Materialism (1 Timothy 6:3–21)

How much do you think about Jesus returning to this earth, as he will one day?  The NT clearly teaches we should be living in the light of that great event.  But many Christians don’t think much about it or are even fearful when they do.

We don’t know when Jesus will return and whether it will be in our lifetimes. But, of course, there is a sort of return of Christ for the individual believer at death.  That too should concentrate our minds as Paul teaches in 1 Tim. 6:3-21.  The NT makes it clear that instead of speculating about the time of Jesus’ return we should live godly lives in preparation for it.

Firstly, he says we must not be addicted to money and goods.  There’s nothing wrong with money. It isn’t the root of all evil.  But Paul condemns those “who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.” (v. 5)   But materialism is one of the great addictions of our consumer society.

I firmly believe God wants to provide for our needs.  But I worry when I hear Christians appear to say God wants us to be rich.  There is something obscene about that idea when two thirds of the world’s population (and most Christians) are incredibly poor.

Those who are rich must not be arrogant nor put their hope in their wealth, but rather hope in God. They must do good, and be rich in good deeds, generosity and sharing.

Paul reminds us that we can’t take material possessions with us when we die. But we can use our wealth in a way which lays up treasure in heaven.  He says (v. 8) we ought to be content with food and clothing because “godliness with contentment is great gain.”

But he goes further and warns  that “people who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”

The love of money is addictive. And like any addiction it leads to continual discontent and yearning for more. Unlike almost all previous generations we are constantly bombarded with the most sophisticated and effective advertising which is intended to encourage that addiction.

Paul urges Timothy (and all of us) to flee all this. (v.11)

Instead, Paul teaches that we should be addicted to godliness.  The best way to overcome a negative craving is to replace it with a positive craving.  We are to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.”  We are to “fight the good fight of the faith.”  We are to “take hold of … eternal life.”

Can we honestly say we are pursuing (righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.”?  Are we breathlessly straining every muscle to show more and more of these characteristics?  Or are we drifting aimlessly on the sea of life?

Can we honestly say we are fighting “the good fight of faith”?  Or are we capitulating to doubts and fears?

If we look forward to the return of Christ this will be a great incentive to pursue and to fight, as well as to lay hold on eternal life.

We are to keep this teaching until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time– God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no-one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might for ever. Amen.

Lord, keeps us from an addiction to materialism and help us rather to be generous. May we be addicted to the pursuit of godliness in the light of the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction