“You should give up drinking only water and have a little wine for the sake of your digestion and the frequent bouts of illness that you have.” (1 Timothy 5:23)
The First Letter to Timothy addresses a variety of issues within the early Christian community – how elders are to be addressed, the mystery of the Church, the role of the deacon, consideration of widows just to name a few. Yet, in the context of all of this the author stops for a moment and encourages Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach.
It is a moment of kindness. It is an easy temptation to step over this verse and focus on the “weightier” issues addressed in the letter – and those issues are of importance – but all of Scripture has something to say and maybe this short verse is telling us, “Don’t forget to be kind to one another.”
There are continuously new plans and programs being developed, new webinars and conferences to attend on how to “do” church but do we always recognize the importance that simple kindness plays in the life of the Christian and the Christian community?
It is interesting how God can speak in our lives. Just within the past couple of months I have had a number of encounters where people have come up to me and told how something I did or said in the past made an important impact on them. Truth is, these moments (at least on the surface) were not exceptional – I was in town for a conference so I called up a young lady who had been a member of the youth group at my first assignment and asked if she would like to grab dinner and catch up, I listened as someone shared his struggles, I offered a kind word and encouragement to a couple at a time of pain. But these moments of kindness did have an effect even if I did not fully recognize nor realize it at the time.
Kindness matters. It costs nothing to be kind and it betrays nothing to be kind. Sometimes we forget this.
I once saw a church sign that read, “No one will care how much you know until they know how much you care.” If the First Letter to Timothy is about addressing pressing issues with the hope of building up and strengthening the Christian community then I would say that 5:23 can be seen as more than just an interesting side note regarding the curative effects of a little wine on an upset stomach. I would say that 5:23 teaches that basic, human kindness and care is an essential component to the building and living of Christian community.
“See how these Christians love one another,” was one of the earliest observations of a non-Christian when looking at this new religious group who had just come on the scene. This love was not because everyone looked the same, acted the same nor thought the same – just read the Acts of the Apostles and Paul’s epistles to see how the Church debated and argued itself through its first century. This love was also not because the early Church walled itself off from the rest of the world – again, read Acts and Paul’s letters to see this. I think kindness, patience, humility, reliance on the Holy Spirit and some good self-effacing humor had a lot to do with this love. The observation quoted above demonstrates that people saw a living of love and community in the early Christian community that was unique … and it clearly impressed them.
See how these Christians love one another. Kindness does matter.