An Elder Must Manage His Own Household Well
This “qualification” has been the cause of many a lengthy discussion. However, we are not going to have a lengthy discussion, but will attempt to understand the Holy Spirit's intent as He reveals His will to Timothy. The phrase “must manage his own household well,” (v. 4) points toward the subject in verse five. Thus we will attempt to discuss both verses four and five in this article.
The word manage, is from the Greek “epimeleomai” which “signifies "to take care of," involving forethought and provision (epi indicating "the direction of the mind toward the object cared for"), Luke 10:34-35, of the Good Samaritan's care for the wounded man, and in 1 Tim 3:5, of a bishop's (or overseer's) care of a church-- a significant association of ideas” (Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright (c)1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers).
So we see that as we attempt to understand the Greek text, the thought in this passage seems to include much more than a “managing” as we often think of managing (i.e. administration). Of course one can see the inclusion of an orderly household, but there is the idea of “care” in one's household. This of course would include care of wife and children (See 1 Tim. 5:8).
A man desiring the work of overseer would naturally (and understandably) possess the desire to “care” for any in need. Now if a man does not “care” for his own family (a priority) well, how could he possibly be expected to “care” for those who are within the church (who would as overseer be his own as well)? Isn't that the idea conveyed here in these two verses?
Of course Paul refers to the man's children (or child, see "Must An Elder Have More Than One Child"), and their “relationship” to the Lord as a result of their father's “managing” and “care” (including instruction). The Titus passage reads, “having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion” (Titus 1:6). The 1 Timothy passage reads, “keeping his children under control with all dignity” (1 Timothy 3:4).
As we read these verses in the context of the understanding that it is the “qualifications” of the man aspiring to the office, and not the qualifications of his children, we can see that it is the man's ability and fulfillment of his role as `husband' and `father', and thus 'leader' and 'teacher' that is evidenced by his children's behavior.
As Proverbs 22:6 tells us, "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (NAS). We know that a child can be brought up according to the ways of the Lord and yet turn away from God. We have examples in the Old Testament (See Ezekiel 20:18f) and we have examples today. However, when a child is 'brought up' in a Christian environment, and is taught the way of the Lord, they will always have this knowledge and foundation of truth upon which to base their decision.
As we 'look around' at those in the church, we don't have to look very long or hard to see those who are and those who are not bringing up their children in the way of the Lord. It is not difficult to determine what man manages (i.e. cares for) his (own) household well. When we see a man's young children running wildly through the church auditorium, or see his teenage child (or children) behaving entirely inappropriately, we can usually conclude that 'dad' is not doing the job “managing” his household that he should be doing. We can further conclude from a poor or 'unscriptural' marital relationship that a man is not fulfilling the role as father and husband. If the wife is in charge of not only the children, but also the entire family, 'dad' and 'husband' is not “managing” his household well.
We could 'argue' about the technicalities of this passage and just how great a job this man is to do in the “care” and “managing” of his household. However, if we understand the context of these verses, we can surely agree that it is his wise handling of all family (i.e. household) matters that is to be examined.
The passage in 1 Timothy 3:4 expects that he would have “his children under control with all dignity.” The word for “control” here is also found in 1 Timothy 2:11 (“submissiveness”), 2 Corinthians 9:13 (“obedience”), and Galatians 2:5 (“subjection”). This shows that his children are in “subjection” to his authority and leadership, thus yielding to his instruction.
The word translated “dignity” here (KJV, “gravity”) is well defined as “venerable,” thus showing that his children not only 'fear' him, but also 'respect' his leadership as their father and the leader of their household.
So as we come to an end concerning this particular issue of study, we can say that a man who desires the wok of overseer must certainly have shown that he “oversees” his own family well, thus giving evidence of his abilities to “care for the church.”