Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 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 (2 Timothy 2:14–15, esv).
Woven into everything the apostle Paul told Timothy in his second letter are stirring words of long-term, finish-line thinking. Paul wanted Timothy to live with the end in mind. It’s not those who have a great start, but those who finish well who get the reward. Here is one of those summary challenges toward pursuing a well-lived life: “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.”
The verse begins with a helpful standard of performance, “Do your best.” This can also be translated be diligent, which means make every effort or extend yourself.
Paul follows that standard with specific actions. As always, the wise foundation for living requires that we stand firmly and passionately—but not arrogantly and not obnoxiously—on “the word of truth.” Consider it this way: you begin by “rightly handling the word of truth,” leading to choices for which you have “no need to be ashamed,” culminating in being able to “present yourself to God as one approved.”
What does it mean to be “one approved”? A person who is approved by God is “a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
Understand this: God is watching the way we handle His book! Someday we are going to have to account for what we did with His Word. Paul was telling Timothy, and us, to make sure we don’t end up being workers who are ashamed. God wants to say to each of His children, “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).
“Rightly handling the word of truth” has to do with not jamming God’s Word down people’s throats—but also not soft-peddling it. It means using the Scriptures in an appropriate, measured way. The original expression is literally cutting it straight. It’s used of a bricklayer laying out bricks in a straight row, or of men building a highway. Cutting the Word of God straight means identifying what it doesn’t say and emphasizing what it does say. You rightly handle the word of truth when you don’t compromise it, complicate it, or water it down.
Every time we do our best to handle God’s Word rightly, we can be sure of His approval. And we will be living with the end in mind.
Lord, thank You for giving me Your Word of truth. It is open before me as a full expression of everything You want me to know. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand because I’m not ready or I am resistant or distracted. Please give me wisdom and patience to keep returning to Your Word as my life is conformed to Your truth. Make even the difficult passages precious to me, and please help me to become someone who can present myself to You, approved, when my race on earth is done. I ask these things in Jesus’ worthy name, amen.