1 Tim. 3:5 - "...for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?"
I remember receiving my work permit and getting my first part-time job when I was 15. The job was working for a pizza chain in town. After a few months my responsibilities increased when I was made a supervisor. I don't remember all the questions my employer asked me before making the decision to promote me, but I'm pretty sure he had watched to see how I handled the smaller tasks at the store before he entrusted me with larger tasks. My early employment was a proving ground to demonstrate whether I was capable and ready for more.
Similarly, in 1 Tim. 3:5, Paul explained that our households are proving grounds for our character. Our families provide a practical way to evaluate the character and principles of each member of the family, especially the husband. Paul said that how a man manages the members of his household (himself included), indicates how prepared he is to care for a local family of God's people. Paul equated Biblical management of a family with the insightful care of a congregation of saints. This helps us understand a couple of things.
First of all, Paul's question helps us understand that local congregations of God's people are not small businesses with a worldly management structure, where the primary concern is about improving the bottom line. Instead, local congregations of saints are compared to caring families where the primary concern is that each member of the family continue to grow and become more like Jesus.
Secondly, Paul's question helps us understand that while God desires that his people be managed, the manner in which they are managed is qualified by the word "care". What does this word mean? Let's see how else it's used. Paul used the word later in 1 Timothy 5:17 to describe a responsible, loving and sacrificial family member providing for a widowed family member. The word is also used by Luke to describe the gentle and thoughtful attention a Samaritan gave as he tended to the needs of a wounded Israelite in the parable of the good Samaritan (Lk. 10:34). The word "care" teaches us that the manner of managing our households and congregations requires us to be responsible, loving and sacrificial. We are are called to tenderly, yet firmly, meet the needs of those in our charge. You can't dress wounds and set bones without the appropriate amount of firmness, but tender bedside manner makes a huge difference!
So what do we do with Paul's question in 1 Tim. 3:5? First of all, the context requires us to use the question on a congregational level as we consider a man's ability and readiness to care for a local family of God. Has he first demonstrated that type of care in his family relationships? For husbands, we can use Paul's question to define, evaluate and set the goal of our management. Finally, this question reminds every Christian of the principle that God is not simply concerned with us getting a job done (like managing a family), he is equally concerned with how we get it done (with care).
May all of us in positions of authority develop the tender care Jesus modeled and taught, and may we develop it first within our families! If we do, think about how richly a congregation will be blessed with families and fathers like that!