Friday of Week 24 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on 1 Timothy 6:2-12

We come now to the last chapter of this letter. Having told Timothy what he should concentrate on in his teaching, Paul warns him against those who do not follow the “sound” teachings of Jesus, which are in accordance with true religion. Paul says that such people are “conceited, understanding nothing”. They have a weakness for questioning everything and love to argue about words. They have an obsession with polemics and controversy for its own sake.

We still meet such people in our Church today. They do absolutely nothing to help the cause of Christ and the building of the Kingdom. As Paul says, they simply create:

…envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

They claim to be the sole possessors of the truth and can even find fault with the Pope’s orthodoxy, as well as certainly believing that the Second Vatican Council and its developments are anathema.

The only result of this kind of behaviour is jealousy, incessant arguing, verbal abuse and a deep sense of mistrust. It ends up in unending disputes by people with depraved minds and deprived of the truth, who even see religion as a means of personal gain. They did receive the true message, but have wandered far from it. They also regard Paul’s teaching with contempt because he does not ask for money. There are still quite a number of people around who see religion as a good way to make money. What kind of religion it is – well, that’s another question.

Paul says that religion does bring large profits but, paradoxically, only to those who are satisfied with what they have:

Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment…

In other words the profits in question touch the growth of the interior person and not their material advancement. The really rich are those whose needs are the least in the areas of possessions, power and status.

This leads Paul to recommend living our lives with just what we basically need. As he says:

…for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it, but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.

As they say, you can’t take it with you. And, even the having of it in this life can be a source of endless anxiety.

Those who hanker after material wealth are a prey to all kinds of problems; they get trapped into all sorts of foolish and harmful ambitions, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. Paul then quotes a contemporary proverb:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…

Who are the really rich? One thinks of St Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) or Paul himself and many other saints and holy men and women of all religions. And, of course, of Jesus himself, who just had the clothes on his back and nowhere to lay his head. None of these people were poor in the sense of being deprived. They had everything they needed and much more.

There is no doubt that a great deal of the world’s problems and its miseries arise out of material greed, or out of the determination to hold on to wealth, power and prestige. Most of the world’s international tensions arise from this, causing endless misery to millions. Some call “national security”, but it really concerns the security of the “haves”, not to mention the “have lots”.

Even some Christians, Paul says, have abandoned the Way of the Gospel because of their desires for wealth, power and status as:

…in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

But, as someone called by God to special service, Timothy is urged to keep away from all this. Instead he is to aim to:

…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.

Paul also tells him to:

Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

When did Timothy make this “good confession” of faith? Perhaps at his baptism or when hands were laid on him for his ministry.

What Paul urges for Timothy are the really precious things, and they are the things which really enrich our lives and the lives of others as well. They are other-centred, while greed and acquisitiveness are aimed only at oneself. Even some kinds of religions can be seen as primarily for the self. Paul is urging Timothy to keep the long view, the “eternal life” to which he was called and to which he committed himself.

It is for us today to look at our own lives. Does our following of Christ lead us to the qualities mentioned above or does it make us belligerent and divisive? Or are we trying to combine the best of both worlds, trying to be Christians and people of the world at the same time? A coating of religion on a life that is really no different from what most of the world is living? What does our lifestyle say about us? What message does it convey to others?

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