Today’s Reading: 1 Timothy 5
A truck driver had been hired to deliver fifty penguins to the state zoo. As he was driving his truck through the desert, his truck broke down. Three hours passed, and he began to wonder if his cargo would survive in the desert heat. Finally he was able to wave down another truck. He offered the driver five hundred dollars to take the penguins to the zoo for him, and the other driver agreed.
The next day, the first truck driver finally made it to town. As he drove, he was appalled to see the second truck driver walking down the street with the fifty penguins walking in a single-file line behind him! He slammed on his brakes, jumped out of his truck, and stormed over to the other trucker. “What’s going on?” he shouted. “I gave you five hundred dollars to take these penguins to the zoo!” The other trucker responded, “I did take them to the zoo. And I had some money left over, so now we’re going to see a movie.”
Miscommunication leads to complication and confusion. Just a little miscommunication can mean a lot of problems. In today’s chapter, Paul gives us a lesson on effective communication. As author William H. Whyte so aptly said: “The great enemy of communication, we find, is the illusion of it.” Paul wants to remove the illusions for us. And his advice is priceless. He starts off 1 Timothy 5 with explaining how to communicate to people:
Never speak sharply to an older man, but plead with him respectfully just as though he were your own father. Talk to the younger men as you would to much-loved brothers. Treat the older women as mothers, and the girls as your sisters, thinking only pure thoughts about them. (Verses 1-2, TLB)
This passage can so easily be passed over and we miss Paul’s powerful lesson on how to communicate to different groups of people. All people don’t hear the same way; ages and gender contribute to that. Paul tells us the importance of knowing who we are speaking to and how to speak to them. It’s about knowing our audience.
I have had the privilege of doing chapels in different venues. I have spoken to MLB and NFL teams, and in those environments, I make sure I do certain things. The window is short, and I realize for the entire season, this is these professional players’ church. I must not only respect their time but also must make sure I am making use of their time. Here are my two rules in these settings: lift up God’s Word and lift up God’s Son.
First, I always bring a physical Bible and read from it. Why? Isaiah 55:11 says, “My word shall never return void.” That means better than a leadership principle or a pep talk, the best thing I can do for those players is give them a Bible principle, because it will always be productive. Second, I lift up God’s Son. Jesus said in John 12:32, “If I’m lifted up I will draw men to Myself.” When we don’t lift up Jesus, then people are attracted to the wrong thing: us. And we don’t have what they need.
The apostle Paul gave us his important chapel rules as well when we are talking to certain groups of people. He said when we have to have a hard conversation with a person older than we are, harsh and hard talk must be dispensed with and we must take the posture of a son and see that person as a parent. This strategy goes from if we’re a supervisor with senior citizens on our staff, to having to tell our elderly neighbor to keep their dogs off our lawn.
Plead with them as if they were your own father. He says the same treatment goes for elderly women. His plea about how we speak to our peers is much needed also in our generation. Young men talk to other young men as beloved brothers, as though they are our own flesh and blood. And when we see a young lady, we treat them as flesh and blood also and keep our thoughts pure about them. This is profound communication advice from Paul for all of us.
Warren Buffett, one of the wealthiest men in the world, was recently with some young entrepreneurs who asked him to share one piece of advice for twentysomethings who’d just graduated from college. He told them: “The one easy way to become worth 50 percent more than you are now—at least—is to hone your communication skills. . . . If you can’t communicate, it’s like winking at a girl in the dark—nothing happens. You can have all the brainpower in the world, but you have to be able to transmit it.”
First Timothy 5 keeps us from winking in the dark. Knowing how to talk to people is an art and hard work, and there is much to consider. According to the Harvard Business Review, “The number one criteria for advancement and promotion for professionals is an ability to communicate effectively.”
Thanks to Paul, you can communicate effectively because of the tool he provided in 1 Timothy 5.