Today: [1 Timothy 6:] Class Warfare and the Kingdom Perspective: In the final chapter of 1 Timothy Paul addresses the subject of slaves and masters. Servants are to remember in spite of their station in life that they are not excused from the dictates of good Christian character just because they are disadvantaged. Likewise, believing slaveholders are admonished to treat their slaves as brothers in Christ. Does class warfare exist for us today? What should be our posture in the midst of a world seething with envy and hatred? Paul addresses these profound issues in words very appropriate for our day as well as in ancient Ephesus.
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[1Ti 6:1-21 KJV] 1 Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and [his] doctrine be not blasphemed. 2 And they that have believing masters, let them not despise [them], because they are brethren; but rather do [them] service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. 3 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, [even] the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, 5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into [this] world, [and it is] certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and [into] many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. 13 I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and [before] Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; 14 That thou keep [this] commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: 15 Which in his times he shall shew, [who is] the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; 16 Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom [be] honour and power everlasting. Amen. 17 Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; 18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; 19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. 20 O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane [and] vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: 21 Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace [be] with thee. Amen.
In the final chapter of 1 Timothy Paul begins with admonishing servants to honor their masters for the sake of the gospel. Slavery and indentured servitude was a fact of life in the ancient world, and the scriptures are not known for their prohibition of it. At the same time for those having believing masters, both are reminded that they are brothers in Christ and should treat one another accordingly. Among other things, this tells us that the upper classes of wealthier people were not unknown in the ranks of the church, so much so that it became necessary to address this issue. Paul goes a step further stating that any contrary teaching to his instruction in this sensitive matter was uninformed at best and perverse at worse and that purveyors of such viewpoints should be withdrawn from. Do these statements about slave/master relationships have any application for us in the modern world?
We live in a time when individualism and personal rights are held above almost every other social responsibility. If there is a social estate beyond any person’s grasp, it is considered unfair and to be dismantled in favor of wealth distribution and universal entitlement funded by big government and unbridled taxation. In the end, the question could be asked are we any happier? Is there any more contentment among men than in ages past? Paul’s reminder is, however entitled we may think we are to this world’s resources keep in mind that we brought nothing into this world and it is certain that we can carry nothing out. He insists that having food and raiment let us therewith be content. In an era when conspicuous consumption and materialism are among our highest values, these are not welcome words. The point must be made that it is not our possessions or our bank statements that establish the quality of life for us but as v. 6 declares godliness with contentment is great gain.
In v. 9 Paul goes on to warn that riches often come with temptations that snare men and women into many foolish and hurtful things that destroy lives and harm our families. You need only look at the glaring examples of celebrities and famous sports stars to ask the question would you honestly want to take their place with all their miseries and brokenness?
In v. 10 Paul cautions that the love of money is the root of all evil. It is important to point out that he isn’t making this statement to those that have money but to those that do not. It has been said that there is only one class of people who think about money more than the wealthy and that is the poor. In fact, the poor often think of nothing else – but their lives are not better for it. The term or phrase “love of money” might also be translated as “the desire to shine…” In our culture, individualism and exceptionalism are the highest ethics of our day. Regardless of social class, men and women clamor for and desire to set themselves apart by many measurements that cause them to make themselves absolute fools before God and men. We might mock the ancients for worshipping the gods of mythical Olympus, but those pagan beliefs pale beside the fawning worship of the masses for those of the cult of celebrity who preen and strut across the screens, stages and sports arenas to the adoring screams of millions. Paganism is alive and well in our world, and we are not better for it.
Paul sums up all these evils and warns Timothy to flee these things. Ephesus, again, was a wealthy, cosmopolitan city with many distractions to tempt the men and women of God in her midst. The admonition of Paul was apt in ancient Ephesus and for us today that we should follow after righteousness, godlessness, faith, love, patience, and meekness. We are the fight the good fight of faith and keep our focus on eternal values and not the glitter and tinsel of transitory things that dominate the lives of those without Christ. These things Paul gives to Timothy in some of the strongest language attributed to him, that Timothy must keep these commands without spot, unrebukable until the coming of Christ. What about you? If there were an apostle in your life, you can be sure he will not be making suggestions but giving commands in no uncertain language. Do you see yourself as one who could receive such an apostolic charge and apply yourself to obey it?
In the final verses, Paul revisits the issue of class struggle reminding Timothy to charge the wealthy that they be not highminded but remember their station in life is at God’s disposal who watches over their disposition with an expectation that they too walk in humility and godliness. There is a decadent attitude that comes with the entitlements of wealth. It is an attitude toward others that is so subtle it creeps into the thinking of the most sensitive heart if it is found to be socially advantaged as Paul describes. What attitude adjustments is Paul calling for among the upper classes? That they commit themselves to good works as those that are ready to distribute and willing to give (or communicate as it is termed). If you are going to lay up in store that’s fine but don’t forget that the most important demand to build a hedge against is the demand that you answer for yourself in eternity for what you did with the privileges and advantages that God allowed you to have.
In conclusion, Paul denounces any contrary viewpoints to these apostolic instructions to be condemned and rejected as profane and vain babblings, oppositions of science so-called. This mention of science arises from the pseudo-intellectualism of ancient racist views that contended that certain people groups were entitled to wealth and entitled to oppress the lower classes as their right because they were more sublime in their nature and gifted by God to do so. Paul utterly condemns all such perspectives and calls on Timothy to do likewise.
In our day these final instructions of Paul still find their mark. Class warfare and racism are as rampant today as they ever were. The lower classes spit their hate in the teeth of those who have more of this worlds goods who in turn look down their nose at the unwashed masses as though they were somehow living in a different world that entitles them to their effete snobbery. As believers, we must choose to opt out of this cauldron of hate on all sides that is our modern society. We are called to be emissaries of a higher kingdom whose greatest ethic is not the next conquest or climbing up the social ladder but instead holding out the words of life to a lost and dying generation.
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