• Edwin Lin

Patience, Humbleness, and Faith: 1 Timothy 6

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Lately, I've been reminded of patience, humbleness, and faith (in God). I feel like these three things are things that God keeps bringing up in this stage of my life, as I think about ministry, the future, and finding a job. At the same time, as I am reading the gospels, Thomas a Kempis's book The Imitation of Christ, and C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity, these themes seem to pop out at me. The combination of these two movements in my life makes me think that these three concepts are interrelated in some way, and I'd like to take some time to explore them.

I said that I'd really like to practice writing sermons, because it helps me learn a lot, because I know that as I write and think about these things, the sermons will improve, and because I believe God will be able to use them in the future at some point. I might just write these out on these blogs without publishing them as a way to basically write the sermons, but not in an organized way and without PowerPoint slides.

Anyways, I want to do some research tomorrow on these three things and see if I can't write a sort of introduction to this series.

PS I had also thought that love would bind all these three things together--the love of God for us and our responsive love to God.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Alright, so I found a pretty cool passage that seems to really embody all of these ideas. Before I get to that, I also found that all four of these (patience, humbleness, faith, and love) in some form are considered Christian virtues, at least in the Catholic tradition (four cardinal virtues and three from Paul's letters). This could be something to look more into, or at least research to read more about what people have to say about some of these virtues (why they are virtues, how they are important, what is the Christian meaning of these words, etc.).

The passage I found is 1 Timothy 6:9-21:

9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time--God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.
20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21 which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith.
Grace be with you all. 

This is Paul's charge to Timothy before ending his first letter. It is interesting that he stresses the importance of this command: to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness (RGFLEG). He puts these pursuits in direct opposition of the world's idea of "knowledge" and, more specifically,  the world's desire for money.

In reading this, I am suddenly aware of why God has put these three virtues on my heart: that He is steering me away from a worldly understanding of job seeking and money making. Although I do not think the passage itself is telling us to pursue RGFLEG purely as a strategy to combat the evils of money, I do think that keeping these virtues in the center of our being is one way that we ensure we do not live our lives as the rest of the world does.

Paul is perceptive here in that he knows that pursuing money, success, and comforts of this world is a huge temptation for all of humanity, and that these pursuits are godless and false--they are the root of all kinds of evil and will steer us away from God. In opposition to money is RGFLEG.

To me, it seems like RGFLEG goes from general nouns to more specific and descriptive traits. Righteousness, and if we know Paul, this really is about faith as well (see: Romans), is a general description of being made right with God. This is the least descriptive of all. Godliness gets us a bit closer, as that means we're not only right with God, but that we are in the image of God--we reflect Him. Okay, that gives me a better picture of what we're pursuing.

Faith keeps getting more specific because now, we have a picture of what it actually looks like to pursue righteousness and godliness. Faith is to believe in what cannot be seen which is more specific than the previous two overarching states of being. Love keeps getting more and more specific, as we can picture what it means to love someone and to pursue becoming a loving person. Endurance again, in my mind, is yet still more descriptive because it is a particular way that you might love or that you might have faith or that you might be godly or that you might be righteous. And finally gentleness is a trait that describes how you might live out all of the aforementioned nouns.

I am really interested in writing about the relationship between them, but I think, of course, I also need to write about each one individually. Maybe in a series like this, you would introduce the ideas and their interrelation, but then speak about each one individually, and then in the finale, tie them all together. But I like the 1 Timothy passage because it gives me some sense of where this is all going--that perhaps one of the central points in talking about each of these traits is to really consider their relationship with a counter-cultural worldview, especially when it comes to work and money.

So maybe in the end, this series in many ways is about money, not in the strictest sense, but about the Christian attitude towards money, work, survival, comfort, self-sufficiency, success, etc.. Tomorrow, I should write up a post about this problem and what "money" really entails. I think that will help me know in what direction to go from there.