As I was reading 1 Timothy 6:2-16, I was struck by the relationship between materialism and holiness. On the one hand, godliness linked with contentment is very beneficial (6). On the other hand, if you do not reject materialism, you cannot pursue holiness (11). The two are inseparably tied together. Materialism will derail holiness every time.
Paul begins the section in verse 2 by describing teachers who promote false doctrine. Instead of presenting ideas in accordance with the teachings of Christ, they present things that divide people and cause them to argue over insignificant issues. In fact, they use their platform as a means of getting rich (5).
Rather than pursuing material gain, Paul exhorts his readers to blend godliness with contentment (6). Rather than pine, chafe, and grasp for what we do not have, we need to be content with what God has provided. Instead of being consumed with get-rich-quick schemes (9), we are to be satisfied with having our basic needs met (8). The love of money and the pursuit of more will cause people to wander away from sound doctrine (9-10). When I read those verses, I can easily picture the faces and names of friends who have fallen into that trap.
We are to flee the trap of materialistic thinking (11). Generally, we equate materialism with money and affluence. I think we can broaden the definition to include grasping for anything that is tangible—experiences, consumer goods, relationships, promotions, careers, travel, and more. One reason why materialistic thinking is so attractive is that we are lulled into thinking that today is all there is. Since this life is all there is, why sacrifice today’s experience, family relationships, vacations, comfort, or pleasure for a future reward that we are really not sure is worthwhile, let alone certain? Why live by faith when today’s sight is so attractive and tempting?
As Paul goes on to point out, it’s not enough to merely avoid the pitfalls. We also need to replace those pursuits with healthy alternatives. Rather than chase after affluence, materialism, and the pursuit of more “stuff,” we are to pursue holiness—the qualities of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness (11).
Lest we think this will be an easy switch, Paul lets us know we are in a battle. We are to “fight the good fight of the faith” (12). Holiness is difficult to obtain. Righteous living is a challenge. We are in a war. It is a fight, a battle. What makes us think it will be easy?
We will be successful in these endeavors if we remember that (a) God is with us—“I charge you in the presence of God” (13); (b) he will make us successful—“who gives life to all things” (13); and (c) we will one day stand before him—“keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (14).
If we truly believed God was watching, if we truly believed we are in a spiritual battle, if we truly believed eternity and eternal rewards are at stake, wouldn’t we want to live holy lives? We have been deluded into thinking that today is all there is, that tomorrow doesn’t really exist, and if it does, it doesn’t matter and is not worth the effort.
Our perspective and our lifestyles would change if we truly believed what we claim to believe. We need to stop playing according to the world’s rules, and strive to become holy people.