I don’t think anyone really wants to be known as the guy who ruins things for everyone else. It’s not like you’d plan on it. But it happens.
If you don’t want to be the “ruiner of all things” here’s what you can do. Be a vessel of honor.
2 Timothy 2:14-16
“Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”
Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”
Vessels of Dishonor
In the first few verses of the passage we’re introduced to a couple of guys named Hymenaeus and Philetus who were ruining life for everyone, upsetting people’s faith and leading people into ungodliness. I’m sure you know the type. They talk a big game and had very well contrived arguments about all kinds of things. All kinds of really important things……….. Actually no, they didn’t. They loved quarrels, nitpicking about words, and promoting their own peculiar doctrines. While all of this was happening on the surface, something else was going on.
Their corrupting talk was spreading faster than a bee-stung stallion. They had a way with people. But, there was a devilish reality behind their influence. Though serving in God’s house, they had actually been ensnared by Satan, “captured by him to do his will” (v26). These men were vessels of dishonorable use.
The Vessel Metaphors
Paul describes the life and matters of church functioning like a household:
“Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.”
At my house we have a dining room. It has a dining room table, which has special place settings and an expensive centerpiece. That room is off limits to me and the kids. In all likelihood, if someone is in there, someone is going to break something. We only use it when guests come over because we want them to feel special when they do. It’s a place of honor in our house, and the items in that room, the special plates, utensils, and décor, are what we could call “vessels of honor”.
Now, in the house we also have a trash can and bathroom. In fact, taking out the garbage is one of my house jobs, I get to run around and empty the kitchen and household trash for the trash collectors a couple days a week. And because I like my wife a lot, I also clean the toilets. And let me be honest, these are disgusting jobs. Why? These are “vessels” used for garbage and sewage.
What keeps our house sanitary is that the trash cans and toilets are kept out of view and kept up. The toilet even gets its own room for goodness sake! And when guests come over we have decided not to serve them food from the trash can or water from the toilet. But sadly, this is what was happening through Hymenaeus and Philetus. Through them God’s people were being served garbage and sewage which was polluting everything.
Vessels of Honor
By contrast vessels of honor are “useful to the master of the house.” This is a good place to stop and consider whether our conduct, and especially what we’re saying, is useful to God’s people. Are you creating controversy? Are you taking up foolish, irreverent, irrelevant arguments? Are you breeding quarrels? Are you leading others into ungodliness?
See it’s not just about doing good. I assume you’re not purposely trying to ruin life for everyone, unless you’re a psychopath. Sometimes, it’s just being unaware of the harm we’re doing. The text says these people need to “come to their senses” (v26). They are unaware of the harm they are doing. Do you frequently argue about words? Are you embroiled in controversy? Are you promoting doctrine that isn’t well tested? Good intentions aside, these things pollute God’s people.
There is a better way to do good, to be a vessel of honor. We must cleanse ourselves from what is dishonorable.
Perhaps the best thing we can do for everyone is just be about what some might describe as the basics. Paul says, “…flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Think about that for a moment: pursue righteousness, call on the Lord from a pure heart, be a peacemaker, patiently endure evil, correct with gentleness (i.e. meekness). Kinda sounds like the meat and potatoes of Christianity. Kinda sounds like the Beatitudes.
But secondly he says, “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.” Want to know who should we conduct ourselves when others are acting ignorantly? Don’t engage. Period.
If your heart been changed by grace, my assumption is that you have some desire to be honoring to Jesus Christ, which is good. He desires to be honored and he empowers us to act as vessels of honor, as God’s servants in God’s ways. Go and walk in that grace today.