Bible Study Commentary
1 Timothy 6:6-11
Pastor Michael Falgout
A New Habit of Bible Study and Reflection
Life has changed fairly dramatically for the people and pastor of Hemet Church of the Nazarene. We are now worshiping at the Seventh Day Adventist Church on Stetson and Girard and working with different limits on our time and space. In the midst of it all, I am hearing the Spirit’s call to renewal and transformation, a call not just to move onward, forward, but upward--letting the changes around us serve as constant reminders to draw closer to God and press on in pursuit of Christlikeness in all we do. With the goal of sanctification, moving onward and answering the upward call of God in Christ, I am trying to start a new habit of weekly Bible study, writing, and reflection that I intend to share with any who would be interested in following along on a published blog on the church’s website: a Bible Study Commentary, based on a close reading of some scriptures prescribed for the week.
In the past, I have usually written sermons and articles in a different format, reflecting on a passage of scripture as a whole, or a contemporary issue in the abstract. In what follows, I intend to simply read and interpret the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible as scripture “out loud,” line by line, as it were, with my commentary in writing, sometimes including other commentaries or versions of the text. In so doing, I will intentionally (and fearfully) be following in the footsteps of many who have gone before me, in the pattern of John Wesley’s Notes on the Bible, Calvin’s Commentaries, Aquinas’ Catena Aurea and Commentary on the Gospel of John. But, mine is a relatively small endeavor. I don’t mean to explain what the scriptures mean once and for all, but simply to interpret them for myself alongside God’s people and explore what they might mean for me and us today who seek not only knowledge but enlightenment and inspiration from the Spirit.
1 Timothy 6
So, to begin: a commentary on the sixth chapter of the first letter to Timothy, usually grouped with 2 Timothy and Titus as one of the “Pastoral Epistles.” There seems to be a certain theme of “quietism” (for lack of a better word) that runs through this whole epistle, “that we may live peaceable and quiet lives in all godliness (or piety) and holiness” (1 Tim. 2:2). It seems much of the letter is addressing the problem of “unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words” (6:4). Earlier in chapter 6, the author has argued against those “who think that godliness (or piety) is a means to financial gain” (6:5)
6:6 Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment;
As opposed to “financial gain,” the truly pious are to seek “contentment,” an English translation of the Greek word, autarkeias, which could also mean self-controlled, self-sufficient, not to be in need of anything or in a constant state of desire for more. This seems to be implying that not only those who seek “financial gain,” but also those who love “controversies and quarrels” (both mentioned earlier in the chapter) have a kind of unhealthy desire or addiction for something that Christians should have in full measure in their relationship with God and in themselves, by the indwelling of Christ and the Holy Spirit.
6:7 for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it;
Not just common sense or a proverb of the wise, this is a revealed truth of sacred scripture. Among us humans, only Christ himself can be said to have brought something new into the world (the virgin birth), and to have taken something out of the world (his resurrected body). But even he came into the world and left the world (or died) painfully naked.
6:8 but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.
Really, just food and clothing? That’s setting the bar pretty low. No cars, televisions, smartphones, or any of the other “essentials” of life in modern America? I suppose that means I am quite rich, even on my worst days. On this verse, John Wesley clarified, “raiment and a house to cover us. That is all that a Christian needs, and all that his religion allows him to desire.” Do we, in the world we live in today, need much more than this to be perfectly happy, content with God in this life?
6:9 But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
Notice it doesn’t say, “those who are rich,” but “those who want to be rich,” which in fact would include many people who are poor, and hopefully doesn’t have to include all of us who are rich. It is not necessarily riches, or the wealth of this world, but the desire for riches and other harmful desires that are here presented as a trap that leads to spiritual destruction.
6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.
Again, not “money,” per se, but “the love of money” is what the apostle warns against. That which Moses called “covetousness” and Augustine “concupiscence” or “lust.” Notice that unhealthy, loveless desires are, here, an affliction with which one punishes oneself. Such persons are “pierced with many pains,” just as Christ himself was, but their wounds are self-inflicted rather than meted out from above. By looking unto Jesus, and his vicarious suffering for the sins of others which he freely undertook for the sake of love, those who continue to pierce themselves with misguided desires can be truly healed and find contentment even in the pains and struggles of this life.
6:11 But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.
The “man of God” here seems to be Timothy, the young pastor and church leader addressed directly in this letter, but the word “man” is the Greek word, anthrope, a term often applied to humans in general. And truly, every person of God, reborn in the image of the one true Man of God, Jesus Christ, is here called by the apostle to a life of continual repentance, continual shunning of the love of money and any other misguided desire less than true, self-giving love--a spiritual life of Christlikeness characterized by the very virtues Jesus preached: justice, true piety, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. This kind of life is thoroughly described in these very terms in Jesus’ sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7).
Questions for Further Reflection
1. Am I completely content with what I have and who I am by God’s grace? If not, why not? What do I tell myself I need to be truly happy, satisfied, or content in this life?
2. What do I want or desire most? Food, fashion, recognition, approval, success? How do these desires line up with the love of God revealed in Jesus?
3. Am I completely free from the love of money, or am I also entrapped in this or that kind of idolatry: worship of things below?
4. To what extent does my life exemplify the virtues of justice, piety, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness? How do my thoughts and actions compare to Christ’s in these areas?
Lord Jesus Christ, God of superabundant grace and never-ending life, teach us to be content with just our “daily bread,” which you yourself provide to sustain us always, that we may no longer be enslaved to lesser selfish desires, but set free to love completely and spread the gospel of the love of God to others. Amen.