GAIN OR GREED? (1 TIMOTHY 6:6-10)
An angel appears at a faculty meeting and tells the dean that in return for his unselfish and exemplary behavior, the Lord will reward him with his choice of infinite wealth, wisdom, or beauty.
Without hesitating, the dean selects infinite wisdom.
“Done! ” says the angel, and disappears in a cloud of smoke and a bolt of lightning.
Now, all heads turn toward the dean, who sits surrounded by a faint halo of light. At length, one of his colleagues whispers, Say something.
The dean sighs and says, “I should have taken the money.”
False teachings abound in the early church and Timothy the learner is advised by his mentor Paul in 1 Timothy 6 to take precaution against them. The word doctrine in verses 1 and 3 of chapter 6 occurs a record-breaking eight times in the New Testament (1 Tim 1:10, 4:1, 6, 13, 16, 5:17, 6:1, 3) but, more importantly, the word false doctrines (heterodidaskaleo), from chapter 6:3, occur twice in the Bible, all from 1 Timothy (1 Tim 1:3, 6:3). Moreover, these false teachers love nothing than to talk about the relationship between godly people and their money, riches and wealth.
So what is the role of riches in a believer’s life? Is it a burden or a blessing? A cheer or a curse? A friend or a foe?
Riches are Nothing Without Godly Contentment
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People 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. 10 For 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. (1 Tim 6:6-10)
An old Quaker once advertised that he would give 40 acres of rich farm land to anyone who was perfectly satisfied with that which he had. One seeker came to see the Quaker.
Are thee perfectly satisfied with what thee hast?
Yes, answered the hopeful guest.
Then why dost thee want this land? was the old Quaker’s significant reply.
1 Timothy is the book on godliness, which appears four times in the chapter (1 Tim 6:3, 5, 6, 11), more than any chapter in the Bible, and eight times altogether in the book (1 Tim 2:2, 3:16, 4:7, 8), more than any book in the Bible, which means there was a struggle and a split to understand what godliness is in the early church due to the influence of false teachers.
Men of corrupt mind (v 5) think that gain to be godliness (Greek) or gain is godliness in KJV, but Paul contrasted that false teaching with the truth that great gain is godliness with contentment, adding “great” and “contentment” to the untrue statement. In one sentence, he rejected prosperity theology, but introduced true godliness, which comes with contentment. False teachers say that gain is godliness, but Paul says greater gain is godliness plus contentment. The first one says, When you are rich, you are godly. The second counters saying, When you are content, you are richer. True godliness doesn’t eye, envy or covet worldly riches. Contentment (aut-arkeia) occurs twice in the Bible, it is also translated as sufficiency in KJV (2 Cor 9:8). Why so few times? Because the prefix autos or self is added, so contentment means self-satisfaction. The most famous case of contentment/arkeo is from 2 Corinthians 12:9 that says My grace is ‘sufficient’ for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Self- is not necessarily negative ; it is a contrast to gain or wealth, the “being” (self) versus the “having” (gain).
Paul gives us two reasons why. First, we bring nothing into this world (v 7). No one is born a golden child, with a silver spoon in the mouth or a bucket of gold in hand. Because we carry or bear nothing to this world, that nothing whatsoever we can to carry out (Greek). The first statement is that emphasis, the second statement follows with a “for/that” (hoti) to explain or expand on the first. Note that Paul doesn’t mean contentment with having nothing, but having food and clothing (v 8), the basics. Food and raiment occurs only once in the Bible, because food is strengthened by the preposition dia or thorough/through, meaning a sufficient supply, or a supply of supplies. Also, food and supply is plural. So Paul doesn’t mean that to be lean and mean or poor and hungry is a virtue.
Those who desire (will in KJV, want in NASB, minded in ASV) to be rich (v 9), not those who are rich, fall into three things: temptation, a trap/snare and many foolish and harmful (hurtful in KJV – physical part, hapax legomena) lusts that plunge/drown men into ruin and destruction (KJV- destruction and perdition). Fall (empipto occurs nine times in NT) is a minority and an intensified form of the regular fall that occurs 89 times in the Bible. Consider this fall a free fall. The regular fall is the physical stumble, this fall is the condemnation or sin. Vine’s say it means to fall on, i.e. (literally) to be entrapped by, or (figuratively) be overwhelmed with. Fall and trap/snare are usually associated in 1 Timothy (v 9, 3:6-7). Temptation is the test, snare is the trap, and lusts are the unknowing and untamed tentacles that drown (KJV) men, not just plunge men. It’s like getting into an IKEA store this week and trying to find the exit, which a netizen describes as a mile away, and in the meantime you pass through more than 7,500 items for sale, and a tantalizing food counter to end it. The same word applies only to Simon’s sinking or submerging ship upon catching a large number of fish. (Luke 5:7).