2. Study of Scripture
Well, the conclusion of Paul’s letter to Timothy gave me not only pause to reflect but ammunition to fight and win this battle of compromise. Two words and a benediction did it! Look at them with me…
The first “bullet” is the word “Guard” in verse 20. The Greek verb means “to keep, deposit, a trust, to trust”. It’s the kind of word we use today to manage an estate. We all know how hard we work to make money, save money, invest money so that we can enjoy money. Afterward, the next responsible question is what procedure can I put in place to guard and protect this hard won money so that is has the best possible chance of being maintained for future needs, including those who will inherit the estate? That answer is a trust account, managed by an executor. With that in mind, then the next question becomes, what has been entrusted to me? With all of that in mind, I find myself asking, what, then, is it that Paul is reminding Timothy to guard ,that relates to me, how can I apply this?
For Timothy, Paul was reminding him to uphold orthodox Christian doctrine and to combat the “strange doctrine” of others that persisted in his community of Ephesus. The reason is simply this, the only way that the Christian faith could be properly passed on to succeeding generations is if were held in trust – so that truth would be maintained and passed on without dilution or distortion. And Timothy, as well as all of us Christian men, are “executors” of that “truth trust”!
Therefore, by extension, the answer for us is the same and it has a profound, relevant application too. The application is, broadly, everything that God has given you through Christ, we are to hold in trust; especially God’s truth.
The second “bullet” is the word “Avoiding” in verse 21. That word means to “stay away, prevent the occurrence, keep yourself from doing” (Merriam/Webster). What Paul wanted Timothy to avoid was the Empty chatter of the world around him. “Empty chatter” means – “Profane, empty utterances”. That was a defensive stance Timothy was to take. And Timothy was to avoid phony cultural philosophies, what Paul calls, “the opposing arguments of what is falsely called knowledge” – Gnosticism, ancient Kabbalah, in his day – hip philosophies of the ancient world but nothing more than distortions from the truth of the Gospel.
And the imperative reason to avoid worldly philosophies is that they persuade away from real faith, from “Principle”, as Paul discloses as he concludes… “Which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.
With this simple description of what to guard against and what to avoid, Paul deftly exposes the slow slide into compromise. It looks like the following.
Progression of declension;
- Listening to hollow but interesting rhetoric leads to a buy-in on phony ideologies.
- Phony ideologies lead to bad commitments and bad choices.
- Bad choices and commitments harden into a fixed character.
- Character is the evidence of who you are, it marks what you believe.
Listen, Adopt, Act, Become.
Therefore: Be careful to what you listen to for it will inform you. Be careful what you adopt for it will impel you. Be careful how you act for it will transport and transform you. And, finally, be aware of what you have become through listening, adopting and acting out, for that is the result of your pilgrimage from principle to a persuasive alternative; Power, Prosperity, Prestige or Pragmatism!
A fortuitous conclusion: Fortunately Paul didn’t end the letter with “Good luck”. He ended it with a Blessing – a benediction of good will; the favor of God – “Grace to you”. And why not luck? Because “luck” is representative of a hip, but false, philosophy. There is no power in luck, so why wish it on somebody? God’s grace is what empowers the blessing in our life, not some mystifying unknown principle of “luck” which has no known origin.
And that proves the point as well – how often do we say “good luck” when we know better but do so just because it is expected, everyone “gets it”, no one will be offended and we just don’t want to go through the work of saying “grace to you” and seeing the confusion in the recipient’s eyes?
Is there an appropriate alternative? You bet. I simply say, “God bless you”. That phrase is still, generally, acknowledged in society; it honors God, does not represent a false philosophy and has power – the power of its owner – God. Plus it often leads, later, to a chance to witness.
But beyond that simple blessing to the people we encounter, how can we guard the truth and avoid the worlds ways and words so that we stand up for the “Principle” of God’s Rule (Dan 4;26)?
Well, that answer requires as many words as are in scripture and as many years to hone one’s mind as a mans has in life. But for a memorable 1, 2, 3 step method I turn you attention, now, to an old story from Sunday School – the story found in Daniel chapter 3 of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – and the fiery oven.
To be continued…