approved writers are not ashamed
How many of y’all ever went to AWANA? *watches hands go up across the room* I don’t know about y’all, but when I found out what AWANA stood for—Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed—I wasn’t really sure what to think about that. As a five-year-old kid wearing a blue vest and holding a book about bears and Bible verses, I didn’t really feel like a “workman.” I still don’t, even though I understand that being a “workmen” means working for the Kingdom of God (not a construction foreman, even though I am helping build something).
My tools aren’t a hammer or a saw; they’re a pen and paper (and a laptop, but that’s much less poetic). So something I did a while back to help this phrase derived from 2 Timothy 2:15 resonate with me is change just that one word to writer. Approved Writers Are Not Ashamed. Now that fit me.
The actual verse goes like this in the ESV translation:
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
My main man Paul is (obviously) writing to his son-in-the-Spirit Timothy, in light of some issues arising due to deception and “irreverent babble” (v. 16) coming from people such as Hymenaeus and Philetus (v. 18). Paul encourages Timothy to be a “good soldier of Christ Jesus” (v. 3), remember Jesus and His death—the gospel for which Paul was even then “bound in chains” for the sake of (vs. 8-9)—and to remind those that Timothy preaches to of this truth:
“If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself” (vs. 12-13).
At this time in the early church, so many people were getting confused and led astray. Leaders and preachers were generating their own ideas and theology, which differed from the truth laid out in Scripture and revealed through the Holy Spirit. People were falling away from the faith even so soon after believing and denying God.
But Timothy was not one of these unapproved workmen spreading falsehoods and chaos; he, his role in the early church, and his words were approved by God. They were truth. And he need not be ashamed of this. It may have seemed easy to let the lies run their course or cower from the growing dissension and popularity of this heretical theories; but doing so would only lead to destruction. Instead, Paul promotes a harder way—the way of the farmer, the soldier, the athlete (vs. 4-6). The way of diligent work, rightly handling the truth, and presenting himself to God without shame.
Much like in the early church, our world today is awash with a variety of views, many of which are presented as truth. People have risen up, both in the church and in the world, to spread their ideas—whether they align with Scripture or not. Because of all these tantalizing new ideals (although not entirely new, for there is nothing new under the sun [Ecc. 1:9]), a lot of us are easily confused or even led astray by whatever seems popular or interesting or best.
Like how people gathered in crowds and hung onto every word spoken by preachers and teachers in ancient times, we grasp every piece of media that floats our way and consume it instantly, regardless of the impact it may have on our mental, emotional, or spiritual health. A study conducted in 2009 found that the average American reads or hears 100,000 words—or consumes 34 gigabytes of content—per day. And, y’all, that was back in 2008. If there was a 350% increase from 1980 to 2008, consider how much that number has increased in the last 15 years with the introduction of so many new social media platforms!
All of these words, whether 100,000 or 200,000, influence what we think and how we perceive things—from God to ourselves to the world around us. All of these words have power.
You can probably guess where I’m going with this.
If what we read, watch, and listen to holds so much power in our lives…then we as writers quite literally hold the world within the palms of our hands. The expanse of the human mind lays at our fingertips. We, with the ability to craft compelling arguments, mass-communicate ideas, and share information, whether real or fake, can change the course of history.
Just like Hymenaeus and Philetus, we can cause chaos and division so very easily. Just like those who followed their words, we can fall in line with the rest of the world or whatever tickles our fancy at the time, taking the easy way out. We can perpetuate lies and weave webs and spin spells until we’ve built up power, success, wealth, fame, or whatever it is we so crave. And it would all be so easy. So simple.
Or we could take the hard way. The path of the soldier who follows his commander, the athlete who competes according to the rules, the farmer who works hard (vs. 4-6). It is these who please those in authority, are crowned for their victory, and reap their bountiful harvest (vs. 4-6). It is these who have no shame, who are approved, who rightly handle the talents and truths God has blessed them with.
Like these workmen, writers who present themselves as approved and unashamed, who use their gifts for God’s glory and spread His truth above all else will reign with Christ (v. 12).
So much vies for our attention. So much begs our notice. So many lies, “ignorant controversies,” (v. 23), and quarrels invade our space, waiting for us to lay aside the truth or our patience or our endurance. But giving in only leads down a road of pain and bitterness. Letting these vain attractions of the world dictate our lives will result in our talents being wasted and our hearts being hardened to all the everlasting riches God offers us.
In workman’s (or writer’s) terms…when we let trends and secular ideology control what we create, we trade our God-given talents for slavery to the world. When we dilute biblical truth in what we produce or accept the enemy’s lies above Scripture, we deny God—and though He will always forgive us, there will yet be consequences. When we are fueled by a lust for the things of this world—fame and fandoms, wealth and success, or even simply being valued in the eyes of those around us—we reject the ultimate gift: God exclaiming as He embraces us in Heaven, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”
As you pound away on your keyboard or scribble with your pen, dear writer, remember the honor that comes from serving God. Remember the eternal reward that moth and rust cannot destroy. Remember the freedom from shame that comes with rightly handling the truth. Don’t let the enemy trick you into squandering yourself and your gifts away for his good and your benefit. Instead, I encourage you as Paul encouraged Timothy and so many others, to do all for the glory of the Lord. For you are meant to be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to our Lord and Master, and ready for every good work (vs. 21). Be cleansed of dishonorable things and walk in righteousness in all that you do.
There is no shame for approved writers. No regret or guilt. No need to hide. Only joyous, beautiful freedom through the grace of God.
Sadly, you can no longer access the study, however, you can still read about it on all sorts of blogs and news outlets through old articles written at the time it was published, such as the New York Times here: https://archive.nytimes.com/bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/09/the-american-diet-34-gigabytes-a-day/