Timothy: the Spider-Man of Scripture

Spider-Man was reintroduced to the superhero world in Captain America: Civil War. It was a relatively brief appearance, but one that heralded great things. The main reason is that he was every bit the awkward, teenage boy still trying to get a grip on his powers that Spider-Man is supposed to be. The recently released Spider-Man: Homecoming—a fun, relatively clean film that is probably closer to PG than its PG-13 rating—picks up his story after that epic battle as he attempts to find the balance between his everyday life as Peter Parker and the superhero he thinks he’s ready to become.

Parker wants nothing more than to prove himself to Iron Man, the closest thing he has to a father figure, and earn a permanent spot on the Avengers, but the famous billionaire doesn’t quite think he’s ready for that. So Peter spends his afternoons and nights chasing down petty criminals, returning stolen purses, and just trying to help in any way he can, all the while putting the rest of his life on hold.

He eventually gets his big chance when he stumbles across a high-tech weapons sale while at a party. While that initial pursuit didn’t go too well, the rest of the movie centers on his attempts to stop those behind the weapons and prove to Iron Man—and most of all himself—that he has what it takes to be a real hero.

In many ways, Timothy goes through a similar process in Scripture. Timothy was most likely a teenager when he first met Paul, and the apostle eventually took the young man under his wing before leaving him in Ephesus to combat the growing heresy in that city. While Timothy was probably around thirty years old by this time, the task in front of him was still quite intimidating and many in the church thought he was too young for the job (1 Timothy 4:12). Paul encouraged him to find peace in the knowledge that God had equipped him for this task and to not let the negativity of others keep him from accomplishing the purpose for which he’d been called.

Essentially, Timothy couldn’t help those around him until he gained enough confidence in himself to believe that he was ready for the job. He had to see himself through God’s eyes before he could accomplish God’s purpose.

Part of the reason that Spider-Man resonates with so many young people today is that it’s simple to put themselves in his shoes. It’s easy to look at what we want to accomplish and either think we’re more ready than we are or allow the doubts of others to make us doubt ourselves. Perhaps we never really outgrow those tendencies but, just like Timothy, it’s vital that we find peace in the middle ground built on the foundation of who God says that we are. Until we can do that, none of us will really be able to fulfill our calling, whatever it may be.

Whether you plan to see Spider-Man: Homecoming or not, each of us knows someone who can identify with his struggles, and the movie offers us a great chance to broach the topic and point them back to a character in the Bible who went through much of the same thing.

Tradition holds that Timothy ended up staying in Ephesus until he was killed there some thirty-plus years after Paul’s final letter. Clearly, God helped him move past the self-doubts of his youth to accomplish great things for the kingdom. The same can be true for each of us as well. Whom do you know that needs to hear that message today?