Summary: What is true contentment? Is it gaining security by gaining possessions? Learn the mistakes of loving things - even if you don’t have any.
When is enough enough? Each day we Americans are bombarded with thousands of messages - many telling us that we aren’t complete until we buy the latest and greatest product. Whether its cars or houses or boats or computers - what you have is no good anymore. It has bred a society founded on the principal of discontent.
We may have perfected the art - but it is nothing new. Greed has been around ever since man has been around. And in Ephesus, Timothy was having to deal with leaders who had let greed grab them. So Paul the Apostle has spent the first five chapters of the book giving Timothy instructions on how to recognize false teachers, how to correct behavior that supported it in the church - but also to keep himself from getting caught up.
The first two verses of chapter 6 could easily go with chapter 5 - as Paul is dealing with the subject of leaders - how to spot good ones and bad ones and things to make sure of when choosing leaders. But I find it interesting that it’s included in chapter 6 for this reason: that the "don’t have as much" are often envious of the "have it all" crowd.
This envy can be just as powerful a hook towards false doctrine as intellectual snobbery. So Paul begins this chapter speaking to the lower class that have risen to prominence in the church, warning them not to use it as a way to get back to the big shots - and the key verse is verse 6: "Godliness with contentment is great gain".
6:1 All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. 2 Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them. These are the things you are to teach and urge on them.
In Chapter 2 we talked about how societal change occurred very slowly in the first century A.D. This was true for women - this was also true for slaves. Now we have to understand the culture to understand what Paul is saying (just as with women in chapter 2).
Slaves comprised half the population of the Roman world - some 60 million people were slaves. Slavery then was very different from what we remember in the Americas. Slaves were property - and often treated no better than cattle, but it wasn’t racially motivated, rather economically. In a way the Roman society treated slaves like we do tools and technology today.
But it may be more analogous to talk about slaves then as today’s working class. That included tutors for children, and even doctors. Luke, the writer of Luke’s gospel and Acts was likely a slave.
What was happening was that slaves were getting saved, maturing in faith, and becoming elders. Then some of their masters found the Lord and suddenly the slave was "over" the master. This created uncomfortable situations - to say the least.
So Paul tells slaves to treat their masters with respect and be an example of a servant - even better than ones who did not have believing masters. It would be like you, as a church leader, led the CEO of your company to Christ. Would you be tempted to perhaps give them a taste of their own medicine in the church venue? Don’t.
So now Paul gets back to the character of the false teachers and how to avoid them by concentrating on living your life for Christ.
3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
(3) First Paul focuses on what was being taught - it was "false" in that it was "different" from the gospel Paul had preached. Second it did not "agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ" in that their teaching discounted or disagreed with what Jesus said or did, and third it was against "godly teaching" which could be thought of as the practical application of the gospel - application that led to righteous living, not the kind of behavior evidenced by the false teachers and their converts.
(4) We saw some of this in chapters 1 and 4. The idea of conceited is to be puffed up - they think they are so huge in understanding (although it takes a lot of arrogance to oppose Jesus) but in reality they don’t understand anything (even though they appear the opposite). Paul has even stronger words in 2 Timothy.