“Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16).
Despite the seemingly inconspicuous nature of this passage, 1 Timothy 4:16 offers two important admonitions: “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine.” There are several areas of life where we might implement this first directive. For instance…
Media consumption: Books, websites, videos, broadcasts, and other forms of media often serve to influence us in positive or negative ways. Therefore, we should prayerfully take heed to our media preferences and consider their effect. This also includes those resources that are reportedly “Christian” for as we’re reminded in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, “…test everything; hold fast what is good” (ESV).
Interactions with others: Do our choices and decisions reflect a subtle attempt to gain favor with others or make ourselves look good? Do we exercise our authority in a Christ-like manner? Are we acting appropriately with members of the opposite sex? How do we treat others who seemingly offer little or no benefit to us? These are all questions that can help us take heed to ourselves.
Finances: What do our monetary expenditures say about us? What do our financial statements reveal about our priorities? Are we spending the money God has entrusted to us in a way that honors Him?
Finding our identity in something other than Christ: It is not unusual to encounter those who find their identity in the profession they hold or the duties they perform. The same may be true of those who hold ministerial offices as well. However, let’s consider Paul the Apostle’s introduction from the opening verse of this letter: “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ…” (1 Timothy 1:1). Notice that Paul did not self-identify as “Apostle Paul.” Instead, Paul identified himself by name first (“Paul…”) and then by position (“…an apostle of Jesus Christ”). While this may seem to be a trifling distinction, it’s important to remember that titles and positions are temporary. A person who customarily self-identifies by an occupation or position should consider if he is finding his identity in a title before his identity in Christ.
In the words of one commentary, “No matter how straight a person may be in his doctrine or how effective he may be in his teaching, if there is a flaw in his inner or outer life, it will ruin him. This is where many ministers have failed tragically. While he is watching over others, the pastor must keep an eye on himself.” (1)
(1) Ralph Earle, “1 Timothy,” in Ephesians-Philemon, vol. 11 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 375. Quoted in Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Notes on 1 Timothy 2020 Edition [A. The leader’s personal life and public ministry 4:6-16] https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/1timothy/1timothy.htm