We conclude, in this lesson, our verse by verse study of Paul’s first letter to Timothy. We examine the last chapter, (1Timothy 6:1-21), looking at things we should and shouldn't love.
It may seem at first glance that this passage, which speaks to slaves, isn't relevant in a society like our beloved Australia, where slavery is illegal and we are all free citizens.
However the principles or work ethics that Paul lays down here, apply to our relationships to our employers. Though we are not legally their slaves, there's still a master-servant relationship to be honoured day by day.
Paul adds that these principles must be taught and preached in the church. Proper order in the church extends to proper order and behaviour by Christians in society.
Paul has no time for friction in the church; he describes in strong language those who cause it. People who are always questioning, contradicting, debating, and disputing, are, Paul says, "depraved of mind and deprived of truth" (1Timothy 6:5).
Paul isn't referring to those genuine souls who may question certain teaching. The occasional disagreement, where some point is properly examined and discussed, can be a means of growth in knowledge and unity.
In such cases, it's the love of truth that holds sway, not the love of controversy. Paul is talking about would-be teachers who are looking for power and profit, not truth. They feed on controversy, envy, and quarrels in the church, destroying the proper order of peace, love, and joy.
Behind the friction, Paul sees the attitude that causes it. The problem is not the friction, not pride or jealousy, but "the love of money" which is "the root of all kinds of evil".
Paul has not long back said that workers in the church have a right to be paid wages (1Timothy 5:17-18).
The church quite properly collects money and remunerates its ministers. Wherever there is money, however, there are people trying to get their hands on it and jealous of those who receive it.
Paul tells us to flee from the love of money, and to be content with just those things we really need.
The "desire to get rich" is not proper in a Christian; it paves the path to pain and ruin. Long to be righteous, not rich; "for godliness with contentment is great gain" (verse 6).
The final verses of the letter are a strong encouragement to Timothy (and to us) to "take hold of eternal life", and "pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness".
Of course these lovely things should not suggest a fairy-floss Christianity. Paul in the next sentence says, "Fight the good fight of faith" (1Timothy 6:11-12). It's a good fight, but a fight nevertheless.
Timothy is charged to stand by the good confession and "keep the commandment without stain" and Paul points Timothy to Christ’s second coming and to Christ’s eternal power. He inspires Timothy with a ringing doxology of that power (1Timothy 6:13-16).
Paul comes back to the love of money (1Timothy 6:17-19), obviously not satisfied that he has emphasised it enough before he closes the letter. This time he is concerned not so much for those who desire to be rich, but for those who already are rich in this world.
It's not a sin to be rich, so long as you don't fix your hope on it. What counts is treasure in heaven. Money is not the thing to take hold of. One needs to "take hold of that which is life indeed" —namely eternal life.
Paul closes his letter by exhorting Timothy again to cherish his ministry, and guard it from false knowledge and foolish debates that bring disorder and departure from the faith.