How to avoid pointless controversy
“Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.” (1 Timothy 1:4)
Ideas are important.
They determine how we feel, think, speak, and act. When we promote the wrong ideas, not only is unity threatened, but we also don’t accomplish anything worthwhile.
(Truth is, there’s enough controversy when we focus on the right ideas!)
Speculation is the weakest form of ideas. Why? Because they don’t lead to meaningful change. Idle speculations draw lines between “us” and “them.” They create pointless controversy.
How do we know when we are “majoring in the minors?” Here’s the test: ideas that don’t advance God’s work are a subject best left alone. In this passage, Paul specifically warns against the danger of false doctrines, myths, and endless genealogies. Let’s dig a little deeper into those three kinds of bad ideas.
False doctrines are easy to identify…if you know God’s Word. Without a firm understanding of the Bible, it’s difficult to recognize untruths because some false doctrines sound really good! It’s not until they are seen under the light of Scripture that they are seen for what they really are. Myths also exist outside of God’s Word; they are unverifiable stories passed along by word of mouth. Everyone loves a good story! Did you hear about Peter picking a fight with Paul in Alexandria over the best spot for carnitas tacos? (For the real story, check out Galatians 2:11-15) Focusing on “endless genealogies” is an example of spending too much time on trivial details. Details are essential, but we should not over-inflate their value.
Our goal should be to advance God’s Work. Anything less will provide an opportunity for pointless controversies. This isn’t the same as “keeping the peace” at all costs. Paul urged Timothy to command false teachers to stop–talk about controversy!
What moves a person to teach things that aren’t true? Or to focus on myths or overinflate the value of details? I’m sure there are many reasons, but here are two that I have seen:
First, there’s a temptation to bend the truth to fit a personal agenda (or “narrative”). We no longer operate by faith in God when we do this.
Second, not all biblical information leads to transformation. Learning more facts doesn’t equate to a more obedient life. Learning more facts fills our ego without challenging our lifestyle. Jesus commanded his disciples to “teach people to obey” because faith without deeds is dead.
Most importantly, for you personally, how much of your life is devoted to advancing God’s work?