I want to preface this story by saying that, of all my siblings, I probably got away with more than the other two combined. However, on at least one occasion, I was punished for something I did not do. My brother was about four years old, and he, some neighborhood buddies, and I were playing war. Brent had a toy Kentucky rifle, while I was toting my new, unloaded Daisy B-B gun. Perhaps my parents had worried that at nine years old I was too young for such a potent weapon, but they allowed me to own it. In the heat of battle, Brent and I converged around the corners of our house. I aimed and fired. He fell down to play dead for the obligatory “five Mississippis,” but he fell on the sight of that Kentucky rifle. This led to perhaps the quickest peace treaty in the history of boys playing war. Brent had a nasty gash under his eye and very nearly did permanent damage to himself. When Dad and Mom asked what happened, he said, “Neal shot me!” You, Brent, and I know what he meant, but seeing things from their point of view they concluded I had fired a B-B that produced the gaping wound. These were the last moments between my Daisy and me. Soon it was a mangled heap of metal. Dad felt terrible when he understood what Brent meant.
Before you wag your head in disbelief at how this was handled, consider a few facts. The Sunday before, another buddy and I had been putting Easter eggs on the chain link fence at our property line for target practice. We did pretty well, though we were oblivious to the fact that we were putting small dings in my buddy’s stepfather’s new 1979 customized Chevy van. It was another thirty feet beyond the eggs. I escaped any punishment for that one. Dad had shown me how to safely use the gun, but I had my own ideas. The target practice example was my worst but not my only. I was destined for a date with a demolished Daisy. My track record caught up to me.
Paul deals with “track records” and character with his son in the faith. He had been teaching Timothy about how to deal with sin in the latter part of 1 Timothy five. Public sinners were to be rebuked publicly (20). Yet, dealing with others’ sins was to be done prudently to avoid sharing responsibility in their sins (22). The rebuking one was to keep himself free from sin (22b). Then, Paul ends by writing, “Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden” (24-25, NKJ). In context, Paul is guiding Timothy in the investigating of those who would serve as elders. Prudence and deliberation, in looking into their character, was vital. Jumping to conclusions too quickly, whether too charitably or too severely, was unwise. To help Timothy, Paul emphasizes that character often becomes apparent after sufficient examination.
By way of broader application, isn’t the same true of all of us. As Jesus once put it, “Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children” (Luke 7:35, NASU). John and Jesus had been wrongly rejected by the Jews, but time and fruit would eventually exonerate the character of each. That is, those converted through their work would prove the rightness of their teaching. This would require the test of time and sufficient proving grounds.
Is one preaching for fame, glory, wealth, or power? Look long and hard, with a good and discerning heart. You will often see. Is an elder serving through selfish ambition, to wield power, or out of materialistic greed? It often comes to the surface. Why are we Christians? Why do we serve God? It so often comes to light in this life. Yet, whether it does in this life or not, it will ultimately. Let us strive to keep watch over our hearts (cf. Mark 7:20-23). Let us constantly purify our motives (cf. Eph. 6:5-8). Remember that character will be tested. Strive to do what is right even when you are not seen by others, and character will usually be apparent.