For a small Florida town, Sebring has more than its share of international landmarks. In fact, while most small towns have NONE, we have at least TWO. One is the “Sebring International Raceway”, and the other is the now vacant “Harder Hall”, which is on the national registry. Two developers, Lewis F. Harder and Vincent Hall, joined the Florida land boom in in 1925, and built the large hotel by Lake Jackson, as well as the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida. Harder Hall opened in 1927, and was placed in Sebring because the city was a stop on the Atlantic Coast Line railroad. By the 1950’s it became a part of the PGA Tour/LPGA Tour, and hosted celebrities Paul Newman, Steve McQueen and Mario Andretti. Despite the reputation of our sleepy little town, we have seen people with wealth over the years, and our population is not immune to the hunger for nice things.
The year Harder Hall opened, the moving picture show that graced the big screen in the larger cities was simple entitled: “Greed”.
The story was about a man named John McTeague (called by his friends simply “Mac), a former mine worker who became a dentist in a small town. One day he met a woman named Trina, and her boyfriend Marcus at his office. The dentist kindled an interest in Trina, and she later fell in love with him. After Trina and Marcus met Mac, they stopped at a shop, and she bought a lottery ticket. In time, Marcus stepped aside and Mac and Trina became a couple. A bit later, Trina discovered she won $5000 at the lottery, and she quickly became obsessive about the money. Marcus, recognizing that he stepped aside from a woman who was now rich, had the law shut down Mac – because he had no official schooling for his dentistry. Trina was fearful of losing her money, and both plunged into poverty while the hidden gold sat protected. Desperate, poor and hungry, Mac presses Trina to release her gold so they can live – but it wasn’t that simple for her to do – because of simple GREED.
The movie echoed a problem of the roaring twenties, and offered a social commentary on the deep hunger for things that many felt. The sad part is that many still do. People will shoot someone for the notes in a cash drawer. What I find even sadder is that some who claim to be believers and followers of Jesus Christ – and even some of them are leading ministries – have allowed GREED to be a regular part of their character. In some cases, people even built an acceptable theology around it… The last chapter of Paul’s first letter to Timothy was addressed to believers – a warning to be on guard against focusing on the “wrong life”. It is easy to do… to make our goals, our hopes and dreams about the next house, the next car, the next TV set, tablet, computer…you name it. The problem isn’t with those things, but with our longing for satisfaction here in the physical world, apart from God’s use of those things to further His ends. Here is God’s call…
Key Principle: The mature believer moves his or her eyes from the temporal world and deliberate makes their primary focus the eternal view.
On our way to our lesson in 1 Timothy 6, I need to ask you to be a bit patient. Since we end our study of this letter today, I would like to accomplish three objectives – not simply deal with one lesson:
• First, I want to quickly attempt to tie the letter together – to help younger believers to grasp the whole of the letter before we leave its pages.
• Second, I want to finish the section that began in 1 Timothy 5:1 concerning behaviors, since it continues into what is now “chapter six”.
• Third, I want to move us to the lesson on greed we introduced a moment ago in our key principle.
Grasping the Whole Letter
In this last part of our series through this letter, we again recall the lessons on renewing our values. As we have traveled through this letter by the Apostle Paul to the younger Pastor-Bishop Timothy, we have noted that most of the letter is geared toward straightforward instruction of behavior. How we behave is a statement of our true set of values – much more than any creed or doctrinal statement. Paul knew that, and Tim needed to be taught that lesson. Paul broke the behavioral lessons into eight parts:
• Lesson One: Returning to Costly Grace: (1 Tim. 1) Tim needed to be reminded that God’s grace was no excuse for bad behavior, and the scope of God’s desire was greater than simply giving us a ticket to Heaven. That set up the letter to provide other instructions on current lifestyle.
• Lesson Two: Renewing Commitment to God’s Sovereignty: (1 Timothy 2:1-8) Tim needed to instruct men to settle down and set aside angry disputations by re-focusing them on peaceful prayer.
• Lesson Three: Refocusing on Proper Affirmation: (1 Timothy 2:9-15) Tim needed to make clear to the women the need to re-examine the emphasis placed on physical appearance over the spiritual reality and correct the behavior.
• Lesson Four: Restoring an Emphasis on Character: (1 Timothy 3:1-7) Tim needed instruction on the primary need for character in relation to elders as opposed to choosing men based on a pragmatic solution to the current set of problems.
• Lesson Five: Recognizing the Value of Servanthood: (1 Timothy 3:8-16) Tim needed to recognize the high value God places on servants (particularly in relation to the deaconate) and clearly recall how this vital connection of the body has been designed to function.
• Lesson Six: Realigning Priorities to Guard Truth: (1 Timothy 4:1-16) Tim needed to recognize the value of truth above all else – directly confronting the assault on truth and the erosion of resistance to standing for it.
• Lesson Seven: Redefining Standards in Relationships: (1 Timothy 5:1-6:12) Paul made clear to Tim intended behaviors that should mark relationships among and between believers.
• Lesson Eight: Regaining a Hunger for True Wealth: (1 Timothy 6:3-21) Paul reminded Tim to teach clearly concerning a believers temptation toward temporal gain in light of eternal truth.
Understanding the Section on Behavioral Standards
To wrap up our series without skipping any verses, we must straddle for a few minutes the opening verses of chapter six and link them to the last lesson. The last chapter opens with the end of a section on instructed behaviors Paul offered to Timothy about dealing with different people in the congregation.
• We noted the words “older man”, “younger man”, “older women”, “younger women” in 5:1,2 and “widows” in 5:3, as well as “elders” in 5:17 – and took time to look at the treatment Paul expected Timothy to afford each in our earlier study. The words RESPECT and HONOR were a big part of our examination.
• The beginning of chapter six is still in that instructional mode – but with one difference. Instead of just instructing Timothy on the direct treatment of the individuals involved, it was an entreaty about what to teach those involved in the slave-master relationship (6:1-2).
1 Timothy 6:1 All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and [our] doctrine will not be spoken against. 2 Those who have believers as their masters must not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but must serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved. Teach and preach these [principles].
Rome was a world filled with slaves. Some scholars estimate that perhaps as many Romans were slaves as free at different times in their history.
The record of Pedanius Secundus, prefect of Rome under the Emperor Nero, provides an example. His townhouse was serviced daily by no fewer than 400 slaves. If all the nearly five hundred senators owned a similar number, that single group of elites alone would have owned 200,000 slaves!
Roman slavery was highly regulated, taxed and meticulously recorded (though many records have perished in time. Slaves routinely came with a “money back guarantee” if they were found to be defective, as least compared to their advertised state. The slave system was not racially based, and slaves had no special standard marker of dress (apart from the common tunic worn by others of the poorer classes. As a result, slaves who had run away were sometimes made to wear metal collars with inscriptions such as: “I have run away. Capture me. When you have returned me to my master, Zoninus, you will receive a reward.” Some scholars of antiquity estimate that between one third to one half of the Roman population were “servii”.
Obviously, many slaves heard the message of Jesus, and some accepted Christ. Sitting beside their Master in the atrium for worship may have caused some of them to lack respect as the day’s chores were later distributed – and Paul needed to address the problem. Though we do not have the same arrangement economically as Paul and his readers did, the principle of “serving Jesus by serving another” definitely applied then and now. When we do what we do for others as a direct service to Jesus – we give our best for reasons far beyond the human relationship and the human reward. This is the call of the believer that would walk in maturity.
Let us be careful to be the best employees – we who name Jesus as our King. Let us be the best of the spouses, the best of the friends, the best of neighbors. These common, daily interactions, and our attention to serving Jesus with our best through all of them, will yield fruit in eternity. Jesus is most honored by believers who recognize that whatever we do, in word or deed, it is for His glory, and therefore do it to the best of our abilities. The world waits for believers that can be seen before they are heard.
• The last part of this “behavior instruction primer” (with the possible exception of the message to the rich in 6:17-19) was directed to Tim’s handling of those who oppose the teachings of God’s Word as Paul revealed them and through that opposition, they are drawing Tim into distraction.
1 Timothy 6:3 If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, 4 he is conceited [and] understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.
The modern church has been distracted by theoretical theology. The term “doctrine” as used in the letters to Timothy and Titus is a bit different than is customary in our time. Here, as in Titus 2, sound doctrine appears to refer to teachings that have practical and behavioral commands for the church to get along with people – not some “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” theoretical debate. Let me posit that it is fine for believers to have theological nuance differences in a number of areas where there is a sincere effort to understand some detail of the text of the Word – all the way until the point that such a view would allow ungodly behaviors to be licensed.
Let’s be careful to stay away from disputes that offer nothing in regards to our walk with Jesus and practice of love with each other. There is much we don’t know, and much we won’t find by arguing with other people. At the same time, the basic lifestyle questions are thoroughly explored in God’s Word. He is never unclear about what honesty, purity, love, grace, integrity are… nor is He bashful to point out vulgarity, sensual thinking and course words or actions. Let’s be careful to speak and act within what is clearly part of the life of a believer – and be on guard of teachings that cause men and women to stray from these revelations of the Spirit through the Word.
There will always be those who will use the Bible for purposes other than what it was written for – to give us the essential truths that guide us to finding and then following God. We are to acknowledge that our guard must be up – even inside the body of believers. Paul offered a specific note of caution in this passage, because the enemy will continue to attempt to spread “tares among the wheat” (Mt. 13). We need to recognize that some will come in to the body posing as real believers that:
• Remain out of self-interest: The words in verse 4 “he is conceited (Gr: tuphoo: “to raise in a smoke”) and understands nothing;” reflect a self-interested person that has no real spiritual perception, even if they are accustomed to being a part of the church body.
• Desire to derail the discussion into “dead end” controversies. Verse 4 again warns “but he has a morbid interest” (Gr: “noseo: to be fixated to the point of an imbalance or illness) “in controversial questions” (Gr: “zaytasis”: a matter of controversy) “and disputes” (Gr: “logomakhia”: to wrangle about empty and trifling matters) “about words”. People of this sort seem to keep things stirred up and leave the boundaries of real seeking of God. The discussions bring out the fleshly works of “envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth”. There is a key not to be missed here: If the fruit of the discussion is works of the flesh, the problem may be the discussion itself. The platform may be used by both the enemy and the magnetic pull on our old nature to tear away at the body.
• A desire to personally feed an appetite for gain. The underlying purpose of these teachers is found in the phrase: “who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.” This seems to be the real issue. Gain (Gr: “porismos”: acquisition) may be a financial idea, or a power one. People stir things up to gain power, and sometimes to gain money. Believers need to carefully watch out for those stirring the pot. We need to humbly remember that we can stand most effectively for Christ when we filter the opinions of those around us through the Word of God and are consistent adherence to the Word’s principles.
Drop your eyes to the last part of this letter, because it is our focus for the remaining minutes of this study – and it is a singular but essential truth. Many believers suffer from a terrible problem…
The Problem of “Wrong World Focus”
Understanding that we have been called to a higher purpose than what can be found in this world is vital for the church to be what God intended. It is a call to our foundational thinking – a plea for recognition that our perspective must be fundamentally transformed by God’s Spirit to live as God intended us to journey through this life. It is a principle that separates the believer from the non-believer…
Key Principle: The mature believer moves his or her eyes from the temporal world and deliberate makes their primary focus the eternal view.
Even believers need to be on guard about where we find our hope and what we dream about. If we long for the things of this world in inordinate ways, we fail to walk with the right hopes lodged in our hearts. Our sure footing in the Gospel will begin to slip into old patterns of thinking and an old value system. The “old man or woman” will grow stronger in our thought life, and the “new man or woman” we are to become will slowly be disabled by starvation. God offered help in how to move to godly transformation.
Six Truths that help our transformation:
Truth #1: Resting in God’s provision and program provides its own reward (6:6-8).
1 Timothy 6:6 But godliness [actually] is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. 7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8 If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.
The formula for “joy in the foyer of life” begins with godliness (Gr: eusebia: taking God seriously) and adds contentment (Gr: “autarkeia”: a perfect condition of life in which no aid or support is needed; sufficiency of the necessities of life; a mind contented with its lot). Paul goes on to note that we don’t truly own anything. We came with nothing and take nothing. That kind of thinking must be posed in the mind of one that sees the “life after this one” or it will lead to a debauched life in the here and now. Because Paul knew that life would go on, he needed only the basic necessities to accomplish his task – he could feel a sense of privilege for anything more God granted! Here is the truth: I become effectively selective in what I take delight in when I recognize this life is the appetizer, not the main course! Far too many believers are gorging on this world, and leave no room for the delicious main course in the life to follow. They don’t SEEK HEAVEN and its blessing, but rather seek to make the HERE AND NOW suffice for all their deep-seated needs. The problem is it won’t work because it isn’t supposed to.
Truth #2: Focus on the physical comforts pulls a believer in the wrong direction (6:9-10)
1 Timothy 6:9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
The temptation to be rich in the here and now pulls my eyes to fulfillment in the here and now. The fanning of the flame of desires for STUFF will war with my call to find my completion in my Savior, and use things to do His work and enjoy from His hand. You can have nice things and not live for those things – but use them effectively to help people. You can even enjoy your life – if you do so as a reflection of God’s goodness to you, and celebrate it WITH HIM.
Scripture is FILLED with places that call us to celebrate life each day and into eternity, and live today joyfully!:
• Psalm 16:11 You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
• Psalm 100:1 Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth. 2 Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing. 3 Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. 5 For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations..
To all my believing family I plead: Don’t be GLUM, but don’t make this world and its riches your focus. You are only a renter here, and your permanent home is being built right now. Don’t get too comfortable, but enjoy the day while recognizing that not all will be as it should this side of home.
Truth #3: Even godly people must be deliberate about their redirected focus (6:11)
1 Timothy 6:11 But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance [and] gentleness.
I LOVE this verse!! Paul reduced the issues of godliness down to CHOICES. We have choices about which direction we face, and what we gaze at. We have CHOICES about what we pursue and what we run away from. We even have choices about HOW we move in relationship to our choices – in gentleness like the quiet bow hunter, or in stomping noises like one who is trying to scare snakes off the path in front of us. Paul made it clear:
• Godly transformation is essentially about right choices in regards to deliberate pursuits. The term “pursue righteousness” (as defined by the Word). You and I will never be transformed to what God intends without choosing to pursue – energetically – the path of right choices. Let’s stop being SPOOKY in the Spirit – acting as if God will grab us against our will and somehow get us on the right path in opposition to our choices.
• Godly transformation begins with taking God seriously. The idea is found in the underlying term “godliness”. Bonhoeffer famously reminded us that when we sin, we don’t HATE GOD, we simply FORGET GOD for a time. We distance ourselves from the truth that He is present with us when we make our choices. If we truly see Him as present, and we also see Him as HOLY- this should inform our choices as believers.
• The text called Timothy to pursue FAITH – God’s revealed view of the world – things as HE says they are . Right is what God says, not what surveyed Americans think. Wrong is what His Word teaches – not the latest “injustice” pointed out by Hollywood.
• Paul told Tim to vigorously pursue opportunities to selflessly act to benefit others who have needs around us, because that is what the term “love” means. Believers preaching truth without love are like weathermen explaining how snow is formed to a man whose car is stranded in a snow drift. At that moment, the stranded don’t need an explanation – they need a helper.
• Paul then had the AUDACITY to call Tim to PURSUE A STRONGER BACK. God calls His followers to build up their resistance to whining and being crushed by troubles as we faithfully remain under the troubles of this life – as can be found in the term “perseverance” (hupomeno: to remain under).
• While troubles may assail the believer, they must not become angry or harsh – but must learn to respond with tenderness (11b).
Truth #4: The secret to a transformed perspective is how widely you focus your view (6:12-16)
1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which He will bring about at the proper time– He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him [be] honor and eternal dominion! Amen.
Look at the secret to fighting with perseverance – it is taking hold of eternal life. It is looking up to Jesus Who understands unfair trials (as in the case before Pilate!) and yet calls us to His example of endurance and careful response.
• Don’t forget that Jesus is still in charge of all things!
• Don’t forget that God holds time in His hands, and will end all things the best way to tell His story!
• Don’t forget that our King possesses all life and dwells in unsearchable light –His ways beyond understanding of His creatures.
• Don’t forget that He is absolute in authority, unrivaled in power, unconcerned by the flexing of the muscles of the wicked kingdom.
Truth #5: Those who have abundance will need to be particularly careful (6:17-19)
1 Timothy 6:17 Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 18 [Instruct them] to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.
Paul reminded Timothy of one more group to instruct – those who possess much in this world. He told Tim to remind them:
• Hope cannot be fixed on the temporary nature of this world and its delights – but on God Himself, Who is the supplier of all things.
• What we can do, what we MUST do – is use the blessing of this life to do good to those around us – expending ourselves this side of Heaven.
Truth #6: Godly leaders must see the truths of Scripture as a trust (6:20-12)
1 Timothy 6:20 O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly [and] empty chatter [and] the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”—21 which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Grace be with you.
Finally, Paul called out to his young friend who was uncomfortably seated in the place of responsibility for the lives of other believers…He needed to see the ministry as a SACRED TRUST placed in his hands by God. He needed to recognize time wasters and pot stirrers and know when to walk on. He needed to be able to see clearly those who were going in the wrong direction – and the false professors of faith. He needed to keep his HOPES on HOME with his EYES ON THE TRUTH for the protection and growth of the flock.
The church must remember we are not just an organization, but an organism – a living body that must work at health and growth. We cannot look to the symbolism of the past, nor the popular embrace of the present – we must look to our founder, and proclaim Him. It is our sacred duty, and it is our glorious opportunity to cast a rescue line to those about us! I agree heartily with the words of the theologian John McKenzie:
“If the church were to lose its hierarchy, its clergy, its vast collection of learning amassed over the centuries, even the text of its sacred books, and had to face the world with nothing but the living presence of the Risen Jesus and its mission to proclaim the Good News to all nations and people, it would be no less a church than the church of Peter and Paul was. Perhaps, it might be more of church than it is now.” Why? Because when we truly proclaim HIM, it is about a different view of the world. It is about the view of the physical inside a story told for a world spiritual by the Creator of BOTH!