Monday, January 18, 2010

1 Timothy 6:17-21

V17-21 – 17Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 20Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. Grace be with you.

In wrapping up, Paul seems to go back and make sure that Timothy, as well as his congregation, understands that being wealthy is not a bad thing. Some commentators suggest that he is writing from here on out with his own pen, instead of through his amanuensis, which he commonly did in his epistles. He just finished noting that materialism and greed, or the love of money, are troublesome for the professing Christian; but a Christian can, as Paul explains in v17-19, be wealthy without arrogance or trusting in wealth. In mentioning that God “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (v17), Paul gives a special command to the wealthy to “do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share” (v18). Concluding this thought, Paul says that this threefold behavior is how to “lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age” (v19; Matthew 6:19-20; Luke 12:15). The wealthy, in other words, must not be vain confident, trusting in their wealth, but in Christ who gives them wealth in order to serve Him, thereby storing up true riches in heaven. Likewise, we – far wealthier than any of Paul’s audience – must strive for stewardship in all God gives us to manage.

Finally, Paul gives Timothy a few final instructions. The first, shepherd the flock – “guard what has been entrusted to your care” (Matthew 25:15) – calls to mind the importance of his own stewardship responsibilities; Timothy wasn’t wealthy (v17-19), but he had the very people of God entrusted to his care! All believers have a deposit in the Holy Spirit and the gospel, which is to be used wisely. The second instruction – cling to sound doctrine – for “what is falsely called knowledge,” speaking of the pre-Gnostic false teachings, leads the flock astray – is the method of proper stewardship. Calvin translates “knowledge” here as “science;” I like what he says: “According to Paul, no science is truly and justly so called but that which instruct us in the confidence and fear of God; that is, in godliness.” Timothy must guard God’s people by preaching and teaching and living sound doctrine. Paul concludes with a benediction of grace to a plural “you,” to the entire congregation. We all need grace, and God gives it generously and in abundance.

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