1 Timothy 3:2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,
I was reading a couple of commentaries this morning on our verse, and interpretations vary quite a bit. They range from being a one woman man, to forbidding polygamy, requiring marriage, requiring singleness, or prohibiting a divorced man from the ministry. Supposedly, polygamy was fairly common among the Jews at the time of Paul’s writing; that’s what Calvin says anyway.
I sit here not ultimately convinced of God’s view on the matter. But what I do know is that God is always concerned about the heart. He would not want a man to hold the office of Pastor if he had a wondering eye, was not content with his current marriage, and therefore wanted to add a wife to his roster. He would not want a man as Pastor if he did not order his family life well and caused his wife to leave him because he neglected her. Remember that one of the qualifications coming up is that he manage his own household well. I don’t think that God would require a Pastor to commit to celibacy, nor require marriage; as the Apostle Paul and even Jesus himself were both single. So what’s the solution?
Remember that the over-arching qualification of the Pastor is that they be above reproach. No person should be able to make a case against a Pastor that will prove him guilty. Remember also that the Pastor is to represent Jesus to his people. So the polygamist Pastor could easily be reproached by someone in the congregation as being a man who is not self-controlled, dignified, nor content. The divorced Pastor could be reproached if he hadn’t managed his household well. Could there be an instance of a divorced man holding the office of Pastor? Can a divorce leave one party innocent and the other guilty? I think that there could be a rare case given so many different circumstances play a role in many divorces. I can however not think of a case where a polygamist would be found innocent of a charge from a member of his congregation. So I am leaning on the polygamist interpretation.
Regardless, marriage is a picture of Jesus’ love for his church. And the man who commits his life to having eyes for one woman in the covenant of marriage till death, is the man who gets my vote. We need discernment and wisdom to deal with the past of any man who seeks the office of Pastor. It always boils down to the heart.