Friday, January 15, 2010

1 Timothy 6:3-10

V3-10 – 3If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. 6But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

V3-10 serve as a final rebuke of false teachers. They were promoting “false doctrines,” akin to “another gospel” of Galatians 1:8. This was the same pre-Gnostic teaching that the Colossians faced. The false teachers disagree with Scripture and with the sound doctrine of Paul himself; that is, they disagree with Christ and His apostles, whose teaching always had godliness as the goal; whereas the false teachers often tried to separate doctrine and lifestyle. Paul says those who do so are conceited and understand nothing (v4). Literally they are blinded by pride. Paul mentions “an unhealthy interest in controversies.” The false teachers quarrel about words; their prominent characteristic is called contentiousness (1 Timothy 1:4; 2 Timothy 2:14,23; Titus 3:9). This contention results in “envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions, and constant friction.”

The false teachers have corrupt minds, and they “have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.” The tense implies that they have reached a settled state of heart and mind, thinking themselves to have come to the epitome of godliness and therefore profitability; consequently, they cannot and will not repent. And, while they preached godliness as a means of financial gain – probably charging their audience to hear their message – they certainly didn’t live godly lives. For Paul, next in v6, explains how genuine godliness, with contentment, is truly the most profitable way to live. In the words of Calvin, “In an elegant manner, and with an ironical correction, he instantly throws back those very words in an opposite meaning, as if he had said – ‘They do wrong and wickedly, who make merchandise of the doctrine of Christ, as if ‘godliness were gain;’ though, undoubtedly, if we form a correct estimate of it, godliness is a great and abundant gain.’”

So in acknowledging their thinking “that godliness is a means to financial gain,” Paul effectively accuses the false teachers, as mentioned earlier, of seeking eldership for profit. When he considers their divisiveness and greed, he reflects on material possessions in general and concludes in v6, “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” and in v10, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”

Paul’s memorable statement in v6 is his reflection on what it means to truly “gain,” and it’s qualified in v7, probably a reflection on Old Testament teaching (Job 1:21; Psalm 49:17; Ecclesiastes 5:15). Calvin says, “Our covetousness is an insatiable gulf, if it be not restrained; and the best bridle is, when we desire nothing more than the necessity of this life demands.” V8 serves as a reminder to “be content with” whatever God provides for the day (Proverbs 30:8; Matthew 6:11). Greed is a great adversary here, and the false teachers had been snared by it. The danger was for believers too, as greed – Paul says it best in v9 – tempts and traps people “into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.” Instead of loving God and using the world, we tend to use God in our love of the world. So we must guard against appreciating the blessings more than we appreciate the giver of the blessings!

In wrapping up his criticism of the false teachers, Paul relates another memorable line, that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Of course, this verse has been twisted to say, “Money is the root of all evil,” but that’s clearly not what Paul says. Loving money (greed, or covetousness) is one of several causes of all different kinds of evil, speaking of varying degrees of attitude (motives) and behavior (actions) problems. Even believers wander off the Kings Highway – stray from godly living for a time – coveting and find only grief piercing them. We must strive to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and He will in turn provide all the things we need (Matthew 6:33).

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