In his novel War and Peace, author Leo Tolstoy captures a pitfall Paul warns about in appointing a man to be an elder prematurely (1 Tim. 5:22): pride.
A young Russian prince, Andrew, is serving in the Russian army in the early 1800s. He surveys the looming battle, imagining his own anticipated heroics.
He converses with an inner voice in his mind:
The battle is gained by him alone. [General] Kutuzov is replaced, [Andrew] is appointed . . . ‘Well, and then?’ said the other voice again, ‘what then, if you do a dozen times over escape being wounded, killed . . . well, what then?’ ‘Why, then . . . ,’ Prince Andrew answered himself, ‘I don’t know what will come then, I can’t know, and don’t want to; but if I want that, if I want glory, that I want it, that it’s the only thing I care for, the only thing I live for. Yes, the only thing! I shall never say to anyone, but, my God! What am I to do, if I care for nothing but glory, but men’s love? Death, wounds, the loss of my family—nothing has terrors for me. And dear and precious as many people are to me: father, sister, wife—the people dearest to me; yet dreadful and unnatural as it seems, I would give them all up for a moment of glory, of triumph over men, of love from men who I don’t know, and shall never know, for the love of those people there,’ he thought. (“The Modern Library Classics, pg. 294)
The secret thoughts of the attention-seeking heart will drive a man to sacrifice that which is truly important.
Many men have sacrificed the love of their families for their love of glory in the church. I have, on not a few occasions, heard an adult speak disdainfully about his or her growing up in the home where the father was an elder. The father’s obsession with appearances and concern for his standing in the church were more important to him than his care for his own family. The children felt like they were to be trophies on display for Dad’s reputation. Meetings at the church translated into little or no time for family times together.
But pride has other symptoms as well:
- Have you ever secretly wondered if anyone would ever write about book about your life and ministry?
- Have you imagined yourself as the hero of your church’s growth?
- Have you quietly been jealous when another is honored but you are not?
- Have you positioned yourself into the position of prominence?
- Have you pretended to be humble to gain attention for your humility?
- How do you handle when your work or ministry goes unnoticed?
The truth of the matter is that all of us, not just those who are young, are prone to issues of pride.
“Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed . . . You younger men . . . all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time . . .” (1 Peter 5:1-6).