2 Timothy 2:4 says,"No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life. " As one of "God's soldiers," does this mean that I shouldn't be worried about the things of "every day life"? That I shouldn't pay too much attention to the car I buy? The work I do? How clean the house is? Does this mean that I shouldn't get too "wrapped up" in my hobbies or interests?
No. Paul is using a metaphor. The point of a metaphor is to compare two things that are not like each other in order to illustrate some point. When people say, "They were meant for each other, like peanut butter and jelly," they don't mean, "that man is like ground up legumes and that woman is like processed fruit." They mean, "that couple compliments each other well." The whole point is that they are not literally peanut butter and jelly. Metaphors only work when the things being compared are not literally the same.
Here's how the metaphor in 2 Timothy 2:24 breaks down:
Metaphor: the example of the real life of a soldier
Job: active military duty
Distraction: the everyday life of the community in the area where the soldier is stationed (running a shop, farming, etc.)
Accountability: the soldier is accountable to the leaders of the empire or country they serve
The metaphor applied: explaining the life of the committed follower of Christ
Title: God's servant
Accountability: God, our "enlister"
In the world of Paul and Jesus' time, soldiers were recruited and enlisted by military leaders and were ultimately loyal to Cesar. They were stationed throughout the empire to do the Emperor's work. It would be inappropriate, for example, for a soldier to run for mayor, set up a fruit stand or to engage in any of the other "everyday life" activities of the community while the soldier was in "active service." The soldier's job was to do the Emperor's work, not the community's work. What the job was and what the job was not was very clear (and there were kindly officers to help the soldier if they ever got confused!)
The problem for us today, when we read this metaphor, is that the "job" is not so clear. Sometimes, we think "everyday life" is the distraction. Chapter after chapter of Paul's letters, Peter's letters (plus the other Old and New Testament writers) and the model we see in the life of Christ teach us just the opposite: we are meant to live in the world
, fully engaged, but with a loyalty to another Emperor. (See Romans 12, Philippians 2, 1 Peter 2 or Matthew 5-7.) This loyalty does not ask us to pull away from "every day life" but to live every day more honestly, graciously and humbly. Filling out the list above, then, goes something like this:
Title: God's servant
Job: Doing the work of the Kingdom, with the heart of the Kingdom
Distraction: Sin, selfishness, fear, isolation, despair
Accountability: God, our One True King
"Everyday life" is not the distraction. Every day life is the arena for our faith and work.