For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called...do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life. 1 Timothy 6:6-19
I'm not shy about saying that I’m not a fan of this epistle. I believe it’s filled with too many antiquated ideas from a bygone patriarchal era. Historically speaking, this letter has been used to keep women subservient to men and kept them from serving as ministers in the church. It was also used for centuries by Christian slave owners to justify their sins of human trafficking.
Yet, when I was freaking out about my dwindling retirement account, it was this particular passage from this particular letter that the Holy Spirit would use to navigate me out of my deep, dark funk.
Here Paul is writing to Timothy who was in Ephesus, a wealthy seaport town in what is now western Turkey. Timothy has been stationed there to instruct and guide the leaders of the churches Paul has established.
I can only imagine how some must have squirmed to hear him say “love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” It’s not something rich people like hearing, especially when their wealth was made honestly, with hard work.
But Paul isn’t putting down money. He knows that it’s being used to literally build the church and to support those in need in its community. Like Jesus did last week, I believe Paul’s guiding our focus elsewhere.
He instructs Timothy to tell the wealthy patrons to use their money to do good works, be generous, and share their wealth around “thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future.” This might sound like you can buy your way into to heaven, but what Paul is saying here is use your wealth wisely so that you can “take hold of the life that really is life.”
What this says to me is simply pay attention to what’s happening right now, today, and put your focus on the things that really matter. Chasing after mammon – which last week we described as wealth, power, success – can be a heavy stumbling block when it comes to living in the abundant life that Jesus offers.
Paul doesn’t say money is the root of all evil. It’s not money, but our love of it. It’s the relationship we have with obtaining it and hoarding it that can lead us to do bad things – to lie, cheat, steal, harm others.
If we are to live a life that is really life, we need to look at our wealth and value through the eyes of Jesus who said, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” Heaven is here, in this space. So, Paul’s advice for us today is simply start living into your Christlikeness now.
When our heart is so preoccupied on acquiring and hoarding and multiplying wealth, we’re more susceptible of falling into temptation, wondering from our faith, and hurting others along the way.
Paul instructs Timothy not to be distracted by money. Instead, he said, focus on living a life rich in righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. We might call this the “Six Steps of Living Christ In Real Life.”
The first step is to live a RIGHTEOUS life. By righteous, I don’t mean go and be all churchy and sanctimonious.
There are people in churches across the world who view their wealth as God blessing them more than others. This can lead people to act self-righteously or use their wealth to control others who might be less fortunate.
A righteous life is a life lived in the rightness of God. The gospel of John first describes Christ as the Word of God. That is to say Jesus lived torah, the way of God rightness. Not only was Jesus obedient to living the way of God’s laws but he also encompassed the spirit for which they were given…so all could live a life that is a real life.
To live a righteous life is to live in GODLINESS. According to scripture, living a godly life includes caring for the widows and orphans, showing kindness to strangers, upholding justice for the oppressed, and walking humbly knowing you are always in the presence of God. Jesus taught us that living a godly life is about allowing the Spirit of God’s love to flow through us.
This tells me we that in order to live in a right and godly way will take a lot of FAITH.
The Bible defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11: 1). But faith is also a verb. It’s an action we take. In this case, a willingness to commit to living the way of Christ. A way that reaches across social classes and ethnic lines. A way that shares instead of hoards. Unites instead of divides.
Jesus wore his faith on his sleeve. Paul reminds Timothy to let your faith be seen with acts of LOVE.
Just as God has done for us, we too must make love our highest priority. It’s the single greatest thing we can do. It’s so important that Jesus said loving others the second greatest commandment behind loving God (Mt. 22:35-40).
Love is the way we are to relate to one another. Not only does it allow others to see and feel God’s love for them but it’s through the many ways we love God, love others, and serve both, that God redeems and transforms the world.
Love moves me beyond myself and my needs, so that the needs of others can be meet. Love builds the bridge over Anamesa, connecting me to you, and us to God. Love is the building block of all things good.
In his exhortation on the subject, Paul famously declared, “Without love, I am nothing.” He described love as “patient and kind, not envious or boastful, arrogant or rude...it bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends" (1 Cor. 13:3-8).
When life gets hard, when it feels impossible to be righteous or godly, or when I doubt my faith, it’s God’s infinite love that lifts me up and gives me the ENDURANCE I need to persevere.
Through great love for me, and for all of life, God sent Christ to show us how to live a life that is really a life. And it was Christ who left us the Holy Spirit to guide us through the obstacles of fear, worry, and anxiety that try to cripple us and convince us to turn away from God.
Whenever I find myself in that space, it’s always the work of the Holy Spirit that lead me back to God’s open and loving heart. It’s God who strengthens and empowers us with all that we need to endure life’s greatest challenges.
Because God remains faithful, we can move forward in life with GENTLENESS.
I’ve learned that when I’m gentle like Christ, the space between me and myself becomes softer and kinder. It quiets the noise and illuminates the way for me to live into my true self…in rightness and faith.
Like faith, gentleness is love in action. It invites others to always participate in God’s heavenly kingdom. Each time we show compassion to ourselves or others, we allow the Spirit of God to pushes us from that inward space where fear and anxiety reside, to that outward place where we can put love into action.
Through the practice of gentleness we become the visible and tangible presence of God who richly provides us with all that we need to heal and restore the world.
When our bank account is full of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness we are able to “Do good. Be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share.” We are ready to live the life that is really life – a life grounded in the love and grace of God.
In the space between me and myself, I have to be the one who initiates these actions. The same is true about you and yourself.
Each one of us has to be willing to choose and embrace a Christlike life. This doesn’t make me any less vulnerable. It doesn’t make my fears disappear. Or cause my anxieties go away for good. But it does make life richer. And more rewarding. For me, and for others.
As you leave here today, I would invite you to set your hope not on the uncertainty of wealth which is temporary. Rather keep your hope on the eternal goodness of God, who through Christ, richly provides for us “a life that really is life” right here, right now.
This is invaluable life, born from the abundance of a loving and charitable God. A life that overflows with all the things money can’t buy.
Bartlett, David L. and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word, Year C, Vol. 4. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2010).
illustration bypantausea, used without permission. (accessed from deviantart.com 9.25.2022).
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”