#355 Timothy: Leaving Baggage Behind

August 9, 2023

Timothy, like all of us, became a leader with all his life experiences, memories and circumstances. While many of these were good and beneficial; others were not helpful and could have been hinderances to his ability to lead. Metaphorically we can refer to unresolved issues, disappointments, wrongs, and trauma from the past as “baggage”, a heavy load that weighs us down. Timothy had to leave some of his own baggage behind to become an effective serving leader. Consider these verses which we will examine to discover what could have been baggage for Timothy and how he left it behind:

Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek (Acts 16:1, NIV).

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity (1 Timothy 4:12).

When Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am (1 Corinthians 16:10).

Timothy released the baggage of family.

Timothy came from a culturally, religiously, and ethnically mixed family line, his mother was Jewish and a Christian while his father was Greek and not a believer. Timothy could have struggled with his ethnic identity and felt unworthy to work among Jews and side by side with Paul, a full-blooded Jew. At the same time the Gentiles might see him as an outsider! Yet Timothy left this behind and became an effective leader with Paul and to the Gentiles he was called to lead. Family history and heritage can become baggage for everyone, either leading to inferiority or pride. Family systems can shape the way we respond to conflict and how we deal with emotions, etc. Many leaders are unaware of the baggage they carry from their family of origin. Serving leaders learn to identify and acknowledge where they came from and work through issues that need resolution so they can lead others in a healthy way.   

Timothy released the baggage of age.  

Paul had to remind Timothy that even though he was young, he could be an example and lead well.  Timothy was young and had to overcome the mental challenge of leading people who were older than he was. They would naturally have looked down on him and if he allowed himself to dwell on his youthfulness and inexperience he would have become insecure in his leadership. Some leaders may allow their young age to keep them from growing and leading well. Others may be middle aged and look back with longing to days that they had more energy and youthfulness. Those who are older may be tempted to relax and not continue growing in their leadership capacity or to be proud of their accomplishments. No one can change their age but serving leaders release the emotional baggage of focusing on how old they are and choose to focus on serving others in the present.

Timothy released the baggage of personality.

Paul instructed those where Timothy would visit to see that he had “nothing to fear” with them or to “put him at ease” (ESV). In other places he admonishes Timothy to not have a spirit of fear. These seem to indicate that by nature Timothy had a fearful and perhaps introverted personality. His personality could have kept him from being an effective leader, but Timothy learned to move past that and to lead well. While Timothy’s personality could have led him to be more timid than he should have been, other personalities will be more naturally overbearing and stronger than helpful. Some leaders allow their personality to control their leadership but serving leaders work to develop their personality in ways that allow them to best serve the needs of those they lead.  

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is the baggage that comes with my specific family history, my age, and my personality? (Make a list of each). How do these impact my leadership? Which one is most important for me to focus on leaving behind right now?
  • Reflect on those you lead. Are some of the challenges I see them facing related to baggage that they carry from their family, age, or personality? What can I do to encourage them to recognize and leave behind their own baggage? Would they consider reading this reflection and having a discussion with me about it?       
  • In addition to the verses we used in this issue, consider the following: 1 Timothy 5:23 and 2 Timothy 2:22. What additional insights do you find from these verses about how Timothy might have carried additional baggage in his leadership?               

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll examine how Timothy learned self-control. Note: In this series we are looking at the life of Timothy. It’s a great time to read through the two books in the Bible with his name, written to him by Paul. As you read, reflect on what Timothy did to grow as a leader and how his actions apply to your own growth.