The best way to sharpen your writing skills—especially in the context of a writing class—is to write. What you write for class, however, includes more than just stories. In my fiction classes, I have students submit multiple responses to exercises as well as a 1-2 page critique of every other student’s workshop story. I typically have 20 students, so the workload is tough. The last chunk of writing—the critiques (especially given how they fall at the end of the semester, when everyone’s story gets workshopped)—give students the biggest headaches. Several of them complain. After all, they often mention, we discuss the stories, why do we have to write-up our reactions. It helps you articulate your points better, I tell them, which in turn helps you see similar issues in your work. Plus, I tell them, if this were not a firm rule in place, as experience has shown, a good portion of the class would not read the peer’s work—which affects the class and impacts the feedback writer’s need to improve.
If this rule were not in place with your best interests, I would not assign it, I tell them. And it’s usually not the “good” students who need these type of rules—they would do the work regardless. No, it’s really to encourage the ones who like to take shorts cuts.
The idea that people who aim lower than others need encouragement has been around for a while, and this idea is part of what inspires Paul’s detailed instructions in 1 Timothy. And this set of instructions is packed with dos and don’ts.
Sensing the end of his days, Paul lays out for Timothy (one of his most trusted and only remaining friends) a series of instructions with which he will get the town of Ephesus back in line.
Along with instructions of prayer and criteria for overseers and deacons, Paul mentions that the Law is good if used properly (1:8). Apparently, some people have been taking liberties with how they present (and perhaps enforce) God’s law.
Paul clarifies: The law is mainly there to help the lost: the lawbreakers and the rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and “irreligious’; for those who kill their parents, for murderers, adulterers, perverts, slave traders (so slavery IS bad!!), liars, and perjurers… and the best part: whatever else is contrary to God’s sound doctrine (1:9-10).
So basically anyone who does not follow God’s law is bad and someone who needs it most. I get the point—I think—that the people who need help are the ones to whom you give help. Here, the help is god’s law, his extended hand. But by this list, the people who are sinful are the one who commit acts Christianity deems sinful—as opposed to something that is illegal. You almost then don’t need anything after this point in the list, as everything following sinful has been covered, not to mention reasserted with the last part.
So how is forcing a person to abandon their way of life and pursue what YOU think is good positive?
But wait, there’s more. In his instructions, he makes clear how subservient women are to remain. They are to dress modestly (no specific criteria provided) and with no ornamentation (9-10). They also need to be silent when she learns and show NO authority over men—the context appears to deal with being in church (11); however, one can easily see how this could be taken out of context and applied to women in ALL situations. They are also forbidden to teach, presumably related to spreading God’s instructions (1:13). Have no fear for these women, however, for Paul makes it clear: childbearing will save them (1:15)
If one were to suggest that everything that is written in the Bible should be adhered to—such as anti-homosexuality stances—this section doesn’t bode well for jewelry stores or future treatment of women.
Along the same lines, Paul presents the qualifications for both Overseers and deacons, all of whom should be “good.” One of these good qualities means having ONLY one wife (2). So apparently polygamy is allowed, just not for important people in the church.
You’d think that if polygamy were frowned upon by the church, Paul would say so.
But he doesn’t; instead, he then focuses on Timothy, who should train himself spiritually (much like an athlete would train physically). Why get in such strong mental shape? He needs to watch out for those who mis-portray Christian teachings. Apparently, some have been forbidding marriage between two people as well as eating certain foods (4:3). Looks like some people had been paying too close attention to the Old Testament. According to Paul, these people should not be enacting such restrictions (even if the Old Testament says to). Paul wants to make clear: everything God created is good (4:4).
It seems that at this point in Christianity, based perhaps on Jesus’ influence, that the church had moved beyond all those harsh dos and don’ts in the Old Testament, so why do people still reference these old laws when the New Testament says they should not longer be follow? If they didn’t, gay people would have an easier time gaining acceptance in society.
And perhaps everything God created should be free, for here surfaces one of the most famous lines I had no idea was actually in the Bible: The love of money is the root of all evils (6:10).
If that were true (and I think it’s fair to see the truth in the expression), you’d think the church would not feel the need to keep asking for it in the form of tithes. But, then again, could they rely on the charity of others to put that money to (mostly) good use? Perhaps if 100% of money collected went to treat the poor, etc., people would be more inclined to give? Is it sad to say that most people require stern direction in order to perform something worthwhile?