Monday, September 12, 2022
As a Special Education teacher, I usually chose to eat lunch in my classroom – not only so I could complete my work early and head for home the very second my duty hours concluded, but also to avoid all the gossip that was rampant in the teacher’s lounge. (There was much unwholesome chitchat among the teachers about problematic students and challenging parents, and I tried to avoid it; I would be lying if I said I had never joined in, but I tried to stay away also to avoid the temptation to gossip.) However, when my Special Education team decided through testing, observation, and collaboration that a certain student had progressed sufficiently and therefore no longer qualified for intervention services, his mother sought legal action to force the school district to continue his therapies. This led to innumerable meetings among his intervention team, which included oodles of hours to complain whenever the parent was not present. Though many of the staff’s grievances against her were legitimate, it was a very toxic and negative environment. I was especially disgusted by the way in which the atmosphere suddenly changed to small-talk chatter through seemingly-friendly smiles once the mother entered – the very same person who had been the source of much degrading talk just a moment before. Worst of all, whenever I was around such hostility, I felt that it negatively impacted my ability to be the loving, kind, student-focused teacher I wanted to be. It drained my energy, my love, my joy, my focus.
Though I’m more than a decade removed from the teacher’s lounge now, I’ve discovered another rampant source of dissentive arguments: social media. I’ve learned the hard way that it is nearly impossible to change the mind of someone via a FaceBook thread, and that otherwise-kind folks can be exceptionally harsh and judgemental when they’re behind a screen rather than face-to-face. Most likely some of you have noticed this sad reality as well.
In 2 Timothy 2:15-17,22-24, Paul reminds Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene… Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful…” Paul adds that this kind of quarrelsome, godless chatter is from the devil.
We have a higher calling as followers of Jesus, and especially as leaders, to watch our mouths. We must conduct ourselves in such a way that there is nothing of which to be ashamed, living according to biblical principles. As representatives of Jesus, if we are engaging in negative talk, we are distracting from the message of Christ and even tearing down the body of Christ. Such behavior also takes away our joy and our focus on the task God has set before us. Though the sinful natures in us might want to join in with the crowd, we are called to flee those desires and instead seek after “righteousness, faith, and love” as we are “kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.”
In the earlier verses of this chapter (3-9), Paul is reminding Timothy to work hard and keep focused on the goal of serving his Savior. He compares this suffering and dedication to the steadfastness of a soldier, the drive of an athlete, the persistence of a farmer, and ultimately, the dedication of Jesus Christ. Though Paul is in chains, he reminds Timothy that the Word of God is NOT chained – the Good News still needs to be shared! Soldiers, athletes, farmers all have to work very hard to reach their goals. They can’t afford to be distracted by foolish talk, and neither can Timothy be chained to negative chatter or anything else that holds him back from fulfilling his calling. It is important for all of us to keep focused on the goal of serving Jesus in each decision and action, whether big or seemingly small.
Think about your break room conversations or your social media behavior… would people know by your actions that you are a follower of Jesus?
What are the “evil desires of youth” from which God has set you free?
What kinds of things do you need to stay away from or spend more time doing in order to better focus on the work God has in store for you?