The Two Epistles of St. Paul to Timothy
Chapter 6 (contd.)
2- Avoiding deviants (6:3 - 6)
Approaching the end of his epistle, St. Paul reiterates his warning against those who spread contrary doctrines, especially those who engage in Greek philosophy, which promoted debates, often about theoretical, likely trivial, issues, whose only purpose was exercising the mind. There existed in those days groups known as "wandering philosophers," or "wise sophists," who taught, for a fee, how to debate and speak eloquently. Some of them were orators who mastered rhetoric, and who accumulated much wealth from the thousands who listened to them in the public squares.
Those cultures created in the newly-formed Christian communities -especially as the Church's framework had not been established yet - teachers who were obsessed with the desire to talk and to occupy the first places. However, they were not qualified to teach - they simply mingled with people, sowing among them warped thinking. St. Paul therefore instructed Timothy to avoid anyone who "... teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, ..." He describes each one of them as proud and haughty, while knowing nothing concerning the faith about which he speaks. Such people are just "... obsessed with disputes and arguments over words," which lead to "... envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions ...." not to mention divisions and hard feelings. This is a direct result of failure to have Christ’s thought, and straying from the way of truth.
Furthermore, their only quest is personal glorification, while abusing religion for the accumulation of wealth; hence, they "suppose that godliness is a means of gain." On the other hand, spiritual evangelization, coupled with satisfaction and contentment with the little we have, without aspiring to personal gain from the service, leads to fruit which delights the heart of God, the Church, and the servant. This indeed is the great trade which a true servant desires.
3- Between contentment and the love of money (6:7 - 19)
Here, St. Paul exhorts servants not to be mindful of money, and to lead a life of contentment, just like their Master Who, while rich, impoverished Himself for their sake, so that His poverty may enrich them (2 Cor. 8:9). The apostle reveals the futility of amassed wealth, on which we cannot rely, given the reality: "we brought nothing into this world [we were born naked], and it is certain we can carry nothing out [when we die]." Consequently, let us be content with the food and clothing which the grace of God provides to satisfy our needs.
The Greek philosopher Epicurus said: "Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little." We also read in Ecclesiastes: "The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing." (Eccl. 1:8) By the same token, the earthly soul is never satiated; consequently, the absence of contentment leads to gluttony and, also, to unquenchable thirst.
This does not mean that poverty is better than wealth. Poverty has its social diseases, crimes and negative effects. Also, wealth is not evil in its own rights - several men and women of God were rich; the Bible tells us that many women ministered unto the Lord from their substance (Luke 8:3). Money is a Divine gift that could be invested in serving God, in satisfying the needs of the poor, deprived, afflicted, and illiterate, in accordance with God's commandments. The most important point to note is that the Lord must remain Master of our life; in Him we find sufficiency - whether we are poor or affluent. One of monasticism's pivotal principles is voluntary poverty; this involves the monk's voluntary abandonment of all wealth and material belongings, renouncing all, and cleaving unto the One.
"But those who desire to be rich ..." with the initial misguided intent of being financially secure, eventually continue their relentless pursuit of wealth, with an insatiable desire for luxury. The result is the disappearance of God from their lives, and they "fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition." Our Lord had previously described as foolish, the wealthy man who was "... not rich toward God ..." (Luke 12:21) and, instead, indulged in amassing wealth that would suffice him for several years, and that would enable him to eat, drink, and be merry. He neglected the fact that wealth guarantees neither health nor happiness, and that financial life insurance does not prolong life. He ignored the eternal destiny, and focused on momentary material love, rather than the love of God. This epitome of stupidity plagues people, and leads them to lusts and corruption and, ultimately, to eternal perdition.
It is indeed true that "... the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, ..." - many have fallen prey to it, and all its victims are powerful. It leads to theft, murder, prostitution, corruption, and all kinds of perversion. It deprives man of his peace, and fills him with feelings of fear, anxiety, and the dread of material losses and drifting. Finally, the love of money also leads to selfishness, despotism, cruelty, lies, and conspiracies, destroying individuals, families, societies, and institutions, including religious ones. Those who seek wealth will certainly stray from the faith, and inflict upon themselves many sufferings.
The love of money not only threatens non-believers, but also believers and even God's servants; for this reason, St. Paul exhorts and encourages his son and disciple, Timothy, calling him(1) "man of God," directing him to flee this vile, destructive, tendency, and to "pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness," adhering to Christian virtues, the foremost being righteousness, which embodies all virtues, godliness, meaning uprightness and devout worship, faith in God, under all circumstances, commitment to the love of God Who loved us first, enduring all the trials and hardships which the service may bring through strong patience which overcomes the world, and gentleness, which comprises humility, forgive-ness, serenity and self-control. He should "fight the good fight of faith"(2) in support of all those virtues. This is the fight against oneself and evil - this is not a physical fight against others, as some religions advocate. St. Paul is also exhorting Timothy to have his faith attain the level of certainty, with regards to eternal life(3)- which is what our Savior called us to do; put differently, he should cling to eternal life even while still living on earth. St. Paul points out that this should come naturally to Timothy, since that was how he was raised, knowing the Bible since his childhood; he also professed his faith in the Lord, first at his baptism and, subsequently, openly before the world, thus following the example of our Lord Who fearlessly confessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, the represent-ative of the Roman empire.
St. Paul then instructs him, "... in the sight of God who gives life to all things ..." and before Christ Jesus our Savior, to "keep this commandment without spot, blameless" (and nothing for which he could be blamed) - whether the believer is a bishop or not, this commitment to the Faith applies. This commandment, he should keep meticulously all the days of his life "until our Lord Jesus Christ's appearing." Although we do not know the time of Christ's appearance, He "... will manifest in His own time [the appointed time for the day of His coming], He who is the blessed [1 Tim. 1:11] and only Potentate [God the Father], the King of kings and Lord of lords(4) [Who is above all], who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or [no one] can see(5), to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen." This seems to be a prayer of praise written in the conclusion of the commandment.
Having directed his disciple Timothy to refrain from loving money, St. Paul asks him to strongly advise the wealthy members of the Church (the congregation did not consist solely of slaves and poor people) to lead an upright life, not to be haughty because of their possessions, and not to place their hopes on perishing material wealth, which is incapable of providing man with the spiritual necessities of life which, in turn, are more important than the material ones. Rather, they should place all their hopes in the living God - the Source of all bounties, "Who gives us richly [in abundance - James 1:5] all things to enjoy." God desires us to enjoy His bounties thankfully; the wealthy, consequently, should direct their riches towards doing good, thus they would become rich in deeds, not in material wealth, and they would spend liberally not on their own and their friends' needs, rather, on the needy. Their generosity should also extend to the Church's poor, thereby "storing up for themselves a good foundation [a treasure] for the time to come [for the coming age], that they may lay hold on eternal life [while they are still in this world]." The Lord also said: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35)
4- Conclusion (6:20 - 22)
St. Paul concludes his letter by saying "O Timothy!" as though he were reminding his disciple of the meaning of his name: "honoring God." He instructs him "Guard what was committed to your trust," meaning the Faith that his mother and grandmother had entrusted to him since childhood, and that was greatly strengthened through his great teacher St. Paul. Paul exhorts Timothy not to deviate from that faith, rather, to hand down all that he had been entrusted with, unaltered, to all those whom he serves, and to the Church's priests and deacons, and to ignore vain, unclean speech, false teachings contrary to the Faith, and argument-ative, useless, issues, which some promulgate, feigning knowledge when, in fact, they are deviants from the Faith we received from the Lord. Paul's concluding words to his message are "Grace be with you," which are the same words he used in the introduction and in his other epistles. He is thus asking God to flood Timothy with His grace, which constitutes the Divine support for all evangelical work, which grants us triumph in our struggle in this world, and without which all our toil would be fruitless and in vain. (To be contd.)
(1) This title was given, in the Old Testament, to Moses, "Moses the man of God" (Deut. 33:1 and Ps. 90:1) and to the prophet Samuel (1 Sam. 9:6)
(2) In other words, the Faith with all the principles of the Gospel of Christ, given in the Nicene Creed.
(3) In his second epistle to Timothy, the last of his epistles, Saint Paul speaks of his confidence to inherit eternal life, based on his trust in God's promise "... for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day." (2 Tim. 1:12)
(4) This title is attributed to God the Father, as given in the O.T. "For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords...." (Deut. 10:17) "King of kings" (Ezek. 26:7) - it is also the title of God the Son in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 17:14 and 19:16).
(5) "... no man shall see Me, and live." (Exod. 33:20), "No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." (John 1:18), "... the King eternal, immortal, invisible ..." (1 Tim. 1:17) and "No one has seen God at any time." (1 John 4:12)