You can read 1 Timothy by clicking HERE
1 TIMOTHY IN ONE POST
I like how Paul opens the letter of 1 Timothy by speaking of God as Savior, but also how He throws in Jesus Christ as our hope… for this is Christ Himself our living hope from God. This is a hope that believers already know (see Hebrews 11). We can see Paul establishing how God’s order works. This established order of God works even within the Godhead which is foundational as we read through this letter of 1 Timothy. It is significant within the context of this letter that Paul begins by referring to God as Father and Savior and Jesus as our Hope and Lord.
As we read on through Timothy’s letter, you and I can quickly realize Timothy and Paul were close. Paul calls himself Timothy’s “father in the faith.” This phrase indicates he bore Timothy into the Christian faith. He also personally knows Timothy’s commitment to Christ as he also calls him “a true child” which is a strong statement coming from an Apostle. Timothy would have understood because Apostolic authority statements are significant. While all this is “Apostolic talk” is true, we should also keep in mind Paul expresses himself with the language of a father’s heart. I think that if we have this in view, we can see the strong relational bond Paul and Timothy shared. God shared that bond with us by placing the letter in the Biblical canon.
The Apostle Paul moves quickly to the topic of false teachers (“false” because it differs by not properly promoting life in Christ alone like the apostle’s God-sanctioned teaching). “True teaching” is what the Apostles taught. Therefore the teaching of these false teachers, as Paul an Apostle calls them, means their work is vain. Paul is telling Timothy the false teachers may talk about the law, but their teaching does not promote life in Christ; hence, their teachings promote their egotism. So, this means in the big picture not only is it “vain” but it is also “in vain” because they teach the law without understanding.
Paul says the Law is good for lawbreakers, meaning, it is not for those that keep the Law or those not under the Law. For if we are under Christ’s rule, we have turned from lawlessness and desired something more profound than the Law. God offers His son (Christ) Who is of His very nature for such souls. The Law’s authoritative source is the spiritual substance we genuinely need. Passages like Isaiah 28:16 declare this in pointing to God’s Cornerstone and Ephesians 2:19-22 ensures that we know the Cornerstone is Jesus Christ.
The point Paul is making to Timothy (and to us) is to analyze whether a teacher is using the Law found in the bible or some other myths from ancient times. If they teach you to submit to anything or anyone other than Christ, they are leading you incorrectly. Here is an example that teaches us to follow the nature of the Law and not just the letter of the Law:
Mark 2:23-28: “One Sabbath he was going through the grain fields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath? 25 And he said to them, Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him? 27 And he said to them, The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (ESV)
The disciples were with Christ… the Lord of the Sabbath… which meant they were no longer under the Law. They were under Grace. As a side note, to be under Christ’s Lordship holds more accountability for the individual not less as we might first think.
Paul writes about this specific thought by saying the Law is for good IF USED LAWFULLY. See verses 8-11 which lead us logically into verse 12. The Apostle Paul writes how his life in Christ is of a higher calling than life under the Law. He explains how he is foremost among sinners and so describes that all sinners are welcome into the higher calling reserved for believers.
We see this same theological logic (theo-logic) in Hebrews 10:28-31 where the author states how much more will we who have neglected Christ will be punished compared to those of a lesser calling (those living under the Law). They are in the desert where they died, never to enter the Promised Land.
Our high obligation is to Christ alone. We serve the Spirit, not flesh (see Roman 8:12). We are not slaves to endless philosophy and speculations, but rather the work of reconciliation that results from acknowledging God in all we do for Him. The charge is to fight to good the fight of faith. Therefore, we are to hold firmly to faith and a good conscience. I think this is the result of following the theological logic (theo-logic) of the life of Christ provide to us in the teaching of the Apostles.
We can turn from that goal, friend, for we see the real warning in verses 18 -20.
The Apostle Paul, father in faith to Timothy, gives him a charge to be faithful. It is our charge as well since we are reading his mail also passed down to us.
The Apostle Paul continues his personal letter to Timothy in chapter 2, his son in the faith, with an urge to pray. Paul begins his emphasis on the “order” which the community of believers is to follow. This emphasis on the order created by God is consistent teaching throughout this letter. Apparently, the Ephesians to whom Timothy was ministering needed much instruction about order and how God has established it.
I’d like to call attention to the Apostle Paul’s repetition of his seemingly ingrained mindset of hierarchy and goes through the letter which in this chapter starts at verse 3 with God (as Savior) and 4-6 speaks of Christ (our Hope). Jesus Christ, in His position, intercedes in Heaven for humanity as a human worthy to be before God. Then in verse 7 Paul points out the Apostles, of which Paul belonged, and likely emphasized due to his concerns over false teaching. God sent Jesus and Jesus sent Apostles. The Apostles, in turn, teach us all that we find in the New Testament (instructions for Christians). Elders and others we will get their further instructions in coming chapters. Paul is establishing throughout the letter his understanding of order in God’s Kingdom.
In addition, Paul includes as an Apostle, his desire that everyone pray following the lead of Christ. They are to live in Christ who is our Hope. Accordingly, men (in the hierarchical submission) should intercede for leaders and everyone on earth. Jesus does that for us in Heaven. Men are reflecting the order of Heaven by leading and praying for those around them and standing in the gap for those in need.
He charges women to be in submission to God. Paul gives them the task to dress and behave in a manner fitting God’s order. A woman is to choose good and not evil for herself. She is charged to be supportive and overflowing with godliness. She is to put a priority on her character before physical appearance. Women are reflecting the order of Heaven by helping to nurture godliness in the community that leads to mature Christian behavior.
Just as God the Father brought forth the Son and created all things, so He brought forth a woman from whom all humanity is created. God… Father and Son… are equally God. Likewise, man and woman are equally human. God brings forth life and substance. We as humans are made in the image of God and are to reflect Him and steward the Earth. To do this, God’s good order must be respected and through Christ submission to his Father and our following, this can be done.
Both male and female are to steward family, community, and the world within the bounds of God. He established this relational order in the Garden of Eden. This is the orderly structure (described in Genesis) Paul seems to be drawing on. The order of Eden was true then. That same order… now in Christ… is true now.
The order we see thread throughout Timothy’s letter is the Edenic order reestablished by the life and ministry of Christ. There are some specifics that might trouble our minds, but not when we keep the Edenic order and Christ’s example in mind.
Paul states women are to “learn quietly.” Keep in mind many in Paul’s day would not teach a woman at all in any situation. Paul is not simply pushing culture norms out of the way but is calling back to a God-given order (from Eden). He wants women to learn to share what they learn… this is the goal of learning… is it not? Paul wants an established order within the church family which is only dependent on God’s designs.
What Paul says establishes church order out of family order. Fathers lead. Husbands and wives work together to raise their family and raise children well. Elders lead. Men and women work together to evangelize and disciple and mature the church family well. Again, Paul establishes church order out of family order.
If you did not know, “elders” in the nation of Israel (God’s designed people) were formed from the men. Therefore, they were the fathers who were the best representative of their tribes. This does mean they were not female… because elders that lead over the nation were established from men alone (see Numbers 11:16-30 and Exodus 18:25). You will find women that were leaders, but you will not find them in the Sanhedrin which are the authoritative Elders overseeing God’s chosen Old Covenant people. There were, of course, women in leadership, but what I think Paul is getting at is a community role that is developed in fathers. These fathers are very mature with and steadfastness in understanding headship.
Keep in mind the order we mentioned earlier. The person laying out this strong teaching about Edenic order is an Apostle of Jesus Christ. He is teaching with authority about the church family and the role of the elder (see Chapter 3 for more). The Holy Spirit saw fit that this teaching of Paul made it into the biblical canon. Women are not excluded in this Edenic order, but raised up as co-laborers and leaders. Women just aren’t elders. Is that a “slam” or a “slight?” Not at all. Moreover, I think Paul is wisely leaving room for God in His ultimate authority to make exceptions for His purposes. God can raise up powerful women leaders of the Christian faith, but He would make them leaders… not elders… teachers and movers-and-shakers and prophetesses and deaconesses… just not elders.
Therefore, what I think Paul is addressing is the norm based on God’s revealed ideal in the Garden of Eden. Take note, if you will, that it is Adam and Eve’s story that backs the Apostle Paul and his understanding.
Chapter 3 in Paul’s first letter to Timothy is one dedicated to the positions of elder (verses 1-7) and deacon (verses 8-13) within the household of faith God has established. These are often-quoted seldom-followed commands of God for the leadership of His Church. The “seldom followed” part of the last sentence is my opinion only. The verses in this passage are quite stiff commands among those who are followers of Jesus.
Some Key questions:
Why is being an overseer such a noble task?
The task is a noble one because of the context of the verses. In 1 Timothy 2, Paul treats as common sense the hierarchy of Creation’s order and authority… call it Edenic mandate if you like. Think through how Paul writes from the top down of God’s creation order and how redemptive order follow suit.
“God our Savior – the man Jesus Christ – Human Beings” is one order.
“God – Men and Women in Marriage” is an order presented in Scripture.
“Jesus – Man – Woman – Children” is another order.
“Jesus – Church” is also presented.
When we participate in the order of creation through our given a role, we are mirroring the God Who made us. I love the word Paul uses “noble.” It is the Greek word “kalos” which means: beautiful, handsome, excellent, eminent, choice, surpassing, precious, useful, suitable, commendable, and admirable, beautiful to look at, and magnificent. Why does this word have such an emphasis on “looks?” It does so because we are reflecting God Who is excellent and beautiful and precious and surpassing. So, when we reflect our God our lives are admirable and good as God intended. His pattern is always the path for us.
We are “noble” when we reflect God in our lives and obey His order. We reflect Him and so we are noble. An elder/overseer in God’s Church who is fulfilling his God-given God-gifted role is a beautiful and worthy effort. Not everyone can do it. Not everyone called and thereby gifted for it. Most shouldn’t even attempt it.
Can any person actually meet these qualifications?
I do not see how a living human man can embody the qualification for an elder. This confuses me because I believe them to be a command and not a suggestion. Why would the Apostle Paul command something that was not possible for Timothy to follow through on? Why set up Timothy to fail? I don’t believe he would, but I also have struggled with this listing for years (as well as Titus 1 and 1 Peter 5). I do not know that I have ever been in a church where there is a plurality of men that meet these qualifications… sometimes not even one. Perhaps I have been in poor churches. Perhaps the standard is too high. I take the Apostle at his word and do not devalue it. Was it possible long ago? Not so long ago? Today?
At the moment, I honestly do not know. Ask me tomorrow and I might have a different answer. Nevertheless, keep in mind Jesus does meet the standard! He reveals God’s intent of humanity and secures the standard. He is proof of what God is seeking and also opens the door to eternal life! All humanity misses the mark. So, in Christ, the objective remains in place as laid down in the Edenic expectation because that is what God willed. Moreover, the Godhead is complete and unchanging. Just as the individual Jesus of Nazareth is the standard for human conduct so accordingly the Godhead is the standard of relational order and conduct for the family and the Christian community at large.
Is there a ranking system or is it all or nothing?
It is indeed all or nothing. We cannot pick and choose what we obey in Scripture and what we ignore. All Scripture is God-breathed and we are to follow it and not turn to the right or the left. Jesus affirmed everything to the last stroke of the pen. An elder/overseer must fulfill these qualifications as a whole because there is no option in the passage to fulfill some of it. It is indeed all or nothing.
It is indeed all or nothing, but what fun is that? Here is my sinful-biased ranking of the most important qualifications. Some of them seemed similar in my mind, so I grouped them accordingly. My ranking:
Sets his heart on being an overseer
Manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect
Able to teach
Not be a recent convert
Above reproach || Respectable
Not quarrelsome || Temperate || Not violent but gentle
Not given to drunkenness
Not a lover of money
Have a good reputation with outsiders
The husband of but one wife
What do you think of my list? I think it stinks because it is an all or nothing standard and the exercise is pointless. “Husband of but one wife” is dead last because I waffle between the phrase meaning either divorce or polygamy. If it is “divorce,” then it ranks right up there with managing his own family well (which I have at #2). If it is “polygamy,” then its probably in the right spot. I have my reasons for my ranking… explaining is perhaps an effort for another day, but again, no ranking needed.
Why are wives and children included in the qualifications?
Wives and children are included in the qualifications because the “elders” from the nation of Israel in the Old Testament were the best-of-the-best leaders from the tribes. They proved themselves in their families and could be trusted with larger responsibilities. Elders were proven trusted leaders. It is the same in the church as the Church follows God’s established order. Paul wanted Timothy to remember this as he is preaching and planting churches. If a Christian man has no Christians in his home among his wife and children, he can certainly come to church and volunteer, but he may not be an elder. He is simply not qualified for there must be a track record of proven spiritual leadership.
Many men can lead, but not all are elders.
Many men can volunteer, but not all are elders.
Many men can teach or share testimonies, but not all are elders.
Many men can serve and build and give, but not all are elders.
I know this posting has a different flavor than the others we have done thus far as we march through 1 Timothy, but we didn’t want you to think that reading through Scripture is not without questions. We all have questions about what we read in the Bible? God is not afraid of our questions. We should not be afraid to ask questions. We should also not be afraid to say “I don’t know” or “I don’t know let me pray and study on that.”
In the end, we should note the Apostle Paul’s words in verses 14-16. He says: “Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. 16 Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory” (1 Timothy 3). Remember Paul is laying out the order for Timothy that the household of God follows. The Church is built on truth rooted in God’s created order.
Now to chapter 4. The Apostle Paul seems to be stating that he and Timothy were living in the days the prophets said would come. He is directing Timothy to be aware of the presence of false teachers and to not be sidetracked by them. He not only points out their presence but also how they are in opposition to apostolic authority in how they teach. These false teachers do not hold firmly to the teaching of those sent by Jesus to lead (Apostles) and so they are not properly submitting to Christ’s kingdom order.
He calls them hypocrites.
He calls them liars.
He says they have damaged consciences.
He wants Timothy to stay his course straight through them.
These people are only claiming Christ as Lord in their words, but not in their actions or their teachings. Paul writes of their hypocrisy and ties it to their consciences. They no longer know right from wrong. They have formerly been convicted by the Holy Spirit, but now ignore Him and so fallen prey to their scarred consciences. These people have deserted the faith. They follow rules which give them a sense of morality, but only to rationalize their hypocrisy (see also see 2 Timothy 3:5). The Apostle Paul points out examples of prohibiting marriage and abstinence from foods. These are hot-button topics he has dealt with before (see Romans 3:20 and Galatians 2:16).
Hebrews 7:18-19 says, “The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God” (NIV1984). I point to these verses from Hebrews because earlier in the latter Paul says they teach the law without understanding. Regardless of what the false teachers were saying, Paul makes it clear that God’s Law does not make people godly… only one method/manner/way will do that.
Only faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, is the way to Father God. Paul explains these false teachers are not teaching Christ alone as the means of justification and becoming righteous. Paul says the prophets warned of this and foretold of what would come to pass. He sees it developing and is warning Timothy about the dangers.
In verse 7, he specifically commands Timothy towards godliness and away from myths. Paul teaches a typical lesson about not getting sidetracked… about not getting caught up in worldly teachings and agendas because they can turn one’s of focus from God’s character. God’s character leads to heavenly eternal unspoiled things.
Verse 10 is an encouragement to guide our lives by hope in Christ. He is the reason to struggle and never give up. God the Savior has sent His Son and so we have a living hope with us every step of the way.
Notice how God is “our Savior” in this letter and is the title of the Father.
Notice how Christ is our “living hope.”
Just as in the opening greeting of the entire letter, we again we see order within the Godhead. This same order is to be reflected in family life and then again in Church life which is rooted in Christ… the Living Hope.
Verses 11-16 are gems and speak for themselves. We need to absorb and teach these things! I want to point out that the Apostle Paul seems to be saying that authority is in the Word and not in age or rank. Timothy is younger and yet carries authority. Timothy is to undergird that authority he carries by being blameless in what he teaches. Paul points out it is in living it out that makes the Gospel most useful. Human beings are called to be in right relationships with God and with each other and not just under rules and boundaries in those areas. The rules are a safety net for those who have entered into the redemptive process provided by Christ, For those who are rebellious, they slow corruption.
Being watchful and full of love is the order that Paul ends with for Timothy. This is useful and good for this life and for the life to come. May we progress each day in love and in faithfulness to God and those around us as we live out the hope given to us by Jesus Christ. May we not get sidetracked by teachings that draw us away from God.
Some Questions to Reflect On:
How can you develop knowledge and discernment to know a right Christian teaching from a wrong devilish teaching?
How can hypocrisy in one area of your life lead to wrong thinking in a completely different area of your life?
What sidetracks you from God’s will?
We now find ourselves in 1 Timothy 5. What habits and disciplines teach us to be holy and godly and to stay on track (on the ‘narrow path’)?
The thoughts of the Apostle Paul do not come from nowhere in 1 Timothy, but rather are a logical Holy Spirit inspired thought process from the opening chapters of the Old Testament. The revealed and established order that he discussed in chapters 1-4 are a direct reflection of what God has infused into His creation. The order is directly related to the Godhead and to the source and pattern of reconciliation brought about by Jesus Christ. This order is only understood by the spiritually-minded through the deposit of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Paul continues his discussion in chapter 5.
Keeping God’s supremacy in mind, I think the Apostle Paul has thus far taught that the sovereign will of God is directed for human interdependence manifest properly reflecting the hierarchy of the Godhead. What does that mean? Human relationships are best, in their best form, when properly reflecting mutual love patterned after the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (the Godhead). The Godhead is revealed through Scripture and most fully in the life of Jesus Christ as presented in the New Testament. The New Testament is the witness of proper human relationships based on mutual love. When following this divine pattern, we can mirror the Godhead on Earth among Creation through the dominion status of human beings as a family.
Simply stated: Family structure is a reflection of God that denotes respect and honor to His Sovereignty.
The structure of the human family order is to be a direct reflection after Eden’s family structure which is God’s original template. The Garden of Eden is the ideal and standard for roles and duties. It is then also the ideal of the Church as the bride in submission to her husband… Jesus Christ. Jesus of Nazareth is the genuine human image of God in right relationship to Father God. He is the perfect expression of what was first intended by and for Adam (human beings).
The order is then:
God (Father and Son and Holy Spirit)
God is a community of love within Himself which we scarcely understand. Even though we do not understand God fully, we can see God is Triune and loving in nature. In Scripture’s native themes we can experience Him for ourselves.
His design for the human family directly reflects the family-type love within the Godhead. The husband is the head of the family household just as Father God is head of Trinity and with the New Testament redemptive narrative Christ is the head of the Church. The man is to submit to loving his wife as Christ submits to the Father in loving humanity.
The wife is the helper through who human life is born and is a direct reflection of life brought forth through Christ. Moreover, childbearing reflects Christ’s redemptive childbearing (creating followers).
Just as God offers eternal life. The Church (the mother of Christians) communicates about eternal life. The point is that the order reflects Who the Triune God is as a community of love. Within this understood order, we have instructions in the form of rules that are given to Timothy to help disciples in the Church continue toward the goal of reflecting the Triune God blamelessly.
In 1 Timothy 5 (yes we are getting to 1 Timothy 5), the Apostle Paul categorizes the rules for conduct for the old, young, male, female, married, widowed, and principles for so many others. In their roles and God-given capacities of both age and gender, Paul addresses the positive goals for the church family acknowledging the negative tendencies of human beings. He gives boundaries and preventive steps of action to promote godliness among all the people of the church family. Therefore, as we read this letter, there is an asserted need to be attentive what Paul says in regards to our age and gender to fulfill our proper role in the family of God.
As stated in verses 1-2: “Do not address an older man harshly but appeal to him as a father. Speak to younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters—with complete purity” (1 Timothy 5, NET). He then goes on to address those who are “truly” widows (verses 3-16).
“Truly” widows… this is interesting. The true widows were to receive support from the Church. The widow would likely be giving to the group more than she receives as we take a look at Paul’s overall statements. She is the one caring for orphans and the sick on a regular basis. She was also a woman of high moral charter just as the deacon, deaconess, and elders. We are told she was to be the wife of one husband (note that it is clear here the only being married once to the same man is being indicated, not polygamy which may shed more light on the standard for men in place of honor within the church). This lady is a servant of all who is truly by herself in this life. All other types of widows were to be primarily cared for by relatives or a second husband.
What is being stressed here? The Apostle Paul is stressing care for those that have devoted herself (or himself) to the Lord solely. This woman has given herself to ministry fully and God’s people are taking care of her. What is this? This is mutual love as reflected by the Godhead. God is love. His people are to be love. In any relationship, we find ourselves (in this passage it is a widow, verses 3-16, or a church leader, verses 17-25), we are to have a mutual love for each other. Adoration. Benevolence. Care. Deep kindness. Provision. We are to have mutual love one for another as we reflect the God that we barely understand, but desperately want to reflect.
May we reflect God fully in all our relationships.
May we reflect mutual love for our wives and husbands and submit to one another.
May our Christian families call to the divine order that reflects our God’s love for us.
May we reject our temptations to live according to our own plans and roles and self-love.
May those who devote themselves to ministry love widows, orphans, and the poor with God-given love.
May we provide well for those who lead and serve in our Church family.
The last relationship (order) that Paul speaks of bleeds into chapter 6, but connects with chapter 5. Paul refers to those who find themselves under the yoke of slavery. This is a very uncomfortable topic for us. Those who were slaves are told to treat the matter as worthy of respect. Again, a charge of submission. Even those who are slaves can reflect Christ’s example manifest through His human victory. They are called to be more than they appear in the worldly order. Masters that don’t follow Jesus Christ can learn from such a dedicated soul and come to know Christ. Paul sets this as a slave’s goal. This should be the goal of all Christians that honestly intend to follow the Lord.
As we think about these verses contained in 1 Timothy 6, one of the first words I noticed when I was reading was the word “contentment.” “Contentment” means “a state of happiness and satisfaction.” The Apostle Paul is recommending that we cultivate contentment in our lives because we are godly people living in submission in the midst of the order God has set up. We are people who pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. We have those things as our core values.
I want you to notice if you will the context of the word “contentment.” We are not talking about relationships or physical looks or life circumstances (which certainly does apply as we look back on 1 Timothy 1-5 and other Scriptures), but rather we are talking about finances. The sense we get from these verses is that the Christian way of living is not as its primary goal going after money and amassing wealth. That certainly does not mean that money cannot be saved or earned or business deals struck which make us money. Loving money crowds out the contentment Paul is talking about. Paul says that wanting more and more money are “foolish desires” and lead only to “ruin.” Desiring more and more money may force us to do things we would not normally do. Paul calls that “piercing ourselves with many griefs.” Paul specifically in these verses says that contentment with financial things is a must for the believer.
The Bible mentions contentment with money a few times in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Two passages from the New Testament caught my eye.
Philippians 4:11-13 tells us, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
Please notice that the often quoted Philippians 4:13 about us doing all things through Christ has a context of being content with money and physical material things. Paul found that the only way he could be content with the financial circumstances was through his faith in Christ.
Hebrews 13:5-6 reminds us, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
Again, we are shown in the Bible that the only way to be content with financial circumstances is to rely on God through it. God brings us confidence in these matters. God brings us strength.
As we think about the verses in 1 Timothy 6, one of the first words I noticed when I was reading was the word “contentment.” That also made me think about the opposite of being content which is discontent. “Discontent” is a lack of satisfaction. Synonyms are “disgruntled,” “unhappy,” and “resentment.” We know the feeling of discontentment when we feel it. As I read over these verses, discontentment fleshed out would be the opposite of what Paul says:
Verse 6: Discontentment is ungodly
Verse 7: Discontentment is trying to amass wealth even after death
Verse 8: Discontentment is wanting more than you need
Verse 9: Discontentment is a trap that leads to ruin.
Verse 10: Discontentment is the love of money.
Verse 10: Discontentment can lead you away from God.
There are plenty of stories in the Bible where the feeling of being discontent or restlessness lead to something awful. Let’s just take a look at the book of Genesis. The first book of the Bible is full of the lives of many people. Some of them dealt with the feeling of being discontent.
Even from the very beginning in Eden, Adam and Eve had a perfect place to live (Genesis 3). Satan tempted Adam and Eve to be discontent with what God had given them. He pressed on them the idea that they needed to be more than what God had already created. Their eyes were opened to more and it caused them to sin.
Abraham and Lot became so wealthy that they had to separate their flocks and herds so the land could support them (Genesis 13). Abraham was content to live as God instructed. Lot was not content to live as God instructed. He chose to move near the town of Sodom. Soon after that, he camped near it. Then he was inside living as one of them. He ended up getting captured one time and Abraham had to rescue him. Then, he lost his wife when God destroyed the evil city.
Jacob and Esau are the twin sons of Isaac (Genesis 25). The younger son schemed and tricked his brother and father into inheritance and blessing because he wasn’t content with anything. His mother also seemed to feed his feeling of discontentment. He was not content with what he had and lied and cheated his way to blessing. Then later he himself was almost cheated out of the woman he loved.
So how do we turn our back on the feeling of being discontent and cultivate a great sense of contentment in our lives? I believe we find the answers in verses 11 and 12 of 1 Timothy 6. You see, I think it is human nature, and by that I mean our default as people, not to be content. We err on the side of discontent. God knows this is our sinful nature at work.
Therefore, God instructs us when it comes to money and material things what our aims should be. Our aims for material things should not be more and more. Our aims for material things should not be the latest and greatest.
What builds contentment in our lives? The Apostle Paul lists them in verse 11: Righteousness, Godliness, Faith, Love, Endurance, Gentleness
When we keep our eyes and our heart set for these types of things in our lives, then we have weapons against the wave of discontentment that is sure to wash over us. You see, when we are self-absorbed, committed to sin, faithless, hard-hearted, quick to quit, and quite rough around the edges, discontent flourishes inside our hearts and directs our actions.
Is this easy? Paul in verse 12 tells us absolutely not. In fact, he encourages us in verse 12 to “Fight the good fight of the faith.” It is a fight to keep ourselves righteousness, godly, faithful, loving, full of endurance, and gentle. He uses the word “fight.” This is an uphill battle for us, but one worth taking on. This is a long obstacle course challenge that is worth our time and effort. Cultivating contentment will keep us from ruining our lives and making very poor decisions.
Contentment really is a spiritual issue and is not an amount-of-money issue. God is always there and never changes and informs us how we can be content with our finances. Financial contentment has less to do with money and more to do with our attitudes, belief systems, and decisions. Financial contentment brings peace of mind. Peace of mind and contentment comes from committing ourselves to righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.