“These are the things you are to teach and insist on. If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:2-6).

It is so important that we, as Christians, are able to discern the difference between what is the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and what is not. How are we to be able to do this? We get some good hints in this passage from First Timothy. If the one who is teaching is teaching the sound instruction of Jesus Christ, his or her message will be full of the power, glory, and challenge of the scriptures. Such a one will teach the love and compassion of Christ that is seen in our care for the hungry, the thirsty, the ill, the imprisoned, the lonely and those considered outcasts of society. Such a one will teach the mercy of the Father revealed in Jesus Christ and about the centrality of forgiveness in the Christian life. Such a one will teach that the Christ life is one of selflessness and self-sacrifice and commitment to the good of others and society itself. Such a one will teach the virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude, justice and the three great graces of faith, hope, and love.

Paul is being very clear here. If you hear one professing to be preach the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ, but who seems to be always caught up in an unhealthy interest in “controversies,” or the “latest fads” in trendy theological circles—beware. If all one hears from a teacher or preacher is condemnation of others, or if one sees envy, or strife, or malicious talk, evil suspicions of others, whether that be of other denominations, or other individuals, or if one senses a constant sense of friction between people in the community—beware. In other words, if there is no love in their teaching—beware. If one senses that such a one’s preaching is inordinately focused on worldly “financial gain” as a sign of God’s grace and who lives a lavish lifestyle on the the Church—beware. None of these are the products of godliness. For where there is no contentment, no joy in the word, but only accusation, separation, or a constant attention to the material things of the world, and no living witness by way of example to the person, or the values of Jesus Christ, there is no godliness. Or, if one senses oneself getting caught up in this kind of thinking—beware. There is no godliness in these things.

A real and true teacher of the word of God will recognize that he or she “brought nothing into the world, and can take nothing from it. But if [he or she has] food and clothing” they have enough and [they will be] content with it. (verse 7) “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. 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” (verse 9-10). Paul admonishes Timothy, a man of God, to flee from these kinds of things and to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith” (verse 11-12). This message is directed to each one of us. We are to pursue all that is of the Christ life, not the things of this world. And we are to “guard what has been entrusted to our care [and to] Turn away from godless chatter and opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith” (verse 20). The truth is that our true “richness” and our true “contentment” will be the result of our faith in, and our commitment to, the word of God alone.

Lord, Help us to discern the true meaning and challenge of your word and your example to us in our Lord Jesus Christ. Give us the grace to know him more dearly, and the courage to follow his example in our daily lives more clearly. For it is in this alone that we will fine godliness and contentment. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen!

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