Read 1 Timothy 6:1-7
1All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God's name and our teaching may not be slandered. 2Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them. These are the things you are to teach and urge on them.
3If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
6But godliness with contentment is great gain. (NIV)
Paul is nearing the end of his first letter to Timothy. And he touches on a sensitive point in today’s world. He brings up those believers who are slaves. When we read this, we must remember that the Roman Empire at this time had an estimated 60 million people enslaved. One of the biggest fears of the Romans was a slave uprising because of this number. The Romans treated disobedient slaves harshly as well as those who encouraged slaves to misbehave. This put the early church in a position of what to do about something so wrong.
In Paul’s letters as well as this one, we get to points of clarity as to why Paul would put forth the position he did. The first we get is that Paul believed Christ was returning to earth soon. Paul started writing his letter barely 20 years after the resurrection of Christ. The last letter was around 35 years after the resurrection. Paul believed that since Christ was returning, then so not spend energy trying to rectify a bad situation. If you had a bad marriage, stay put. Whatever your situation in life, stay put as one needed to focus on walking with Christ.
Second, which we see a reference to in verse 1, was that Paul worried about how outsiders would view this brand-new church. A lot of his advice was to not bring about additional problems that would hamper the growth and the message. This is a real problem the church deals with. When the church is in your face, it turns people off. We are called to invite people into a righteousness. For Paul, we are “grow” in God’s grace. The church makes it greatest movements in societies, not by force, but by the influence of Christ’s teaching increasing in the community. Now the problem with some of Paul’s teaching because he was balancing this kind of thought, is that in later generations, it has been used to exclude people as opposed to including them. His words were used to bring harm. Slave holders did not like pastor to come and preach to slaves unless they used passages like this. Thankfully, this did not stop the church from working against slavery in every way it could in our country.
But this teaching leads to Paul’s second concern for this new church, false doctrines. Paul connects two thoughts into his false teaching. The first is the focus of the teacher. In verses 4 and 5, Paul points out that the person “has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind.” If we think about that, Paul is saying the person is more interested in division that unity. In strife and not harmony. The Gospel message is good news and should be shared that way.
And then Paul connects the false teacher to thinking it is a means for financial gain. I believe that this is a problem in our country today. While there are so many dedicated pastors and teachers, there are others who have a talent for speaking that use it to get rich in the church.
The question when reading this is where is our focus today. Is it on our circumstances or is it on walking with Christ? I have learned over the years (and it has been a slow learn at times), that if you focus on walking with Christ, Christ will address your circumstance.
Blessings and Peace