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
If 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
Probably 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:
- 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
- Motor vehicles
- Mobile phones
- Recreational trips
- Eating out
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.
But 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)