The Unashamed WorkmanMay 17, 2007
The fourth stop on Paul’s gallery-tour of pastoral ministry (from 2 Timothy 2) is the picture of the unashamed “workman.” Paul writes, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed but who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2:15) There are at least three principles we can draw from this verse.
1) To be an unashamed workman, we need to recognize the possibility that we can be ‘ashamed’ workman. That’s the negative inference from Paul’s positive exhortation. If it is possible that we “not need to be ashamed”, it is also possible to have a thoroughly shameful ministry. We take it that Paul’s mention of Hymenaeus and Philetus (v 18) highlights two such cases of those shameful ministers: those who fail to correctly handle the word of truth. This should be a sobering reminder. Just because others consider us workmen does not guarantee we are of the “unashamed” kind.
2) To be an unashamed workman will require a deliberate and concerted effort. Paul writes, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved…” In other words, this is something we should strive for. But do we set this as a target? Often we are so fearful of being called “pragmatists” in ministry, that we don’t like to be seen to be “aiming for excellence.” But in the handling of God’s word, this should be our stated target.
3) To be an unashamed workman workman will require that we ‘cut straight’ the word of truth. This is a more literal and helpful translation than ‘handle correctly.’ Orthotomeo means to cut a path, as one might cut a road straight through a country side, without variance or deviation. Chrysostom helpfully renders it, ‘driving a straight furrow in your proclamation of truth.’ We take this to mean that we make no attempt to espouse that ‘cleverness’ that actually detracts from the plain truth of the passage. And that we in no way camoflague the truth before us (and our hearers) but make it as straightforward and clear as possible. Our congregation should listen to our exposition, compare it to their text, and see that ours is the straight, clear, logical reading of the passage in front of them.