SUPPOSING THAT GAIN IS GODLINESS (Part 1)
By John C. Carpenter
 
The great missionary and apostle, Paul, instructed the apostle Timothy regarding many issues, including false teaching in the early Christian church. Paul wrote, 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. 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 [to regard or think] that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. 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. 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. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses (1 Tim 6:1-12). In these verses, Paul not only gives us valuable doctrinal instructions about gain versus godliness, describes the behavior of false teachers, and lists some personal characteristics of false teachers, but he specifically emphasizes for us the difference between the desire for and pursuit of gain, or riches, and the desire for and pursuit of Godliness.
 
THESE THINGS TEACH AND EXHORT
 
When Paul told Timothy to teach and exhort "these things," what was Paul referring to, what things were to be taught and exhorted? Earlier in the epistle, Paul instructed Timothy to not teach doctrines other than what Paul himself had taught (1 Tim 1:3), to not give heed to fables and endless genealogies (1 Tim 1:4), that the law was not made for the righteous man, but for the unrighteous, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men (1 Tim 2: 1-4), that men should pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting (1 Tim 2:8), and that women should adorn themselves in modest apparel (1 Tim 2:9). Paul then gave the qualifications of a Bishop (1 Tim 3:1-7), gave the qualifications for a deacon (1 Tim 3:8-13), and warned that some would depart from the true faith in Christ (1 Tim 4:1). Paul specifically and personally instructed Timothy to remind the brethren of these doctrines (1 Tim 4:6), to exercise himself unto Godliness (1 Tim 4:7), to be an appropriate example of a believer (1 Tim 4:12), to give attendance to reading, to exhortation and to doctrine (1 Tim 4:13), not to neglect the gift that was in him [Timothy] (1 Tim 4:14), to meditate upon these things and to give himself wholly to them (1 Tim 4:15), and, finally, to take heed to himself, and unto these doctrines, and to continue in them (1 Tim 4:16). Paul then told Timothy how to treat individuals, specifically elderly men, elderly women, widows, young women, church elders, and sinners (1 Tim 6:1-20). Paul additionally told Timothy to lay hands suddenly on no man (1 Tim 5:22), and to drink a little wine for his [Timothy's] infirmities (1 Tim 5:23). Then, in our subject verses (1 Tim 6:1-12), Paul exhorted Timothy to teach two things: (1) servants [slaves] are to honour their masters; and (2) servants who have believing masters are to not despise their masters, because their masters are not only brothers in Christ, but are also faithful, beloved by God, and partakers of the benefit [good deed done; i.e., death of Christ]. Regarding all of these doctrines [concepts and teachings], Paul again instructed Timothyto these things, teach and exhort (1 Tim 6:2). There were men who were teaching otherwise, and Paul knew the dangers of this.
 
IF ANY MAN TEACH OTHERWISE
 
Immediately after he outlined all of these doctrines, discussed the importance of servants honoring their masters, and instructed Timothy to teach and exhort these concepts, Paul said, 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... (1 Tim 6:3). Paul knew that, in the early Christian church, there were false teachers who were teaching "otherwise," who were teaching false doctrines, doctrines different from what Paul had been teaching, doctrines that were consequently leading some astray from true Christian faith. Paul specifically explained that: (1) false teachers were teaching that servants are not to honor [humble themselves before] their masters; (2) false teachers do not consent [approach, come unto] to wholesome [sound, truthful] words, specifically the words of the Lord Jesus Christ; and (3) false teachers do not teach and emphasize Godliness.
 
THEY THAT WILL BE RICH
 
After discussing false teachers and teaching, Paul said, For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment [clothing] let us be therewith content. But they that will [desire, intend to] be rich [wealthy, increased with goods] fallinto temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown [sink] men in destruction [punishment and death] and perdition [eternal ruin, loss, damnation]. For the love [insatiable desire] of money is the root [that aspect which nourishes and promotes the growth] of all evil: which while some coveted [long for, desire] after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows (1 Tim 6:7-10). Paul makes his point about the vanity of pursuing riches by reminding us that all human beings have no riches when they are born, will not be able to take riches with them when they die, and that we should simply be contented with the basic necessities of life such as food and clothing. The apostle then warns that those who desire to be rich, who are lusting after more than the necessities of life, will cause themselves to become entangled in temporal, worldly temptations and snares, as well as many foolish and hurtful lusts. He additionally warns that lusting after riches will also carry eternal consequences, God's judgment and damnation. Speaking to the dynamics of evil, Paul then explains that having an insatiable desire for money supports and promotes the growth of evil, and causes some to err from true Christian faith, resulting in much sorrow. In these verses, Paul says a most chilling thing, which I believe is worth repeating. Paul clearly said that some who have lusted after money and riches have erred from the true Christian faith. Beloved, there are some in the modern day Christian church who are lusting after money and, because of the deceit of their own hearts, are unaware they are not only living in error, but that they are no longer Christians. Some ministers are routinely "supposing [in error] that gain is godliness." These ministers promote the damning health, wealth, and prosperity doctrines, while ignoring the more important doctrines of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, faith, gentleness, goodness, hope, charity, holiness, godliness, sin, salvation, and the like. The buzz words currently being used to promote these errant doctrines are "increase, sowing, getting mine, prosperity, abundance, claiming, receiving, inheritance, and promises." Additional terms include "provision, finances, plenty, blessing, fullness, jubilee, supply, and wealth." In truth, these buzz words simply reflect a subtle [and sometimes not so subtle], excessive, and misdirected lusting for health, wealth, prosperity, and gain. Paul clearly said that those who covet after these things have erred from the faith. Additionally, Scriptures instruct us A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked (Psa 37:16), and Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivered from death (Prov 11:4). We also know that A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold (Prov 22:1) and For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation? (Prov 27:24). Possibly the sternest warning of all comes from the Lord, who said, ...Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly [incapable of being accomplished] enter into the kingdom of heaven (Mat 19:23). Yet, despite consistent instructions and warnings against lusting after riches, some preachers and believers continue to make the pursuit of riches and wealth a priority.
 
RICHES AND HONOR COME OF THEE
 
The Holy Scriptures have much to say about riches and the pursuit of them. First of all, Scriptures teach that if an individual is monetarily rich, it is God who has willed it and has made that individual rich. Scriptures reveal that The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up (1 Sam 2:7), and Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all (1 Chr 29:12). Similarly, the book of Deuteronomy instructsBut thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day (Deu 8:18). Second, we know from Scripture that riches not only come from God, but that God must also grant the ability to enjoy and properly utilize the riches, otherwise the riches are given in vain. The author of the book of Ecclesiastes wrote, A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease (Eccl 6:2), while Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift [present, reward] of God (Eccl 5:19). Riches without God's blessing are vain; riches with God's blessing are a Godly gift. Third, Scriptures give us valuable general instructions regarding the pursuit of riches. David warned, Trust not in oppression, and become not vain in robbery: if riches increase, set not your heart upon them (Psa 62:10), while in the book of Proverbs we read There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches (Prov 13:7). Regarding the impotence of the rich, we are also warned, They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him (Psa 49:6-7). Scriptures also instruct us that ...Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed. Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever (Psa 112:1-3). God the Father rewards those who fear Him with blessing, wealth, and riches.
 
HE THAT IS GREEDY OF GAIN
 
Not only do Holy Scriptures clearly and repeatedly warn us against the pursuit of worldly, material gain, or greediness, but instruct us that greediness has certain characteristics and causes certain problems which are overtly observable. First, those that are greedy for gain cause problems within their own home and family. Scriptures teach He that is greedy of gain troubleth [disturbs, afflicts] his own house [family, home, home relationships]; but he that hateth gifts shall live (Prov 15:27). Second, greediness corrupts leaders and rulers, causing them to behave in deceptive, ruthless, and violent ways. The prophet Ezekiel warned of Jerusalem's corrupt, violent leaders when he said, Her princes [rulers, governors] in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening [tearing to pieces] the prey, to shed blood , and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain (Ezek 22:27). Those who are greedy for gain cause the lives of individuals to be torn apart, souls to be destroyed, and blood to be shed [shed blood represents death, literally or figuratively]. Third, the prophet Isaiah explained that those who pursue gain often use oppression (Isa 33:15). Fourth, the old testament prophet Micah warns us that For the rich men thereof are full of violence, and the inhabitants thereof have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth (Micah 6:12). Those who are rich, as well as those who are pursuing riches, are often physically and/or politically violent liars and deceivers. Fifth, those who are greedy are most often spiritually ignorant and blind. Regarding Israel's spiritually false leaders who were greedy for gain, Isaiah said, All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest. His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter. Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and to morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant [great, mighty, prosperous] (Isa 56:9-12). According to Isaiah, those who are greedy of gain are spiritually unperceptive, lazy, ignorant, and blind, and therefore unable to warn true believers of dangers that may lie ahead. Sixth, greediness for riches destroys lives. The book of Proverbs refers to a sinner who is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof (Prov 1:19). Seventh, those who are rich are usually arrogant. Referring to rich individuals, Ezekiel said, By thy great wisdom and by thy traffic hast thou increased thy riches, and thine heart is lifted up [lofty, haughty, exalted] because of thy riches: (Ezek 28:5). Eighth, and last, Scriptures teach that He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want (Prov 22:16). Greediness for gain causes many problems, but the believer should not be deceived or caught off guard. Scripture instructs believers to examine the fruit of a minister's life, words and doctrines since the tree is known by his fruit (Matt 12:23). The believer should recognize the fruit found in those who are lusting after gain.
 
WHAT IS A MAN PROFITED?
 
By asking, For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mat 16:26), Christ attempts to motivate us to think seriously about the vanity of pursuing temporal, material, worldly gain to the exclusion of spiritual and eternal gain. The apostle Paul explained to those in Philippi that he considered his Jewish heritage, fleshly abilities, knowledge of and ability to keep the Jewish law, as well as his spiritual zeal, as worldly gain. Yet, Paul then immediately said, But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss [considered a detriment] for [regarding my ministry and service to] Christ (Phil 3:7). Paul knew that his worldly gain was a hindrance to the work of Christ and the ministry and calling he had been given by God. Paul described the gain he desired when he said to those in Corinth, For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more [spiritually and eternally] (1 Cor 9:19). He considered temporarily being a servant to all in this life, leading to eternal life with Christ, as the desirable gain. Paul also told those in Philippi, For to me to live [and minister] is [gain for, beneficial to] Christ, and to die [and personally be with Christ] is gain [beneficial to me] (Phil 1:21). In this verse, Paul mentions two types of gain: the gain of serving Christ through ministry, and the gain of physically dying and being personally with Christ. Interestingly, Paul never mentioned any other type of gain, particularly prosperity or riches, because Paul did not consider prosperity and riches desirable or appropriate gain. By allowing Paul to live a season longer, God granted the apostle Paul continued temporal gain for Christ in this life before he gave Paul the eternal gain of being with Christ. It is obvious that the apostle certainly recognized the difference between worldly, self-seeking, temporal gain and spiritual, God and man serving, eternal gain. Modern day Christians should as well. Nevertheless, some in the Christian church continue to pray and ask God for gain, yet are not receiving it. The reason is because God explains, Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts (James 4:3).  AMEN.

 
 
 
THE CHRISTIAN HERALD
                                                           A Judeo-Christian Bible Study
 
"The eternal God
is thy refuge,
and underneath
are the
everlasting arms:
 and he
shall thrust out
the enemy from before thee;
and shall say,
Destroy them"
(Deu 33:27)

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