For better or worse, the president of the United States tends to enjoy all the credit when the citizens of the country feel that things are going well and all the blame when voters believe the nation is “on the wrong track.” Careful observers, however, understand that much of this credit and blame actually belongs to the hundreds of people who work behind the scenes in Washington. Special advisers, speech writers, even secretaries and congressional aides are those who get things done, though much of their work is done anonymously.
Our concern here is not to focus so much on who deserves blame but to point out how people generally tend to exalt those in leadership. This is no less true in the church wherein those men who serve in front of everyone are often considered the most important — even though Paul is clear that the church cannot function properly without the contribution of every member’s gifts and service (1 Cor. 12:12–31). And as we have noted over the past several days, some of the most needed work is done sight unseen by the deacons who minister mercy to widows, orphans, and other needy people in our congregations. Many of those around us each Sunday morning are experiencing some kind of desperate situation, and few in the church even know about it. But the deacons are there, the unsung heroes of the congregation who work to give a cup of cold water to our thirsty brothers and sisters in Christ (Matt. 10:42).
Today’s passage recognizes the often thankless task of the deacon, promising a good standing to those who serve in the office faithfully (1 Tim. 3:13). The idea here is that the work of the deacon should not be despised even though it may involve “menial” jobs like mowing the elderly widow’s lawn, doing the laundry for the severely-ill single mother or other such things. Deacons who serve well will be greatly esteemed in God’s kingdom, not ignored (Matt. 20:26).
Men who serve well also gain “great confidence in the faith” (1 Tim. 3:13). When a person, whether he is a deacon or not, serves others in conscious love for Christ, his faith is strengthened, helping him strongly and boldly to proclaim the gospel to friends and family.