Not Self-willed

Wm. E. Wallace
Indianapolis, Indiana

I have been asked to define and explain the meaning of the phrase "not self-willed" as pertains to the qualifications of elders (Titus 1:7). The best analysis of the use and meaning of this term that I have found appears in "Synonyms of The New Testament" by the highly regarded scholar Richard Trench. To be self-willed is akin to being "the lover of himself" ( 2 Timothy 3:2). To be self-willed is to be "the pleaser of himself" and this idea appears along with that of "the lover of himself" in ancient literature. The word is used in the Greek version of Proverbs 21: 24: "Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who dealeth in proud wrath."

The self-willed man is the pleaser of himself. He is one who so pleases himself, "who is so pleased with his own that nothing pleases him besides." He is a stubborn and obstinate man who overvalues his own conclusions and determinations. His attitudes have him rebelling from the possibility of his being wrong or in error. "The man thus obstinately maintaining his own opinion, or asserting his own rights, is reckless of the rights, feelings and interests of others."

Greek grammarians list equivalent words as those indicating "one who, with a swollen estimate of his own powers or merits, looks down on others and even treats them with insolence and contempt."

The self-willed man is described as "one regulating his life with no respect to others." He cares to please nobody. The self-willed man being arrogant towards others is a "lover of himself" (2 Timothy 3:2).

Selfishness is another word describing the self-willed man--"like the hedgehog, which, rolling itself up in a ball, presents only sharp spines to those without, keeping at the same time ail the soft and warm wool for itself within."

A self-willed elder is one who has ceased to serve in interest of the flock to favour or safeguard his personal interests. He is one who has quit ruling and shepherding for Christ to rule for himself. He does not have a wisdom which is "pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated" (James 2: 17).

In short, the self-willed man is ill-willed, selfish and domineering.

Truth Magazine IX: 10, p. 21
July 1965