ALTHOUGH I DID NOT KNOW IT, while I was in my last year of high school my parents made a quiet vow before the Lord. For reasons too complicated to go into here, they decided that unless certain things happened, at the end of the year Dad would resign from the pastoral charge he had maintained for fifteen years.
I finished school, left home, and went off to university. Within a month or so I received a letter from my parents: Dad had resigned as pastor of that church.
My parents had very little money. There was no other French-speaking church that was open to him. At this juncture Dad felt too old to start another church in another locale. He refused to consider pastorates in English Canada: both his call and his heart were tied up with Quebec. So I found out what my parents had decided: they were moving to Hull, on the French side of the river across from Ottawa, the nation’s capital, where Dad would support his family as a federal translator, and give as much time as he could to the French-speaking church in Hull.
I did not get “home” until Christmas. Somewhere along the line I probed my father to try to understand his reasoning. Granted his conviction that he should stay in a French-speaking part of Canada, the question soon arose as to how he would support his family. “For Scripture says,” Dad explained, “that if a man does not support his own family, he is worse than an infidel”: he was using the King James Version form of words of 1 Timothy 5:8: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
Obviously this text has some exceptions. If a man is too ill to work, for example, he is exempt—and judging by the tone of the entire chapter, the church itself should pick up whatever support is necessary, if the family cannot manage. But what strikes the reader about many of the instructions in this chapter is the way the church’s provision for the social needs of her people is prescribed with extraordinary sensitivity to the dangers. At the risk of oversimplification, the pattern Paul lays out can be summarized like this: those in genuine need are looked after by the church, but those with the capacity to find their way and support themselves must do so—both so as not to be a burden on the church, and for their own good—or be charged with abandoning the faith. Laziness is not next to godliness.
I cannot think of many times when I had greater respect for Dad’s obedient faith.