6:1-2 Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.
And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort.
Within this letter to Timothy, Paul addresses three populations specifically who are worthy of honor with one group being worthy of all “double” honor and the other with “all” honor. Three groups are elders, widows indeed, and masters.
This verse and verses alike fall under heavy scrutiny in the contempoary because Paul does not denounce slavery in this text or other texts. When evaluating the text, the word doulos is used and thus indicates that the servant is a “slave,” “bondman,” or someone in a “servile condition.”
Yet many disregard that Paul is more interested in the soul condition here of a servant and his master. If you are in Christ, then you are a doulos to Christ. This concept is not solely Pauline either as we see Peter reaffirms this truth as well (Romans 1:1; 1 Peter 2:16).
In a completely different cultural setting much unlike that of modern Western cultures, slavery carried a particularly much different stigma. Of course, it was not a favorable position, nonetheless, understood completely different than modern thought would have it. In fact, people who sold slaves in an Old Testament and New Testament context were considered some of the vilest of sinners (Exodus 21:16; 1 Timothy 1:10).
For instance, if the term “bondservant” can be more suitable, someone in this condition of servitude was to be taken care of and fairly treated (Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 4:1). Such a relationship would be much more mutual than the horrific implications of the later slavery institutions.
This is how Paul addresses slavery in Ephesus which is in Greece. Similarly, Paul would have understood how God viewed the institution of servanthood in Jewish culture as well. People who were under the yoke of an Israelite master were to be treated with kindness and respect as well with the reminder that the Jews were once an enslaved people (Deuteronomy 15). This kindness in many settings also including setting a slave free after a certain time period or fulfillment of work (Exodus 21).
With the birth of Christianity with Christ’s finished Gospel and the new creation of the Body of Christ, servants were instructed to give their masters “all-honor” and similarly Christian masters were called to inversely honor their servants (Colossians 4:1). Masters were called to never to lose sight of the fact that they themselves had a Master- Jesus Christ.
Believing masters could keep themselves in check by realizing and affirming that their servants were brothers and sisters in the family of God. As brothers and sisters, they were to be servants to each other.
The unfortunate reality was that not all Christian slaves had the privilege of serving under Christian masters; nonetheless, they were obligated to their higher calling and knew not to return evil for evil (Romans 12:17-21; Philippians 3:14; 1 Peter 3:9). In still honoring their servants, they honored God and His statutes.
Timothy understood this context and he understood that the doctrinal code that Paul was lying was good for the furthering of Christ’s Gospel and order within the local body, which is the will of God (1 Corinthians 14:33). Following up in verse 3 we will see that this instruction is considered “wholesome” and “godly.” This is just another reminder that Christianity is completely counter-cultural and spiritually revolutionary.
6:3-6 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;
He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,
Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
But godliness with contentment is great gain.
Timothy is provided with sound (healthy) doctrine from Paul. In verse 3-6 Paul exemplifies what those who do not heed sound doctrine look like and consist of. Furthermore, this is not only for people who do not heed sound doctrine, but for teachers who teach otherwise and carry some capacity of influence.
Paul firstly proclaims that these men are proud. The Bible says much about pride; however, it is important to note two downsides of such a trait: Destruction and strife (Proverbs 13:10; 18:12; 1 Timothy 6:4). Possibly one of the most iconic illustrations and embodiments of pride is from Lucifer, whose pride was so poignant that he believed that he could usurp God in Heaven. The Scripture states that this attempt only ended with him getting cast from Heaven (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:13-19).
The apostle continues to state that these teachers know nothing. Generally speaking this is true, because if you accept anything contrary to the truth you only know wrong. Simply speaking, this term is considered ignorance.
Doting questions and strife of words simply means to “adore controversy.” Wrapping back around to 1 Timothy 1:4, Paul instructs Timothy to “neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions” because they are contrary to “godly edifying which is in faith.”
Our connection to God is grounded in faith through grace and we are to live and walk in faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7; Ephesians 2:8-9). Therefore, such meaningless questions become sinful as men’s philosophies combat the solid truth of God’s word.
These questions father envy, strife, railings, evil surmising’s, perverse disputing’s of men of corrupt minds. A word that can encompasses these byproducts of false teaching is contention. Their words are divisive and in the Roman epistle Paul charges the church to “mark and avoid” divisive people who spew out false doctrine (Romans 16:17-18). There is similar instruction in 1 Timothy 6:5, Christians are to “withdraw themselves” from wickedness.
Remaining with the remnant of false teachers will distort a pure view of godliness by replacing Christian success and sanctification with a pursuit of gain in: Finances, popularity, prestige, etc.
True godliness is better represented by Paul’s teachings to the church in Philippi when he affirms that he has learned the secret of contentment. Despite his situation, he derived his strength from the Lord, and it is in His own turmoil that he proclaims, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13).
This secret of contentment can only be ascertained when withdrawing ourselves from ungodliness and rather “putting on the new man” and being “transformed by the renewing of our mind.” In this continual state, we are aligned with the will of God. (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:22-25; 1 Thessalonians 5:18)
6:7-8 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
Paul’s former Pharisaical occupation would explain his familiarity with Ecclesiastes 5:15, which is rephrased in verse 7. For this reason, we must focus on the spiritual gains and needs in Christ Jesus rather than physical wants because all else is vanity. With this perspective, Paul calls the Christian to be content as God takes care of their needs over their fleshly desires.
6:9-10 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
The temptation here is to adhere to and believe that “godliness is gain.” The gain ultimately is the following foolish and hurtful lusts whether that is once again: Money, popularity, sex, prestige, etc. The ultimate source of such a temptation is selfishness and pride, which as aforementioned the reward of such attributes is destruction and in this case- Judgement.
Continuing from verse 9, the reader will find a verse that is often heavily disagreed upon among scholars. The question often boils down to is, does love become the root of “all” evil or a root of “all kinds” of evil as modern translations such as the New International Version phrases it.
To address this argument, Charles Ellicott in his infamous commentary argues that translations that place “a” root of all evil are watering down a more emphatic and staightforth expression and adding grammatically unnecessary words which is in violation of a well-known rule regarding subject and predicate.
Furthermore, contextually further generalizing the word “the” to “a” generalizes the point that Paul is making to Timothy that falling to these lusts, which money is the root, will reap judgement as they have erred from the faith. One could further consider the wisdom in Proverbs 13:11 and Hebrews 13:5 which defends the love of money as a detriment to one’s spiritual well-being.
Paul is not denoting money as the root of all evil for this is simply untrue, but rather the “love of money” which is in direct conflict with the fulfilling of the Law by Jesus. Paul notes numerous times in Romans that we rather must love God and love others (Romans 8:28; Romans 13:8-10). Love is the fulfillment of the Law if love is Biblically conducted.