My last post How An Elder’s Wife Can Support Her Husband pondered the question, “How can I best help my husband in the demanding ministry of being an elder?” Hospitality, mailings, counseling, food preparation–the possibilities are endless.
We can become very busy “doing” and then miss what God really wants from us as elders’ wives. Paul points out some very important qualities we are to have, powerfully packed into a single verse in 1 Timothy 3:11: “In the same way their [both elders’ and deacons’] wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers…”
We are to be “women worthy of respect” — not for status or glory, but so God can do his work through us. Other women will not listen, take counsel, or follow the example of an elders’ wife for whom they do not have a high regard. A woman of respect is a women of integrity—this is the women God can use.
Respect is earned
Respect is not something we can demand from the people around us. Respect is earned as our godly character enables people to trust us so that we can serve them more effectively. In particular, we are commanded by the Lord not to be malicious talkers. Webster’s dictionary helps us understand the breadth of this word. It may imply a deep seated dislike that is expressed in words or a cherished feeling of resentment that coats our comments like a stench.
If we hide away in the corners of our heart, attitudes such as ill will, spite or a simmering anger towards someone, sooner or later malicious talk will result. A sharp word or a careless passing comment will wound a sheep or cause a “fire” to start out of control, seriously damaging the flock (James 1:26, 3:1-11).
What tempts you to be malicious?
I made a list of things that tempt me to be malicious. Your personnel list may vary from mine but this is worth the exercise. Part of my list includes when my pride is hurt, my husband is criticized (nothing gets up my gander quicker!), I get drawn into gossip as the sympathetic ear or I wrongly share a prayer concern (that’s the classic one). There is more but it is important that you identify your own areas of weakness.
What can we do about all this? We need to be constantly reminding ourselves of several things. The first has to do with our “list.” Being aware of our weaknesses is a good start, confessing as sin any form of malicious talk–this is what God wants. It is much easier to justify ourselves than to admit sin and confess it. God sees confession as a sacrifice (Psalm 51:17); it is something
he delights in.
The second step is to not become comfortable with our thought patterns. Romans 12:2 makes it clear we need transformed minds which includes time in God’s word and prayer. The third step is to practice encouraging people, especially those you don’t feel like even talking to.
“But encourage one another daily…so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13). This becomes a powerful tool God uses to refine us as we put it into practice and bless others in the process.
Florence Littauer, in her book Personality Tree, speaks of encouraging words as being like little silver boxes with a bows on top, that we can give as gifts to people. Can you think of someone who rarely receives a silver box with a bow on top from you?
An elder’s wife who is not a malicious talker is a tremendous asset to her husband. She becomes clear minded, develops spiritual insight and a loving concern for the people her husband has been called to shepherd. This helps her gain respect in the eyes of others.
Editorial Note: This article was first published in Elder’s Shopnotes in January 2000. It is re-posted with permission from the author.