Don’t Take 1 Timothy 6:10 Out of Context
By Stephen Sanders
What does this scripture really mean?
Well, you may say, “I don’t need to see anything else! The Bible is the Word of God so if that’s what it says then, well, that’s what it means! End of story!” Or perhaps you may say, “See, it says the ‘love’ of money, so I can have as much money as I want as long as I don’t ‘love’ it.”
While 1 Timothy 6:10 is probably the most well-known verse in the book of 1st Timothy, we need to look at the verses that surround it to discover exactly what Paul was saying here. I mean, what if I told you that the movie Star Wars was all about Luke Skywalker discovering that Darth Vader was his father?
It’s not JUST about that, even though, “I am your father!” is probably the most famous line from that movie. Get my drift? We don’t treat movies or other books like that so why would we treat the Bible that way?
So what was Paul warning Timothy about? Let’s start here...
If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.
Here, Paul compares ungodly leaders to those who:
- Ignore Jesus’ words
- Have a morbid interest in controversy
- Suppose that godliness is a means of gain
But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Next, Paul claims that Christianity does involve prosperity (great gain) when accompanied with contentment with having food and clothes (our needs met). Timothy is being warned about teaching a gospel that includes a guarantee of riches because:
- They are temporary
- Lead to temptation
- They cause people to wander away from the faith
But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He will bring about at the proper time. He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells unapproachable light, whom no man has see nor can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.
So far, we can ascertain that Paul is warning Timothy that, the love of money, which we have just determined is a Christian teaching that equates godliness is a means of gain, is something that we need to flee from. Instead of following that teaching, we need to:
- Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness
- Grab the gift of eternal life which we have through Jesus Christ and share THAT message
Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.
Finally, before he switches gears, Paul instructs Timothy on how to minister to those who are already rich:
- Warn rich people how their riches are temporary, how they lead to temptation and how they cause people to wander away from the faith
- Teach them to instead be rich in righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness
The concept of “riches” in the Christian walk can be a tricky thing to navigate. Some things, like the love of money, can be more difficult for some people in certain cultures than it is for those in other cultures. And, when it all comes down to it, we all probably have something - money, people, stuff, selfish desires - we choose to place above Jesus in our everyday lives.
As we let the real meaning of 1 Timothy 6:10 sink in today, we should ask ourselves this: “What am I treasuring over Jesus?” And as we answer that question, I pray that God uproots all forms of evil that keep us from living as He wants us to.
Editor’s note: This content was taken from the original article “Stop Taking 1 Timothy 6:10 Out of Context.”
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