherds express their harsh, brutal power by feeding their sexual appetites. They sexually abuse and exploit those entrusted to their care.
Adding sin to sin, if these bad shepherds are caught, they “pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality” (Jude 1:4). How?
Having betrayed the sheep entrusted to their care by feeding on them for money, power and sex, these bad shepherds should realize that they must never again be entrusted with the care of sheep. But they don’t! Instead, these bad shepherds insist that they must be allowed to continue as a shepherd of sheep because the church and their victims must forgive them.
Why do these bad shepherds seek forgiveness (and only after they have been caught)?
Not because these bad shepherds want to change their ways. But so that these bad shepherds can continue to seek their own financial gain and their own power, feeding themselves on money, power and sex.
Such a perversion of grace means that the church often does less to protect its sheep from bad shepherds than the community does. For example, a high school teacher or healthcare professional who violated the trust placed in them by engaging in sexual acts with those entrusted to their care would be immediately and permanently banned from being teachers or healthcare professionals.
Yet many churches continue to endanger those entrusted to their care, forgiving the bad shepherd by covering up the bad shepherd’s actions or by minimizing how badly the bad shepherd acted.
Indeed, they boast about being so “forgiving”!
Instead of boasting about forgiving the bad shepherd, they should be mourning that people in their church have been victimized and traumatized (often for life). (see 1 Corinthians 5:1-2;6-8).
We should forgive a bad shepherd repeatedly. (Matthew 18:21-22). Nevertheless, we must prevent a bad shepherd from feeding repeatedly on money, power or sex.
We should forgive a bad shepherd repeatedly. Nevertheless, we must not trust a bad shepherd foolishly. (Matthew 10:16).
We should forgive a bad shepherd repeatedly. Nevertheless, we must protect sheep wisely.
Therefore, instead of boasting about forgiving the bad shepherd, the church should be preventing the bad shepherd from ever again feeding on any sheep—in churches or anywhere. The church should be investigating the bad shepherd. The church should be reporting the bad shepherd to the police. (Ephesians 5:3; Acts 20:27-31; 1 Timothy 3:1-3,7; 5:20).
Good shepherds must stop bad shepherds. (John 10:1-15). Because bad shepherds almost never stop themselves.
“[Bad shepherds] are fault-finders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage” (Jude 1:16).
Furthermore, even if a bad shepherd is accused of feeding on money, power, or sex, they will do everything possible to avoid accountability—to continue following their own evil desires.
Boast. Flatter. Deny the facts. Defame the victim for “tempting” them. Deflect the complaint by complaining that the victim and the church are not forgiving them.
Why do bad shepherds boast, flatter, deny, defame, and deflect? They want to continue looking out for their own interests. (Philippians 2:21). They want to continue feeding themselves on money, power and sex.
In contrast, good shepherds show genuine concern for the welfare of those entrusted to the care of the church, as Timothy did. (Philippians 2:20).
Therefore, instead of pressuring the victim to forgive the bad shepherd, good shepherds will humbly ask the victim to forgive the church.
Instead of pressuring the victim to forgive the bad shepherd, good shepherds will minister to the victim, doing all they can to help the victim heal.
In these ways, good shepherds will fulfill the promise that Jesus made in his Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
Fortunately, the leaders of churches are not all bad shepherds. There are many good shepherds who lead their churches the way that Timothy did, manifesting their genuine concern for those entrusted to their care.
These good shepherds do not seek their own interests, but those of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 2:21).
And what are the interests of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd? That we may have life, and enjoy life to the full (John 10:10).
As the Good Shepherd, Jesus put our interests above his own interest—he laid down his life to save his sheep from the wolves who want to feed themselves upon them. (John 10:10-15).
As Timothy’s mentor, Paul taught him how to be such a good shepherd.
Timothy endured the pain of circumcision in order to make it easier for people to decide to follow the Way of Jesus.
Timothy shared Paul’s trials and tribulations as they spread the good news about the Way of Jesus—enduring riots, beatings, imprisonments, and failures.
Nevertheless, Timothy persevered.
Timothy put into practice the Wisdom that Jesus taught in his Sermon on the Mount and the Wisdom that Paul taught him as they followed the Way of Jesus.
What Wisdom made Timothy a good shepherd?
A good shepherd must be above reproach. (1 Timothy 3:2; Matthew 7:24-25).
A good shepherd must be gentle, not violent. (1 Timothy 3:3; Matthew 5:5,9,38-48).
A good shepherd must not be a lover of money. (1 Timothy 3:3; Matthew 6:19-25).
A good shepherd must treat others “with absolute purity” sexually. (1 Timothy 5:2; Matthew 5:8,27-30).
A good shepherd must not feed themselves on money, power or sex, but must hunger and thirst for righteousness. (Matthew 5:6,20; 7:24-27; 1 Timothy 4:12; 6:6-11).
The perversion of grace into a license for immorality by bad shepherds is well-documented by thewartburgwatch.com and on Twitter @wartwatch.
For additional thoughts about the roles of women in families, churches, and throughout good civilizations, please read the chapter “Paul Blesses People Despite Sin’s Curses” and the related Appendices in my book Lighting the World.
For additional thoughts about Paul’s Missionary Journeys, please read my book Lighting the World, at “Part Three: Paul Establishes Churches in Europe” and “Part Four: Paul Nurtures the Early Churches”.
For additional thoughts on Timothy, please read my book Lighting the World, at pages 94-96.
For my thoughts on the authorship of 1 and 2 Timothy, please see my endnote to “Paul Teaches Believers How To Behave” in “Part Four: Paul Nurtures the Early Churches” of my book Lighting the World.