bits from bob....
"Be diligent...." (2 Timothy 2:15)
by Robert J. Young
©, 2003, Robert J. Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]
This is a familiar passage. "Study to show thyself approved...." Although in the KJV, the word is translated "study," in other translations we read "be eager" or "give diligence." In Greek, spoudazo! I like this word. I like to say it. It has character. It is unique. I like its sound. But what is this word? What we are being told to do?
For years, I was sure this text meant I was to study God's word, because that is the way I heard it used in sermons and classes. The way the Greek word is used in other biblical texts may help us. Consider these from the NIV.
- In Gal. 2:10, Paul writes "this also I was willing (eager) to do."
- In Eph. 4:3 the admonition is to "give diligence to keep the unity of the spirit...."
- In 1 Thess. 2:17, we read "overflowingly we were eager to see your face."
- Paul admonishes Timothy to "be eager to come to me quickly" (2 Tim. 4:9) and again to "be eager to come before winter" (2 Tim. 4:21).
- Other New Testament uses are in Titus 3:12 (do your best), Heb. 4:11 (make every effort), 2 Pet 1:10 (be eager), 1:15 (make every effort), and 3:14 (make every effort).
The Greek word is not in the papyri references according to Moulton and Milligan. Bauer defines the verb as (1) hasten, hurry, (2) be zealous or eager, take pains, make every effort. The adjective (spoudaios) is defined as as "eager, zealous, earnest, diligent, intent upon something." The adverb is defined as "with haste, with special urgency, diligently, earnestly, zealously." The noun (spoude) is defined as haste, speed, eager, earnest, diligence. Secondarily, one may discover meanings such as good will toward, devotion for something, make every effort to add, be eager.
From the English dictionary, we learn the development of the word diligence through Middle English, Old French, and Latin: diligentia, from diligere, to esteem highly, select, thus di-(apart) and legere (to choose, collect). The concept is one of constant, careful effort or perseverance. Thus the meaning is persevering and careful in work, hard-working, industrious, that which is done with careful, steadfast effort, painstaking.
This is our word! This is what we are to do and to be, always in our lives, as Christians. Be diligent. This is always good advice. Be diligent. In a former time, we knew that all of life should be lived in the same way one studies. That was back when studies required study. Study. Be diligent. That meaning has all but escaped us in contemporary English. How many times have you as I heard someone say that this verse commands us to study God's word? Perhaps so, but not in the connection many tend to make.
Let us look at our familiar text more closely. Why should we be diligent?
- 1. Because it leads to approval.
Everyone wants approval. What leads to approval? Diligence. Diligence will improve your grades. Diligence will keep you current. Diligence will build relationships. Diligence will help you toward Christian faithfulness. Diligence will be applauded by God and by others.
- 2. To please God.
God's approval is important above approval by others. Diligence pleases God.
- 3. Because life's great tasks demand it.
Our verse describes us as workmen. Some tasks will never be accomplished without diligence (spoudazo). A half-hearted effort just won't do. We will never establish a strong home without diligence. We will not be capable persons without diligence. To be more than sloppy, undisciplined, and apathetic, we must be diligent (spoudazo). When I was a youngster aged four, I began accordion lessons. I learned to play the accordion. Then I took up the clarinet. The clarinet was "my" instrument. I still have some of my practice sheets--some weeks I spent more than 40 hours blowing my horn. My practice paid off when I auditioned and was accepted for the symphonic band at Wichita State. Those who are good at sports most often have reached that level of skill through diligence.
- 4. Because it avoids shame.
When you know you have given it your best, you do not look back with regrets. Nor do you appear before God with regrets.
- 5. Because it is a mark of wisdom (cutting straight, rightly dividing).
This is a way to live life wisely. This is not just true spiritually, it applies to every area of life. This is the mark of workmanship--accuracy, completeness, value.
- 6. Because life's greatest values are worth it.
To find, discern, discover, and live by truth is priceless. Choose that which is worth choosing. Do not live life giving careful attention to things that don't matter. Spoudazo, diligence keeps the main thing the main thing.
Spoudazo. I like the sound of that word. I like to say it. Better, I like it when I see it at work in my life, and in the life of the church. Be diligent!
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Last updated November 5, 2003.