God had delivered the children of Israel from a life of slavery in Egypt. He pushed the waters of the Red Sea back so that they could safely cross on dry land. He guided them through the desert, providing manna every morning. He towered over them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He brought them to a land flowing with milk and honey…the Promised Land.
Fast forward to the time of the writing of 1 Timothy (between 60 AD and 70 AD). Paul begins chapter 6 with some instructions for slaves and masters. Don’t let your knowledge of slavery in America taint your view about slavery during Paul’s lifetime in the Roman Empire. During this time, as much as half of the population of the Roman Empire were slaves. Slavery wasn’t based solely on race or income. Think more along the lines of the indentured servant, who worked for his master to pay off a debt. The relationships were mostly amicable and fair. In 1 Timothy 6:1, Paul emphasizes to Timothy that slaves should cooperate with their masters “so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled.” There goes that Paul again, always talking about honoring God and the need for sound teaching!
Allow me to touch on the issue of modern-day slavery and human trafficking. Slavery that abuses and berates human beings is despicable to God. As believers, we should do everything we can to bring justice to the oppressed because that’s what Jesus would do if he were walking the earth in 2015. However, we absolutely positively cannot, CANNOT, allow our fight for the spread of social justice in the world to surpass our efforts to spread to the ends of the earth the good news of the spiritual freedom that can only be found in Jesus Christ. Luke 4:18-19, John 8:32, 2 Corinthians 3:17 and Galatians 3:28 proclaim the freedom that we have in Jesus Christ – a spiritual freedom that has nothing to do with our social standing. As believers, we must fight fervently to bring spiritual freedom to those who are in bondage as well as take a stand for those in social bondage.
Back to the Old Testament…They entered the Promised Land, undoubtedly exhausted from 40 years of wilderness-roaming. Many had lost confidence in Moses long ago and some surely doubted his successor, Joshua as well. But as they took their first steps in the land that they’d heard so much about, I’m sure their eyes began to scope the place out. Who knows what they were looking for, but if they were anything like us, they were trying to claim the best spots for themselves. Maybe one area had more shade trees. Maybe one area had a larger water source. Maybe one had a greater view. In Joshua 14, Joshua begins to divide up the land.
And then hundreds of years later, Paul pens words that could’ve been written straight to the children of Israel. He warns Timothy again about all the false teachers spreading a false gospel. They are concerned about their reputations and they mistakenly think that appearing “holy” and “godly” will bring them the accolades they desire. They stir the pot, making everyone else feel inferior so that they can feel superior. “But godliness with contentment is great gain…” says Paul. All the stuff of the world- the big shade trees and the lakefront property and the hilltop views- none of it makes you more godly. In fact, when we look at all the things we wish we could have, all the things we think we need, the Bible says we fall into a snare – a trap! Abundance breeds pride. More, more, more! The more we get, the more haughty and arrogant we become. And the more we want.
Run away, Timothy! Run away, Believer! Don’t fall into the trap that makes you think you need more of anything. Run to righteousness. Run to godliness. Run to faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith, which is the fight for Jesus Christ. Don’t get distracted. Keep your focus.
Paul continues in 6:17 and says “As for the rich in this present age…”. That’s us, you know. Check this out:
In Bible Study on Wednesday night, I referenced this video. Third world citizens read common complaints of first world citizens. It is eye opening, for sure. To see the youtube video, click here: First World Problems