You’ll remember that Paul is writing to Timothy to give this young pastor some instructions on the things he needed to do and to teach in the church in Ephesus. In chapter 1, the focus was on the false teachers and how Timothy had to command them not to teach their false doctrines. In chapter 2, the focus was on public worship. In chapter 3 the focus was on elders and deacons. Elders, or overseers, rule the church and deacons, the members of the Congregational Committee, serve the church in practical ways. In chapter 4 the focus was once again on the false teachers and on how Timothy should respond to their challenge by reading and preaching and teaching God’s word. In chapter 5 and the beginning of chapter 6 the focus was on honouring widows and elders and masters. The church must honour widows by caring for them. The church must honour elders, and especially teaching elders, by respecting and paying them. And slaves must honour their masters by respecting them. Today, we would say that those of us who are employed must honour our employers and our supervisors. And so, that’s what Paul has been writing to Timothy about. And these are instructions for every minister of the church so that they will know what they should teach the Lord’s people.
In the rest of chapter 6, Paul returns to the problem posed by the false teachers who seemed to think that godliness was a means to financial gain. And so, Paul warns Timothy about them in verses 3 to 5. And then, in verses 6 to 10, he writes about contentment and about covetousness. Godliness with contentment is great gain, but the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. So, that’s what we’ll be thinking about today.
However, before we get to that, notice the last sentence of verse 2. Paul wrote:
These are the things you are to teach and urge on them.
In other words, these are the things you are to teach and urge on the congregation. When Paul says ‘these things’, he’s probably referring to what he’s just written about widows and elders and masters. But ‘these things’ probably also refers to what is to come.
So, Paul is instructing Timothy to teach and urge the congregation about all of these things: widows and elders and masters and false teachers and money. The word translated ‘urge’ can also mean ‘exhort’ or ‘encourage’. So, Paul wants Timothy to teach the congregation about these matters and to exhort them and to encourage them to put these things into practice. Timothy should be saying to the congregation: here’s something you need to know; and here’s something you need to do. Know your duty in regard to widows and elders and masters; and make sure you carry out your duty. And let me warn you about the false teachers and the love of money; and make sure you heed my warning about these things.
And this little sentence is important because it reminds us once again of the priority we must give to teaching and learning. We’ve seen that ministers are to read and preach and teach God’s word. We’ve seen that one of the qualifications for the eldership is that elders must be able to teach and explain the faith to others. And if the leaders of the church are commanded to teach, then that means the members of the church are to be people who are eager to learn. We come to church on Sundays and we’re ready to hear God’s word and to learn from it. And, of course, it’s not like going to school, where you have to study subjects you’re not particularly interested in and you wonder sometimes why you need to know these things. Church is not like that, because this is God’s word to you, and you love the Lord, don’t you? And he’s speaking to you — isn’t he? — through the reading and preaching of his word and telling you things you need to know for this life and for the next. He speaks to you words of eternal life; and he speaks to you words of comfort and peace; and words which fill you with joy; and words which fill you with hope. He uses his word to convince and convert sinners to faith in Christ; and he uses his word to build up believers in holiness and comfort. And so, what a privilege to be able to learn these things.
But then, as well as learning these things, there’s something for you to do. Perhaps there’s a command you need to obey. Perhaps there’s some sinful habit which you must give up. Perhaps there’s a warning you need to heed. Perhaps there’s a promise you’re to believe. The preacher preaches and teaches God’s word. And the congregation listens and learns. And the preacher must also exhort and encourage the people from God’s word; and the congregation is to believe and obey.
Verses 3 to 5
Faithful ministers will teach and urge these things. But, of course, Paul knows that not every minister is faithful and there are many false preachers and teachers in the world. When we were studying chapter 4, I made the point that the New Testament warns us in several places to expect false teachers to come. For instance, in Matthew 24, the Lord Jesus said that many false prophets will appear and they will deceive many people. In Acts 20, Paul warned the elders in Ephesus that false teachers would come to the church and others would arise from within the church. Peter in his second letter warned about false prophets and about scoffers who would come in these, the last days in which we live. Jude and John also warned about false prophets and scoffers. And in the book of Revelation, John saw a vision of two beasts: one represents how the Devil persecutes the church; and the other represents how the Devil deceives the church. And he deceives the church through false preachers and teachers.
And since that’s the case, it’s not surprising that Paul would write about false teachers throughout his letter to Timothy. And he returns to this topic in verse 3 where he refers to those who teach false doctrines and who do not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching. Paul refers to the ‘instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ’. He could be referring to the things which the Lord Jesus taught while he was on the earth. Or he could be referring to instruction about the Lord Jesus and about his life and death and resurrection and what it means for sinners. But perhaps we don’t have to choose between these two options, because the preacher is to teach the congregation the words and deeds of the Lord Jesus as they’re recorded for us in the four gospels; and he’s also to teach the congregation about the Lord Jesus from the rest of the Scriptures, because the whole of the Bible testifies to him in one way or another.
And Paul also refers to ‘godly teaching’, which probably refers to teaching which leads to living a godly life. God uses the reading and preaching of his word to sanctify his people so that we become more and more willing and able to do his will here on earth. Through the reading and preaching of his word he renews us in his image and enables us to live godly lives.
And Paul also refers to ‘sound’ teaching. Do you see that in verse 3? He’s using a medical word which can be translated ‘healthy’. Certain foods are healthy foods, because they are good for us; whereas other foods are unhealthy, because they’re bad for us. And the reading and preaching of God’s word is good for us. It promotes spiritual health in those who hear and believe it. But then there’s another kind of teaching which is not good for us. False teaching is not good for us. Teaching that twists God’s word or which undermines the truth of God’s word or teaching which keeps us from Christ is not good for us.
And so, Paul warns Timothy about those false teachers who teach false doctrines and who teach things which are bad for us. Such false teachers, he says, are conceited and they understand nothing. If you’ve ever come across a false teacher, you’ll know that they are conceited and proud, because they think they know so much more than everyone else. But the truth is that they know nothing about the truth faith. And, as Paul goes on to say, they have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words. The faithful teacher studies the words of Scripture because he wants to teach the truth which he knows will be good for the congregation. But what the false teacher teaches doesn’t do anyone any good and it only leads to controversy. And that’s not the only thing their teaching leads to, because Paul goes on to tell us that their teaching leads to envy and to strife and to malicious talk and to evil suspicions and to constant friction. None of those are good things, are they? None of those are symptoms of a healthy congregation, are they? No, the unhealthy teaching of false teachers spreads disease and decay in the congregation.
And Paul refers to those who have been robbed of the truth of the gospel. Isn’t that a terrible thing? God sends out his preachers into the world to proclaim the truth of the gospel so that people everywhere will hear and believe and be saved. But instead of making known the truth of the gospel, these false teachers are depriving people of it. Instead of offering the truth of the gospel to sinners, they are withholding it from them. The one thing sinners need to hear is the truth about Jesus Christ who gave up his life for sinners. But these false teachers are keeping the people from hearing the good news.
And from what Paul tells us about them at the end of verse 5, it seems that instead of being interested in our eternal salvation, these false teachers are only interested in what they themselves can get. They think that godliness is a means to financial gain. They think that Christianity is a way to make money. And we’re all familiar with this, aren’t we? We’ve all seen those preachers on TV who are always urging people to send them money. And they often appeal to the greed of the people, don’t they? Send me money and the Lord will send you money as well. Or, from time to time I hear about preachers in the USA who live in mansions and who have a luxurious lifestyle, because they’ve been able to amass so much money for themselves. And, of course, Christianity is big business these days and lots of people are making lots of money from selling Christian merchandise and gospel music. And while the preachers in Paul’s day were not involved in that kind of thing, Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians about those who used to peddle God’s word for profit.
And so, Paul warns Timothy about these false preachers and teachers who are in the ministry for what they can get out of it and whose teaching does more harm than good. And, of course, do you remember from chapter 4 how Timothy was to vaccinate the people from their deadly effect? He was to vaccinate the people by devoting himself to the reading and preaching and teaching God’s word. That regular injection of truth from God’s word protected the people from lies.
And do you remember? If Timothy and preachers like him are to devote themselves to reading and preaching and teaching God’s word, then you need to devote yourself to hearing and believing and obeying God’s word. The best defence against false teaching is true teaching, which is why I preach the good news of the gospel in this place every Sunday. I preach the good news of the gospel so that you will know the truth and believe the truth and keep believing the truth, because sinners are saved by believing.
And having mentioned how the false teachers believed that Christianity was a means to make money, Paul goes on to teach Timothy that true Christianity leads to gain. That is, true Christianity is good for us. It’s good for us so long as we’re talking about Christianity with contentment.
The word translated ‘contentment’ means self-sufficiency; and many of the philosophers in Paul’s day valued self-sufficiency. You’ve perhaps heard of the Stoics and Cynics. The Stoics taught that we should try to live in such a way that our contentment does not depend on outward circumstances. So, no matter what happens to me, I can still be content. The Cynics taught that we should try to live without depending on other people. So, instead of relying on other people or instead of relying on our circumstances, we should rely on ourselves. We should be self-sufficient. And perhaps you may think that’s what the Bible teaches as well. After all, didn’t Paul write to the Philippians that he had learned to be content in any situation? Whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want, he knew how to be content.
But Paul wasn’t really teaching the same thing as the Stoics and Cynics, because Paul was not being self-sufficient, was he? Remember what he said to the Philippians? He said that he can do all things — that is, he could face every situation — through him who strengthens me. Instead of relying on himself, he relied on God. He relied on God to give him the strength he needed to face every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Paul was relying on God.
And through faith in Jesus Christ, God becomes our loving Heavenly Father. And our loving Heavenly Father knows what we need. He knows what we need; and he wants us to trust him for our daily needs. He doesn’t want us to be anxious about what we’ll eat or drink or wear, but to trust him for these things. And Christianity with contentment — a contentment which comes from trusting that our loving heavenly Father will provide us with what we need — brings great gain. That is, it’s good for us. Why is it good for us? Why does it lead to gain for us? It’s good for us because Christians who have contentment avoid all the problems associated with the love of money. That’s the point Paul will make in verses 9 and 10 where he writes about the trouble people have when they don’t have this contentment and when they desire more and more and more for themselves. But before we get to that, we have verses 7 and 8 where he continues to write about contentment.
Verses 7 and 8
And so, in verse 7 Paul refers to the beginning of our life and to the end of our life. When we were born, we brought nothing into the world. When we die, we’ll take nothing out of the world. We began with nothing and we’ll end with nothing. And so, whatever we possess between those two points in our life is already a gain, isn’t it? I started with nothing, but now my loving Heavenly Father has given me food and clothing. Now I have more than I started with. And that’s good. I started with nothing and God has given me what I need, because I have all the food I need and all the clothing I need. And so, I can be content and not anxious.
And, of course, God often gives us much, much more than that, because not only do we have food and clothing, but he provides us with so much more. And I think we need to remember what Paul wrote back in chapter 4 where Paul wrote that everything God created is good and nothing should be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving. God has filled our lives with good things to enjoy. And so, as well as being content, and not anxious, we can be also be thankful for all of God’s good gifts.
Verses 9 and 10
Having written about contentment in verses 6 to 8, Paul writes in verses 9 and 10 about the many sad people in the world who do not have the kind of contentment which Christianity brings and which comes from trusting our loving, Heavenly Father for all that we need. And these sad people want to get rich. Instead of being content with God’s good gifts, they want more and more and more for themselves. And what happens to them? Verse 8: they fall. They fall into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. Perhaps they’re tempted to cheat and to lie and to steal in order to get rich, because as Paul goes on to say in verse 10, the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.
Notice, of course, that he says it’s ‘the love of money’ and not money itself which is a root of all kinds of evil. There’s nothing wrong with money itself and there are people with money who are able to use it for God’s glory. And so, what Paul warns us about is the love of money. And the thing about the love of money is that poor people and rich people can possess it. In fact, very often poor people, or people with very little money, are the ones who love money the most, because they think that all their problems will be over and life will be great if only they get some money.
And when Paul says that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, he means that all kinds of other evils grow out of and emerge from the love of money. And so, it can lead to lying and cheating and stealing and a host of other sins as well including selfishness, because the person who loves money doesn’t want to give it away. And we can think of biblical examples, because King Ahab’s wife Jezebel had Naboth killed because Ahab wanted his vineyard. Elisha’s servant Gehazi lied to Naaman in order to receive a gift from him. Paul refers in 2 Timothy 4 to Demas who loved the world and abandoned the faith. And Judas betrayed the Lord Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Loving money, wanting money, leads to other kinds of sin.
And just as a root is hidden from view, because it’s under the soil, so the love of money might be hidden from view. No one else knows about it; and when other people look at the person who loves money, they don’t know that this person’s heart is filled, not with love for God, but with love for money. And so, it’s very hard to spot; and perhaps no one knows anything about it until it produces these other sins. And perhaps then it’s too late and this person who loves money has fallen into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that lead only to ruin and destruction. As Paul says at the end of verse 10, some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Did Paul have particular people in mind when he wrote those words? Did he have in mind certain people who had wandered from the faith because of their love for money? Maybe he was referring to the false teachers. Maybe that’s what happened to them and because they began to love money more than they loved the Lord, they abandoned the faith and began to peddle God’s word for profit.
But the good news of the gospel is that, though he was rich, the Son of God made himself poor when he came to earth as one of us to save us from our sin and misery. And on the cross, he was pierced for our transgressions and he was bruised for our iniquities. He suffered the penalty that we deserve for our sins and shortcomings — including the sin of loving money more than God — so that, through faith, we can have peace with God. And if you have peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ — and all of us should trust in Jesus Christ, who is the only Saviour of the world — then you can look to your loving Heavenly Father for all that you need in this life, including the contentment you need to enjoy his good gifts. And not only can you look to him for all that you need in this life, but you can look forward to riches from him in the life to come, where you will enjoy that fullness of joy and those pleasures forevermore which God has prepared for his people; and which he will give to all those who trust in his Son for salvation.