Deacons - Waiting on Tables
As we continue our thoughts concerning the office of deacon, and those who are to be placed within that office we come to the place where we must now consider the nuts and bolts of the office; the “waiting on of tables." Even as we move into this area of thought we still need to be mindful of the spiritual aspects of the office and of the man who we are considering for the office of deacon.
The man considered for the office, (and only after his spiritual qualities have been established,) is to be a “business man.” Now it is time to consider the secular qualities that he must have to serve in the office of deacon. As you will recall in Acts chapter six, the apostles said, “It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables” (Acts 6:2). This phrase “not reason” means that with is not reasonable or plausible. These apostles were at that time filling both offices. They were performing the work of an elder, pastor, and deacon, and it was proper and fitting that they should do so. However, beloved these apostles; although they were wondrously blessed of God in their office; they are still only flesh and blood, and they were designed thus by God with certain limitations…and with that being clearly understood, they simply could not do it all!
This brings our minds to consider Moses in Exodus chapter 18, when the children of Israel left the land of Egypt, and he “sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening.” It took Moses all day to perform this duty before God in his service to God’s people. Well as it happened Moses’ father-in-law saw this and he understood the enormous weight that was on Moses so he said, “What is this thing that thou doest to the people? Why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even?” It was clear to him that this was far too much of a burden for Moses to carry all by himself, so he suggested (and no doubt this was according to the inspiration of God,) that he take and “teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt show them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do.” And that he ought to seek “out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee. If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace.” So Moses did what his father-in-law suggested; he “chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And they judged the people at all seasons: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves” (Exo. 18:13-37).
And we find a similar situation here in the first church at Jerusalem between the gospel ministry and the office of deacon. In addition, we can clearly see that it was not “reasonable” for everyone in the church to expect them to perform all of this labour alone. Therefore, God the Holy Ghost provided the church; elders/pastors and membership with the blessing of deacons!
These things are necessary in their service to the Lord and to His elect people in the church. Here we find the first seven were “appointed” or ordained “over this business.” What business? Why it is the business of the church! Therefore, as it was then, so it is now, the first men who occupied the office of deacon were without any doubt businessmen! The word “business” comes from the Greek word chreia, (khri'-ah) and it means “need.” In addition, this Greek word is translated in our King James Translation as “need,” and we see that it is translated in this manner no less than twenty-five times in the New Testament. Only once in this passage is it translated as “business.” Thus, we can clearly see that there is NO scriptural authority to say that the deacons are to be the sole financial leaders and decision makers of the church. It has always been and it is so today, the duty of the WHOLE BODY to govern itself by and through the leadership of the Holy Ghost, and NOT solely through the work of the flesh of man. There are some who have suggested that all finance committees should be made up only of deacons, this is simply not the case, no, the work of the deacon is the business of the church, or whatever business that the church deems necessary for the deacon to care for. No dear child of God, we as the church of God must always be mindful that it is the church, which has this authority. The deacon, just like the elder is the servant of the church. Moreover, he too, like the elder/pastor is to provide the leadership, by which the congregation ought to follow, but this leadership MUST be under the direct leadership of God the Holy Ghost! However, we must remember his calling is to the service of the church and to the aid and assistance and direct support of the ministry within the church. In addition, with this in mind it is good and desirable to choose out a godly man who possesses leadership ability and some good old common sense with effective expertise.
And we find that this “saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them” (Acts 6:5-6). And the church was blessed in this wonderful work because we read in Acts 6:7 that “The word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.”
Next we’ll consider the Apostle Paul’s letter to young brother Timothy in First Timothy chapter three, and look at the practicable qualities that are found therein.