Soldier. Athlete. Farmer. Workman. Servant.
These are the five sorts of people Paul calls Timothy to become like (2:3, 5, 6, 15, 24). Why? What do these roles have in common? What is Paul trying to say?
Paul tells us some of his point. Soldiers are called to suffer for a higher calling (2:3). Athletes have a strict code of conduct by which they must compete (2:5). At harvest time, farmers get paid back for their hard work (2:6). Workmen “carve out” straight paths from the wilderness (2:15). Servants do the will of their master and do not compromise his interests (2:23-24). But even more basic than that is this: all of these five have work to do. They are fundamentally laborers, and can’t get off track lest they shirk their responsibilities.
In particular there are a handful of things Paul tells his “worker” Timothy to avoid:
- Stir away from “civilian activities,” that is purely frivolous pursuits that do not advance the kingdom (2:4)
- Avoid quarrels and disputes that don’t accomplish anything (2:14, 23)
- Flee from anything that would leave one ashamed and dishonored (2:15, 21)
- Resist the urge to run one’s mouth in pointless gossip (2:16)
- Run away from the wicked gratification of youthful passions (2:19, 22)
There is simply too much to do. There is no time to get off track. Get back to work.