A cure for the love of money!

Grasping God’s Word – Assignment 13-3

I Timothy 6:10a

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. (NIV)

Grasping the Text in their town

Roman slave mosaicIf we take the verse in context the original readers would have seen this verse as a follow on to the earlier verses about being content with food and clothing (vv. 6-8).  These verses themselves relate to earlier verses (vv. 1-2) about slaves showing respect and serving their masters well despite the fact that they are slaves.  Far from a cry for slaves to pursue their freedom, Paul says that they should be content.  He also says in vv. 3-5 that anyone teaching otherwise is motivated by thinking that godliness is a means to financial gain.  This is the link verse to the remainder of what the chapter teaches about the love of money.  It is probable that the idea had got out that if you can be free you can make money and that money will bring about happiness.  Paul wants to knock that idea on the head.

The differences between their situation and ours

Slavery, per se, has been outlawed in nearly every country though variations of it exist all over the world.  Otherwise things aren’t much different as far as this passage is concerned.

The theological principles in the passage

love of moneyProbably the main principle, for me anyway, is elaborated in verse 7:  “We brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it.”  This makes the following three verses clear – being eager for money, loving it, can cause you to wander from the faith.  The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil that stem from a wrong perspective on life, giving importance to those things that are not since we won’t be bringing any of it with us.

Does this fit in with the teachings of the rest of the bible?

This principle is central to many of Jesus’ teaching and to the whole ethic of the NT.  Jesus attitude to money during His earthly ministry might at times be considered cavalier by those who give money more importance than He ever did.  In Matt. 6:19 – 34 Jesus teaches us to store up treasures in heaven rather than on earth.  He also says that no one can serve both God and money.  He also says not to worry about tomorrow or indeed anything to do with what we eat, drink or wear (the same things that Paul says we ought to be content with having – we shouldn’t be looking for more than these).  In Matthew 17:24-27 it is obvious that He and His disciples are penniless and cannot pay the temple tax.  However, Jesus isn’t bothered, He doesn’t even go looking for the money Himself but sends Peter to get it from a fish!  In Matt. 19: 16 – 26 Jesus warns that it is very hard for someone who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of heaven.  And so it goes on.

How should we apply this principle today?

Even though there aren’t any slaves that we know of today in Ireland anyway, many people feel like slaves either because they are in demanding low paid employment or because they are in debt.  The natural inclination of most people is not to be content in these situations, to want to find a way out.  But if it was true that those who were slaves in Paul’s time ought to be content with food and clothing (v.8) then it is also true for us now.

One of the biggest issues that I, and probably others, have is that we are not content with just food and clothing.  We feel we have a need for a whole plethora of other things:

  • Education9598540-cartoon-home-appliance-icon
  • Health care
  • Justice & security
  • Elaborate dwelling places with all sorts of facilities such as:
    • Hot showers
    • Electric ovens
    • Central heating
    • Flushable toilets
    • Comfortable furniture and beds
    • TV
    • Computers
    • etc.
  • Motor vehicles
  • Mobile phones
  • Holidays
  • Recreational trips
  • Eating out
  • etc.

But according to the bible we don’t actually need any of these things, just food and clothing (which presumably includes shelter) and with those we should be content.

Some chance!

september-9-11-attacks-anniversary-ground-zero-world-trade-center-pentagon-flight-93-second-airplane-wtc_39997_600x450But the reality is that all these things are very precarious.  The world economic system is continuously on a knife edge.  Economic disaster is never far away from any of us.  Wars can break out in the most unlikely places in unimaginable ways (9/11), there is no lasting security on this earth.  I, and perhaps you, live in the illusion that we will always have more than we need, I take it for granted and can’t imagine what it would be like not to have these “basics”.  But there is nothing basic about this list of things nor is there any certainty that any of us will have them.  The only thing we can be certain about is that our heavenly Father will give us what we truly need:  food & shelter.

The answer then is to start being truly thankful for everything else for as long as we have it all.

Which mightn’t be for long.

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Tim. 6:17)

Be ThankfulThank you Jesus!

Different View Points

The role of the Holy Spirit

Grasping God’s Word Assignment 12-1

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NIV)

A learned intellectual interprets John 3:16

A man with 2 Ph.Ds specialising in NT studies who has not believed and encountered God in the Spirit would have a cognitive understanding of the passage.  He might discuss it in this way:

“The passage says that “God” loved the world so much that he gave his “son” for it.  According to this passage by John the mechanism for living for eternity is to believe in “the son”, i.e. the man Jesus.  I would say that it is true that anyone who has the Christian faith can be deluded into thinking they will live forever and that that is not a bad thing.  For most people, having the hope that they will live forever should keep them happy through difficult times.  It is noticeable that the Christian gospel has a great effect in poor countries where the consolations of this life are far less and the hope for an eternal life of happiness most required.

Jesus was a man, an extraordinary man, but simply believing in him could not make someone live forever and, obviously, doesn’t since all people die.  Though I can see how people who do believe in him must be consoled in difficulty, I cannot see how doing so could possibly make people live forever.

Anyway the idea that God, if he exists in the form described in the NT, would have a son is foolishness and the whole idea expressed in this passage is also foolishness if interpreted in a literal sense.  But the message in this passage is one of the best means there is for pacifying and comforting people in trouble with no other hope, as so many are in this world,.”

A mature believer interprets John 3:16

This is how a mature believer (like me) might interpret it:

“When I met God on the back of a bus travelling from Mullingar to Galway on May 7th 1980, one of the first things He did was convict me of the truth of all the Scriptures including this one.  I believe that God is and that He is good.  I believe He has a Son, Jesus Christ my Lord and Saviour, whom He sent to earth, who came of His own volition and who died a horrible death so that my sins might be taken out of the way and so I can have eternal life.

The life to come is not an extension of the time frame of this present body I am in but a new life in a new eternal body which is maintained by the Spirit of God Himself.

I continue to believe and act accordingly since I have the Spirit of God in me leading me into all truth.

I continually remember Jesus’ death and resurrection and continue to believe and receive eternal life, the deposit of which starts in this life with the Holy Spirit within me.  I don’t just have a cognitive understanding of this passage but a fully engaged, continuing life experience with the author of it.”

A 9 year old child interprets John 3:16 having just given her life to Jesus

“Daddy, Jesus died for me!”

Communication

Grasping God’s Word Assignment 10-2

Scripture is not the only means of knowing what God is saying

From a Christian perspective, meaning and interpretation are ultimately grounded in all God’s communicative action in creation, in the Scriptures, and pre-eminently in Christ.  For those who know God, just having the bible on its own is not enough.  We also desire to know Him intimately in the Spirit.

The great thing about having the Scriptures is that, used correctly, they are not as subjective as our personal experience of Christ can be.  Reading and understanding what the Scriptures say about God is a great way of checking our personal experience, of validating the genuineness of our faith.

If you then add to that a right understanding of, and connection with, His creation you have a threefold strand which cannot easily be broken (Eccles. 4:12).  The ultimate and best expression of God’s creation is in mankind.  In particular the bonds and modes of behaviour that we call good and which to some extent are in all mankind, communicate to us what God is like.  For example the right relationship of a parent with a child and husband with wife and vice versa help us to understand what God is like and how He loves us.

The ultimate right connection for any believer with God’s creation is to be part of a community with others who know Him in the Spirit and where His Word is preached by godly men and women, i.e. His Church.  In the Church is combined the best of God’s creation, godly exposition and presentation of the Scriptures and the image of Christ who is its Head and of whom the Church is His Body.  Local expressions on this earth of His Church can be quite a mixture of the earthly and the divine and don’t always live up to this exalted view of the Church.  But, hey, what do you expect on this earth.  In Heaven She will be revealed in a different light.

Poor Communication

Duval & Hays have this very helpful thing to say about the importance of communication when reading the Scripture:

“The issue of communication … lies at the heart of one’s decision about how to interpret a text. If you, the reader, see the text as a communication between the author and yourself, then you should search for the meaning that the author intended. If, however, you as the reader do not care to communicate with the author, then you are free to follow reader response and interpret the text without asking what the author meant. In some cases, however, there may be negative consequences for such a reading.”