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 moneyBut godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people 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 Timothy 6:6-10

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 (v. 10).  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 important 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 many 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 Timothy 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!”

Word Study – “Sick”

Grasping God’s Word – Assignment 9-5

1Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you ill? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. 

James 5:13-16a

The Greek word for sick – ασθενει – in this context is transliterated: Astheneo

Strong’s number: 770

It is used 33 times in the NT:

  • Sick (19 times): Matthew 10:8, 25:36, 39; Mark 6:56; Luke 4:40; John 4:46, 5:3, 7, 11:1-3, 6; Acts 9:37, 19:12, 20:35; Phil. 2:26-27; 2 Timothy 4:20; James 5:14
  • Weak (14 times): Romans 4:19, 8:3, 14:1-2; 1 Cor. 8:11-12; 2 Cor. 11:21, 29, 12:10, 13:3-4,9;

From the contexts in other passages it would appear that this word could as easily be translated “weak” as “sick”.  In English these two words are quite related but our understanding of the microbes that cause sickness make us more inclined to separate the meanings than would have been the case for people in James’ time.  If we use “weak” instead of “sick” in James 5:14 we have:

“Is anyone among you weak? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;”

When we take the overall context of James 5:13 -16 we can see there is a connection between being weak, or sick, and sin.  The effect of the elders anointing is not just to make the person well physically but also spiritually – his sins will be forgiven.  In verse 16 the key to healing is that you confess your sins to each other and pray for each other.

In verse 15 the word translated “sick” is actually a very different word (κάμνοντα) which is only used one other time, in Hebrews 12:3, and there it is translated “weary”.  So if you feel weary confess your sins to each other and pray for each other and you will be healed.

Nowadays we are inclined to view disease and sickness differently from James.  For us there is only a tenuous connection, if any, between our personal actions and sin.  Sickness is caused often by viruses or bacteria which seem separated from our moral actions.  As a Christian in the 21st Century the connection between sin and sickness is less personal, more related to the general fallen condition of the world than anything that we personally may have done.  But if you think in terms of sickness being weakness and put yourself in the context of a 1st Century Christian who knows nothing about viruses and bacteria then you might see the connection between personal sin and weakness or sickness more easily.  This also explains Paul’s warning about taking communion in an unworthy fashion (see Thoughts on Communion: Healing and The consequences of communion).

Things can come around though.  The bible’s wisdom does not seem so archaic in this regard if you are into holistic medicine.  Lifestyle and a tendency to sickness go together.  If your lifestyle is one of abusing the body through excessive alcohol or smoking or immorality then it is easy to see how those sins can affect your health also.  Other sins such as worry and anger also have physical effects causing illness or weakness or both.

In this passage though the emphasis is not on the sin causing the illness.  The Lord is gracious and he heals first and, then, forgives your sins also.  He doesn’t place the emphasis on the sin but rather on the healing of the sickness or weakness.

Which is just like Him, isn’t it?

Word Study – Trials

Grasping God’s Word – Assignment 9-4

2              Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,

3              knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

4              And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

(James 1:2-4 (NAS), compare Romans 5:3-5)

The Greek word for trials in this context is πειρασμοις transliterated: Peirasmos

Strong’s number: 3986

It is used 21 times in the New Testament:

  • Temptation (12 times): Matthew 6:13, 26:41; Mark 14:38; Luke 4:13, 8:13, 11:4, 22:40, 22:46; 1 Cor. 10:13 (twice); 1 Tim. 6:9; 2 Peter 2:9.
  • Trials (4 times): Luke 22:28; Acts 20:19; James 1:2; 1 Peter 1:6.
  • Trial (3 times): Gal. 4:14; Hebrews 3:8; James 1:12.
  • Testing (twice): 1 Peter 4:12; Rev. 3:10.

From the contexts in other passages it would appear that this word is definitely more closely translated “temptation” than “trials”.  If we use temptation instead of trials in James 1:2 we have:

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various temptations”

We know that we are to pray that we do not enter temptation (Matt. 26:41) and we are to ask our heavenly Father not to lead us into temptation (the Lord’s prayer – Matt. 6:13).  However if temptation still comes then we should consider it a joy to encounter it, knowing that our Father has not allowed us to be tempted above what we are able for (1 Cor. 10:13).  We also know that it will produce endurance and a perfect result if we continue to be faithful to God through the temptation (James 1:2-4, Romans 5:3-5).

The nature of temptation is, of course, to be very enticing, seductive, tempting even.  What tempts me would not tempt someone else and what tempts someone else would not tempt me.  But whatever it is that tempts you, there is great reward in staying faithful through the period of temptation, of not giving into it.  Sometimes I feel ashamed at what tempts me, especially in the light of God’s mercies to me, the many blessings I enjoy because I do not yield and the disastrous consequences for those closest to me if I did.  Probably everyone is tempted by something that could, if yielded to, be very destructive – probably one of the seven deadly sins as they are called: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.

There are other temptations that are more subtle and rather than destroy our lives all at once, they wear them down slowly when yielded to.  These include any temptation to not put the Kingdom of God and His righteousness first (Matt. 6:33).  For example we can be tempted to think that spending dedicated time with God in private one to one relationship is less important than doing something else, e.g. spending time with family, work or just watching TV. Or we can be tempted to put other family activities before family worship, bible study and prayer.  This kind of temptation can be hard to consistently resist.

However the principle in all these cases is the same:

  • Resist temptation,
  • endure in resisting it (some temptations go on all your life)
  • look forward to the results of resisting temptation:
    • proven character,
    • the love of God poured out in your heart (Romans 5:5).

As the Lord said to Abraham: “I am your exceeding great reward” (Gen. 15:1).  Being close to Jesus is the greatest reward for staying faithful under (what can feel like) overwhelming, very attractive temptation.

Is a constant and closer relationship with Jesus the “perfect result” of enduring under trials that James is referring to?