Paul's Letters To Timothy
by Greg Williamson (c) 2014, 2019
Featuring the text of the New American Standard Bible *
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Intro | 1 Timothy 1:1-11 / 1:12-17 / 1:18-20 | 2:1-8 / 2:9-15 | 3:1-7 / 3:8-13 / 3:14-16 | 4:1-6 / 4:7-12 / 4:13-16 | 5:1-16 / 5:17-25 | 6:1-2 / 6:3-10 / 6:11-21 | 2 Timothy 1:1-7 / 1:8-12 / 1:13-18 | 2:1-7 / 2:8-13 / 2:14-18 / 2:19-26 | 3:1-9 / 3:10-12 / 3:13-17 | 4:1-4 / 4:5-8 / 4:9-22 ** | Articles & Definitions | Sources

(1 Timothy 6:3-10)

3 If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness,
4 he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions,
5 and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.
6 But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.
7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.
8 If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.
9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.
10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Watch your attitudes. Do you enjoy arguing about the Bible? Then search your heart to see if any of these sinful attitudes are hiding there. You can never debate people into the kingdom or into a more sanctified life. Watch your values. Are you content with the necessities of life, or must God give you luxuries? - Warren Wiersbe [ref]

QuoteWorthy: Wealthy
Henry David Thoreau, the naturalist of the 1800s, reminded us that a man is wealthy in proportion to the number of things he can afford to do without. - Warren Wiersbe [ref]

1 TIMOTHY 6:3 - False Doctrine
Materialistic Motivation

Christian leaders in particular must be on guard against the temptation to be motivated by materialistic interests. (see 1 Timothy 6:3-10) [ref]

It seems that the false teachers addressed here are the same ones Paul referred to earlier.

Having given Timothy instructions about three groups in the church (widows, elders and slaves), Paul comes to a fourth (false teachers), whose baneful influence is at the back of his mind throughout this letter. In [1 Timothy 1:3–7] he has noted their speculations about the law, and in [1 Timothy 4:1–5] their denial of creation. Now in [1 Timothy 6:3–5] he characterizes them as deviating from sound doctrine, dividing the church, and being motivated by avarice. It is this last characteristic of theirs which leads Paul to give vital instruction about covetousness and contentment (1 Timothy 6:7–10), and wealth and generosity (1 Timothy 6:17–19), and which imparts to this chapter its distinctive emphasis, namely the place in Christian discipleship of material possessions. [ref]

In 1 Timothy 6:3-5, Paul "evaluates the false teachers in relation to questions of truth, unity and motivation. His criticism of them is that they deviate from the faith, split the church, and love money. They are heterodox, divisive and covetous." [ref]

If (1 Timothy 6:3)
As used here, this refers to "a fulfilled condition," meaning "If, as is the case." [ref]

advocates a different doctrine (1 Timothy 6:3)
This refers to heterodox/unorthodox teaching. There were some false teachers who "were teaching things diametrically opposed to Paul’s teaching." [ref]



The circumstances of life in the ancient world presented the false teacher with an opportunity which he was not slow to take. On the Christian side, the Church was full of wandering prophets, whose very way of life gave them a certain prestige. The Christian service was much more informal than it is now. Anyone who felt he had a message was free to give it; and the door was wide open to men who were out to propagate a false and misleading message. On the heathen side, there were men called sophists (compare sophos), wise men, who made it their business, so to speak, to sell philosophy. They had two lines. They claimed for a fee to be able to teach men to argue cleverly; they were the men who with their smooth tongues and their adroit minds were skilled in "making the worse appear the better reason." They had turned philosophy into a way of becoming rich. Their other line was to give demonstrations of public speaking. The Greek had always been fascinated by the spoken word; he loved an orator; and these wandering sophists went from town to town, giving their oratorical demonstrations. They went in for advertising on an intensive scale and even went the length of delivering by hand personal invitations to their displays. The most famous of them drew people literally by the thousand to their lectures; they were in their day the equivalent of the modern pop star. Philostratus tells us that Adrian, one of the most famous of them, had such a popular power that, when his messenger appeared with the news that he was to speak, even the senate and the circus emptied, and the whole population flocked to the Athenaeum to hear him. They had three great faults.

  1. Their speeches were quite unreal. They would offer to speak on any subject, however remote and recondite and unlikely, that any member of the audience might propose.
  2. Their thirst was for applause. Competition between them was a bitter and a cut-throat affair.
  3. Their thirst was for praise, and their criterion was numbers.

The Greeks were intoxicated with the spoken word. Among them, if a man could speak, his fortune was made. It was against a background like that that the Church was growing up; and it is little wonder that this type of teacher invaded it. The Church gave him a new area in which to exercise his meretricious gifts and to gain a tinsel prestige and a not unprofitable following.

- William Barclay [ref] (condensed/extracted from longer article)

Our English words "sophisticate" and "sophisticated" are derived from "sophist." [ref] In his public preaching the apostle Paul went to great lengths to avoid the type of rhetoric employed by the sophists -- which earned him criticism, for example, from the sophisticated believers in Corinth. [ref] It is very likely that at least some of the false teachers denounced by Paul were former sophists and/or sought to emulate their rhetorical techniques. [ref]



Here in [1 Timothy 6:3-5] are set out the characteristics of the false teacher.

  1. His first characteristic is conceit. His desire is not to display Christ, but to display himself There are still preachers and teachers who are more concerned to gain a following for themselves than for Jesus Christ, more concerned to press their own views than to bring to men the word of God.
  2. His concern is with abstruse and recondite speculations. There is a kind of Christianity which is more concerned with argument than with life. To be a member of a discussion circle or a Bible study group and spend enjoyable hours in talk about doctrines does not necessarily make a Christian. J. S. Whale in his book Christian Doctrine has certain scathing things to say about this pleasant intellectualism: "... Instead of putting off our shoes from our feet because the place whereon we stand is holy ground, we are taking nice photographs of the Burning Bush from suitable angles: we are chatting about theories of the Atonement with our feet on the mantelpiece, instead of kneeling down before the wounds of Christ." ... Subtle argumentation and glib theological statements do not make a Christian. That kind of thing may well be nothing other than a mode of escape from the challenge of Christian living.
  3. The false teacher is a disturber of the peace. He is instinctively competitive; he is suspicious of all who differ from him; when he cannot win in an argument he hurls insults at his opponent's theological position, and even at his character; in any argument the accent of his voice is bitterness and not love. He has never learned to speak the truth in love. The source of his bitterness is the exaltation of self; for his tendency is to regard any difference from or any criticism of his views as a personal insult.
  4. The false teacher commercializes religion. He is out for profit. He looks on his teaching and preaching, not as a vocation, but as a career. One thing is certain -- there is no place for careerists in the ministry of any Church. The Pastorals are quite clear that the labourer is worthy of his hire; but the motive of his work must be public service and not private gain. His passion is, not to get, but to spend and be spent in the service of Christ and of his fellow-men.
- William Barclay [ref] (condensed/extracted from longer article)

agree with (1 Timothy 6:3)
This term (Greek proserchomai) "has here a meaning not far removed from its primary sense: come to, approach. Here it seems to mean come over to, that is, join, fall in with. This is a little stronger than consent to or agree with. A mere listener may mentally agree with the words of a speaker. An enthusiastic listener will come over to or join the speaker. He will not only agree, but he will express that agreement. He will 'chime in.' He will eagerly come to the same fountain and will drink the same water. He will take to heart and will begin to proclaim 'the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ.'" [ref]

sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:3)
"Sound" (Greek hugiainō) is a medical term [ref] [ref] meaning "the state of being healthy, well (in contrast with sickness)" [ref], and is closey related to our English word "hygiene." ("Greek and Roman writers often used medical imagery to describe the spiritual state of people’s souls or beliefs." [ref])

While it may appear that Paul is speaking either of words from/by Jesus or words of/about Jesus [ref], Paul's point seems to be that his (Paul's) gospel message "and its ethical implications flow out of the teaching and work of Jesus." [ref] As one commentator explains well:

Some think that this genitive is objective, meaning that the teaching is about Christ. But Paul’s instruction did not focus exclusively on Christ. Others take the genitive as subjective and suppose that Paul is referring to words spoken by Christ, perhaps to an already published gospel or a collection of the sayings of Jesus. But Paul seldom quoted Jesus’ words, [1 Timothy 5:18] and Acts 20:35 being exceptional.

The third and most probable explanation is that Paul regarded his own words as the words of Christ. ‘He who listens to you listens to me,’ Jesus had said when he sent out the Seventy (Lk. 10:16), and Luke implied that the ascended Christ would continue to act and speak through the apostles (Acts 1:1). This was certainly Paul’s conviction. He could command and exhort in the name or with the authority of Christ (e.g. 2 Thes. 3:6, 12). He claimed that Christ was speaking through him (2 Cor. 13:3), and he even commended the Galatians for having welcomed him as if he were Jesus Christ (Gal. 4:14). As Chrysostom put it, ‘Thus says Paul, or rather Christ by Paul.’ [ref]

the doctrine conforming to godliness (1 Timothy 6:3)
"Conforming to" (Greek kata) means "in accordance with, in relation to" [ref], and thus "the doctrine conforming to godliness" "refers to that teaching which concerns the proper attitude of the individual towards God." [ref] Put simply: "The true gospel announces and produces a genuinely transformed lifestyle." [ref]

A recurring theme within the pastoral epistles is "[t]he correspondence between truth and godliness, and error and moral deficiency." [ref] "[T]hese false teachers were not merely mistaken in their doctrine; their evil went deeper. Or rather, it originated in deeper problems. They were not well-intentioned teachers who had made unfortunate mistakes. Their basic motivations were evil." [ref]


1 TIMOTHY 6:4 - Corrupt Behavior (vv. 4-5)

conceited (1 Timothy 6:4)
"'Conceit' describes the trait of a person having an excessively favorable opinion of his own ability or importance.The false teachers showed all that and more." [ref]

"Doctrinal error is seldom merely a case of being innocently mistaken. There is almost always some degree of culpability. The false teachers in Ephesus were conceited (lit., 'puffed up')." [ref] "Conceited" (Greek tuphoō) literally means "'to raise a smoke, to wrap in a mist.' It speaks metaphorically of a beclouded and stupid state of mind as the result of pride. The verb is in the perfect tense which speaks of an action completed in past time having finished results in present time. The person concerning whom Paul is speaking has come to the place where pride has finished its work, and he is in a permanent or settled state of pride." [ref]

(and) understands nothing (1 Timothy 6:4)
"Ignorance is a frequent companion of conceit." [ref] The false teachers' "condition was a culpable one, for it came about as the result of decisions made about the apostolic gospel which they knew (compare 1 Timothy 1:13)." [ref]

Bringing together vv. 3-4a, we find "two essential marks of sound teaching. It comes from Christ and it promotes godliness. Anybody who disagrees with it, therefore, is conceited and understands nothing (4a). Or, putting the two phrases together, he is ‘a conceited idiot’ (JBP) or ‘a pompous ignoramus’ (REB). This is strong language. But then the false teacher is guilty of a serious offence. For to disagree with Paul is to disagree with Christ. Indeed, in the end there are only two possible responses to the Word of God. One is to humble ourselves and tremble at it; the other is to harden our hearts, stiffen our necks and reject it." [ref]

he has a morbid interest (1 Timothy 6:4)
This phrase (Greek noseō) is yet another medical term. [ref] Its meaning is "to have an unhealthy or morbid desire for something." [ref] Alternate translations of this phrase (Greek noseō peri) include:

  • "diseased with" [ref]
  • "He has an unhealthy craving for" (ESV)
  • "is obsessed with" (NKJV)
  • "has a morbid craving for" (NRSV)
  • "They have an unhealthy interst in" (NIV)
  • "has an unhealthy desire to" (NLT)
  • "stupefied with" (AMP)

The Message captures well both Paul's use of medical terminology and the seriousness of the situation: "If you have leaders there who teach otherwise, who refuse the solid words of our Master Jesus and this godly instruction, tag them for what they are: ignorant windbags who infect the air with germs of envy, controversy, bad-mouthing, suspicious rumors. Eventually there's an epidemic of backstabbing, and truth is but a distant memory. They think religion is a way to make a fast buck" (1 Timothy 6:3-5 The Message).

controversial questions and disputes (1 Timothy 6:4)
"Contentiousness was one of the prominent characteristics of the false teachers (1 Tim. 1:4; 2 Tim. 2:14, 23; Titus 3:9)." [ref]

controversial questions
Rather than a legitimate effort to find a solution, the goal here is simply to stir up an argument. [ref]

disputes about words
Literally, "word-battles." [ref] [ref]


Do you know anyone who loves to "split hairs" over theological issues, insisting on having the last word in any disagreement over meaning -- someone who constantly wages word wars with others?

In fairness, a passion for truth can lead to controversy. An honest desire for knowledge and understanding may bring arguments or disagreements. When arrogance, lack of direction, anger, and defensiveness mark a discussion, little good can come from it. Those who engage in these arguments are driven by their own elevated egos; they delight in winning arguments. If arguments never lead to practical action, they may come from evil motives.

Jesus warned about those who major on the minors and miss what is truly important (see Matthew 23:24). Those who strain life too finely often discover that they have swallowed a camel instead of a gnat!

- Life Application Bible Commentary on the New Testament [ref]

out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction (1 Timothy 6:4-5)

  • envy: "the resentment of other people’s gifts" [ref]; "a discontented thirst for advantage and position that breeds distrust" [ref] (cf. Romans 1:29; Galatians 5:21; Philippians 1:15; 1 Peter 2:1)
  • strife: "the spirit of competition and contention" [ref]; "an atmosphere of constant struggle" [ref] (cf. Romans 1:29; 13:13; 1 Corinthians 3:3; Galatians 5:20; Philippians 1:15)
  • abusive language: "abuse of ‘rival teachers’" [ref]; "rumor-spreading" [ref] (cf. Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8)
  • evil suspicions: "distrust" [ref]; "forgetting that fellowship is built on trust, not suspicion" [ref]
  • constant friction: "the fruit of irritability" [ref]

These fruits of the flesh "appear in these false teachers themselves. In their questions and word-battles one envies the other because of the proficiency which he develops; there is strife as they vie with and contradict each other; blasphemies result, namely denunciations couched in sacred words; also 'underthoughts,' suspicions of motives and of intents; ... 'irritations,' mutual rubbing and friction. Chrysostom thought of infected sheep, rubbing and spreading their disease; but these irritations are mutual between men whose minds are diseased with errors." [ref]

evil suspicions (1 Timothy 6:4)
"The verb means 'to think in secret,' 'to suspect,' or, more generally, 'to conjecture.' In the NT only Acts uses it, and with no theological significance. It means 'to suppose' in [Acts 13:25], 'to suspect' in [Acts 27:18], and 'to conjecture' in [Acts 27:27]. The noun has such senses as 'secret opinion,' 'conjecture,' 'illusion,' and 'hidden meaning' (e.g., of metaphors or allegories). In 1 Tim. 6:4, which depicts the liking of false teachers for wars of words, the reference is to the wicked suspicions or insinuations with which they try to discredit those who oppose them." [ref]


1 TIMOTHY 6:5 - Corrupt Behavior (vv. 4-5) ... Financial Motives (v. 5)

constant friction (1 Timothy 6:5)
This refers to "mutual irritations." [ref]

men of depraved mind (1 Timothy 6:5)
"The false teachers are often referred to in the Pastorals as having faulty reasoning (1 Tim. 6:4; 1:7; 2 Tim. 3:8). Since the gospel is the truth, to deny it is to think in a faulty manner." [ref]

deprived of the truth (1 Timothy 6:5)
"The implication is that they once possessed the truth. They put it away from themselves (1 Timothy 1:19; Titus 1:14). Here it is represented as taken away from them." [ref] As one commentator notes well: "['Deprived'] is correct, for these are not men who have never come into contact with the truth ... The truth was theirs at one time or could and should have been theirs ... [S]uch men do not go out among pagans and work on them but keep undermining the health of the church and raise the cry of intolerance when they are stopped." [ref]

Paul "could not have been more devastating. What he says illustrates a universal principle -- that teachers without adequate understanding or moral calibre are not likely to maintain sound doctrine. Further, where godliness is seen as a means of financial gain, it will never lead to truth" (see 1 Timothy 6:5). [ref]


In a religious sense, this term (or better, Classical Liberalism, also known as Modernism) refers to a movement that arose in Protestant circles in the middle of the 19th cent. and was prominent through the first decades of the 20th. It was characterized by an emphasis on free intellectual inquiry, suspicion (or rejection) of orthodox theology, and confidence in the natural goodness of human beings. The label liberalism is often used more broadly to describe any departure from historical Christian thought, especially with regard to the inspiration and authority of the Bible. In a less careful sense, the term liberal is sometimes applied loosely to scholars who use the methods of “higher criticism” or who otherwise do not appear to follow traditional views. [ref]

"When the truth and application of God's Word is replaced by meaningless and false drivel, believers may lose their moral foundation and incredible evil can result." [ref] The rotting fruit of liberalism is scattered everywhere throughout the Christian Church. The majority of mainline churches are liberal, with both leaders and laymen alike feeling free to interpret the Bible according to their own "enlightened" thinking, including picking and choosing the portions of the Bible they will and will not believe. The end result is a vast multitude of Christians in name only, as well as countless others who, while they are true believers, nonetheless suffer from spiritual anemia brought on by a profound inability to ingest God's life-giving Word. At best they are weak and ineffective in their faith, while at worst they become easy pickings for everything from cultists to prosperity gospel hucksters. The one and only cure? We must believe and put into daily practice the whole counsel of God as found in his inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word, the Bible.


godliness is a means of gain (1 Timothy 6:5)
It is vital to note that the "godliness" Paul mentions here "means 'the profession of Christian faith' and not true holy living in the power of the Spirit. [The false teachers] used their religious profession as a means to make money. What they did was not a true ministry; it was just a religious business." [ref]

The false teachers

were "selling" their teaching. People in that day were often suspicious of the motives of teachers of religion and philosophy. Paul apparently had to deal with similar allegations himself (1 Thess 2:5), and Christians were warned about peddlers of the gospel (Rom 16:17-18; 2 Pet 2:2; 1 Pet 5:2). Here godliness may refer to one of the errorists' own catchwords (see 2 Tim 3:5), their special knowledge of the divine (1 Tim 6:20). As they taught certain things that people wanted to hear (2 Tim 4:3) and offered initiation into an elite club, the false teachers discovered a lucrative business (compare Tit 1:11). In reality, this was the result of corrupted minds that had broken from the truth of the gospel. [ref]

It is possible "that the false teachers demoralised slaves, suggesting to slaves who were converts, or possible converts, that the profession of Christianity involved an improvement in social position and worldly prospects." [ref]

Moreover, "[t]he history of the human race has regularly been stained by attempts to commercialize religion. It was when Simon Magus thought he could buy spiritual powers from the apostles that the term ‘simony’ was coined, to denote the purchase and sale of spiritual privilege or ecclesiastical office. Paul himself found it necessary to declare that, unlike many, he did not peddle the Word of God for profit (2 Cor. 2:17), that he had never coveted anybody’s silver, gold or clothing (Acts 20:33), and that he had never used religion as a cloak for greed (1 Thes. 2:5)." [ref]

The false teachers "were motivated by money. Their ultimate goal was to enrich themselves! How completely opposite this is from Old Testament teaching, from the teaching of the Lord Jesus and from the apostles, and from the generous and caring attitude of the early church: Old Testament: Deuteronomy 8:3; Jeremiah 9:23-24; Jesus: Mark 4:18-19; 10:21; Luke 9:58; The apostles: Acts 3:6; James 5:4-5; The early church: Acts 4:32, 34-35." [ref]

Today "[a] very common heresy in the Christian world is the so-called prosperity gospel, the teaching that material affluence is a reward from God for faith and spirituality. Paul himself, arguably the greatest Christian of all, disproves any such teaching, not only by such passages as this but by his own life. Like the Lord Jesus Himself, Paul finally died with almost no possessions of his own. His strong rebuke of this type of teaching says its promoters are "men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth." He says, in fact, not to have fellowship with them." [ref]


How are we to view wealth? As an unmixed good? Or as a dangerous trap to be avoided? Is the possession of riches sinful in itself (e.g., as a practical denial of concern for less-fortunate brothers and sisters)? Whether or not we are comfortable with the idea of riches, we do need to grasp the Bible’s viewpoint on wealth.

[T]he OT is sensitive to the issue, deeply aware of the impact of riches within a society and of the impact on individual members of society. But given this sensitivity, the OT seems to present two radically differing perspectives on wealth.

The OT attitude toward wealth
The covenant relationship that God established with Israel provides the framework within which we can understand the OT attitude toward wealth.

God committed himself to bless Israel if Israel would continue to live by the covenant. The blessings promised seem all-inclusive -- an increase in numbers and wealth and freedom from childlessness and disease (Dt 7:12–15). The basic commitment is often repeated, as in [Dt 28:7-8, 110.

This commitment to Israel was particularized in the individual, who could expect to be blessed as he or she walked in Yahweh’s righteous paths. As the psalmist says in celebration [in Ps 112:1-6). This thread of confidence is often found throughout the OT (e.g., 1 Sa 2:7; 1 Ch 29:28; Pr 10:4, 22).

By Jesus’ time this theme had been interpreted to imply that riches were a clear sign of God’s favor. A person who was rich was ipso facto righteous, one of God’s blessed ones.

But there is another theme that runs through the OT, along with the riches-are-the-Lord’s-blessing-for-the-righteous theme. ... Wealth is a blessing from God, but wealth is also a danger. It can rob a person of humility and of sensitivity to the Lord!

Wealth also has other drawbacks. A passion for wealth can lead a person into sin (Hos 12:8), but wealth cannot redeem the soul (Ps 49:6–9). Also, wealth is transitory ... So how should one person view another’s wealth? “Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him. Though while he lived he counted himself blessed—and men praise you when you prosper -- he will join the generation of his fathers, who will never see the light of life. A man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish” (Ps 49:16–20).

Ultimately, it is both the attitude of the believer toward riches and his use of riches that determine whether or not they are a blessing. As for riches without spiritual perceptivity, David sees them only as a disaster (Ps 52:5–7).

It is clear, then, that the OT has no naive view of wealth. Wealth is neither an unmixed blessing nor a guaranteed prospect for the godly. In the framework of the covenant, God’s people can expect blessing, and this will often take the form of riches. But for the believer riches are never to be an end in themselves (cf. Pr 10:2; 15:16; 21:21).

[T]he NT develops aspects of the OT’s teaching, refining and defining for us a perspective intended to shape our lives.

Jesus’ teaching on wealth
Jesus taught about wealth frequently. His primary focus was on attitude. If the believer trusts God as a loving father, he is freed from the pagan’s desperate focus on the necessities of life (Mt 6).

The rich man who died found that his wealth had blinded him to spiritual realities. He suffered in torment while a beggar he had scorned was seen in paradise with Abraham (Lk 16:19–31).

The treasures people store up on earth rust and corrode, and they distract us from concentration on God and his righteousness (Lk 12:13–21).

The Epistles’ teaching on wealth
The Epistles speak less of wealth than do the Gospels. James points out that the rich oppress the poor (Jas 5:1–6). There are some warnings about the love of money (1 Ti 3:3; 2 Ti 3:2; Heb 13:5; 1 Pe 5:2). Included among Paul’s statements on the subject of Christian giving is an exhortation to those who are rich in this world to use their wealth generously to supply the needs of the saints (1 Ti 6:18). Paul reveals his own attitude toward money, reflecting a contentment that can exist whatever one’s circumstances (Php 4). The general attitude of the Epistles seems to suggest that riches are irrelevant to the true issues of life but that one who is rich should take advantage of his condition to serve the saints.

Key passages on wealth and riches
This brief survey indicates NT passages that one should explore to develop a biblical perspective on wealth.

  • Mt 6:5–34. Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Give us today our daily bread” (Mt 6:11). The passage develops the thought. Disciples are not to store up treasures on earth, because one’s thoughts and motives are focused on his treasures (Mt 6:21). Rather, release from anxiety is promised through realization that God is one’s loving father, to whom believers are truly important. We can focus on his righteousness and kingdom and leave it to him to supply our needs (Mt 6:25–34). Rather than promote laziness, this passage should release us from an anxious preoccupation with material goods. The realities on which we can depend, and on which we should focus our attention, are spiritual and moral.
  • Mt 13:18–23. The parable of the sower points out that some who hear the word of God have no time for it, being distracted by the “worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth” (Mt 13:22).
  • Mt 19:16–30. The account of the rich young man who asked, “What good thing must I do to get eternal life?” (Mt 19:16) is often misunderstood. The man had kept the commands that dealt with relationships with others. But when Jesus told him what to do (“Sell your possessions and give to the poor … Then come, follow me,” Mt 19:21), the young man turned away. When Israel’s God called him to make the total heart and soul commitment that the first of the commandments requires, he chose his riches.
         The purpose of Jesus was not to make a general statement on wealth, but to confront one individual with reality. The man’s heart was focused on his possessions, not on God. When the man left, Jesus warned his disciples, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle [possibly Jerusalem’s low “needle gate”] than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Mt 19:24). This statement shocked his disciples, who held the common opinion that a person’s wealth indicated that he was close to God.
  • Lk 12:13–21. The rich fool tore down his barns to build bigger ones, sure that he had “plenty of good things laid up for many years” (Lk 12:19). That night he died, illustrating Jesus’ warning against greed. The story also illustrates the vital principle that “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Lk 12:15).
  • Lk 16:1–15. Jesus told of a manager who, when he was about to be fired, used his position to revise the records of his master’s creditors. He was commended, not for his dishonesty, but because he used wealth to prepare for his future. Jesus urged believers not to be controlled by their possessions but to use their property to prepare for their own welcome “into eternal dwellings” (Lk 16:9). Jesus stressed the fact that no one can be devoted to God and to money at the same time. One or the other will be master. Money is to be used rather than served.
  • Lk 16:19–31. The story of the rich man and Lazarus makes many points. One’s position in this life is no indication of eternal destiny. Those who find money more real than the testimony of Scripture are in great danger.
  • Acts. Several passages illustrate the impact and use of money. Many in the early church freely gave their possessions to meet others’ needs (Ac 2:44–45; 4:32–37). One couple lied to God and the church about a contribution; it was not the withholding of money but the deceit that led to their deaths (Ac 5:1–11). “Wasn’t the money at your disposal?” Peter asked (Ac 5:4). Simon the sorcerer’s notion that God’s gifts and spiritual power could be purchased was scathingly attacked (Ac 8:9–24).
  • 1 Co 8–9.
  • 1 Ti 6:3–10. The desire for riches is a trap, for the love of money is a root from which grows every kind of evil. The believer is to view godliness with contentment as great gain.
  • 1 Ti 6:17–19. The wealthy can “lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age” (1 Ti 6:19) by refusing to put their hope in their riches and by being “generous and willing to share” (1 Ti 6:18).
  • Jas 2:1–13. Believers are not to show favoritism to the rich. The passage shows a bias against the wealthy, who use their position to exploit the poor.
  • Jas 5:1–6. Again, wealthy oppressors are warned. The riches for which they have defrauded the innocent not only rot and corrode but also cry out to God against them.
  • 1 Jn 3:16–20. Love calls us to use material possessions for brothers and sisters who are in need.

Wealth and riches are blessings from God if they are gained and used in harmony with God’s values. But wealth can war against the soul, distracting us from the really significant issues of life and drawing us away from reliance on God alone.

We can thank God if he chooses to give us riches, and then we can use our money in his service. But if he does not choose to enrich us, we need not be concerned. It is godliness with contentment that is the believer’s true gain.

- Lawrence O. Richards [ref] (condensed/extracted from longer article)


Paul claims the right to ask for and receive money on the basis of his apostolic status. However, if receiving money would interfere with his apostolic task, he also claims the right to refuse it. He apparently did not ask for money from a community in which he was currently working, but he had no hesitation about receiving money for his continuing mission or raising money for others from a community he had already established. Is Paul’s teaching about money contradictory and/or inconsistent? Not when one realizes that the controlling force in his requests for and refusal of money was the gospel of Christ. When money is being used to further the preaching of the gospel or to express the unity of all Christians in the gospel, Paul does not hesitate to ask for money. But if the receiving of money meant that the gospel might be abused, Paul is willing to refuse the money and to readjust his life for the sake of the gospel.

In Paul’s understanding of money the spiritual and material aspects of giving and receiving are closely related. A minister who sows spiritual seed should receive material support from those who have benefited. Since the Gentiles have received spiritual blessing from the Jews, they should respond by blessing the Jews in material ways. Requests for money are rooted in partnership in the gospel; one gives out of thankfulness for the spiritual benefits received. In Paul’s letters it is clear that the way Christians use their money should be an extension of the message of the gospel and the ministry of the church.

- J. M. Everts [ref]


1 TIMOTHY 6:6 - Detachment

"In contrast to the material gain of the heretics (1 Tim. 6:5), the Christian finds his gain of a nonfinancial sort, godliness and contentment, or self-sufficiency, which results from an inner satisfaction with the situation that God has ordained for him." [ref] As a warning against coventousness, Paul directs Timothy's focus onto four facts: 1) "Wealth does not bring contentment" (1 Timothy 6:6), 2) "Wealth is not lasting" (1 Timothy 6:7), 3) "Our basic needs are easily met" (1 Timothy 6:8), and 4) "The desire for wealth leads to sin" (1 Timothy 6:9-10). [ref]

godliness (actually) is a means of great gain (1 Timothy 6:6)
By no means is Paul endorsing the health and wealth gospel. "‘Godliness’ (eusebeia) is ‘gain’ (porismos), even great gain (6a), providing you mean spiritual gain, not financial, and providing you add contentment. Paul is echoing his earlier statement that ‘godliness has value for all things’, bringing blessing for both this life and the next [1 Timothy 4:8]. The REB expresses well his play on words: ‘They think religion should yield dividends; and of course religion does yield high dividends, but only to those who are content with what they have.’" [ref]

"The benefits or profit that motivated the false teachers were neither lasting nor capable of bringing contentment. Their earthly profits would be left behind, as Paul explained. What brings great gain has to do with eternal values. When material treasures become our focus, we quit contributing to our eternal accounts. Whatever gains we may experience in this life mean nothing if they cause us eternal bankruptcy (see Matthew 6:19-24)." [ref]

What are some specific ways in which we gain from godliness? As one commentator explains: "The truly godly person is not interested in becoming rich. He possesses inner resources which furnish riches far beyond that which earth can offer. ... The truly pious individual has peace with God, spiritual joy, assurance of salvation, the conviction that 'to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose' (Romans 8:28). Hence, he feels no need of 'ample (earthly!) goods stored up for many years,' which can never satisfy the soul (Luke 12:19-20). He is content with what he has." [ref]

contentment (1 Timothy 6:6)
True godliness is always accompanied by contentment. [ref] "Godliness without contentment would be a joyless and legalistic righteousness. Contentment without godliness describes a person sadly disconnected from God’s truth. ... Paul understood that if godliness (our desire to see God’s character reproduced in us) and contentment (our acceptance of God’s will in our lives) depend on our environment or circumstances, both will always be unstable." [ref]

In Paul's day "Stoic philosophers valued contentment because it indicated self-sufficiency. The apostle Paul, however, values contentment because it indicates Christ’s sufficiency (see Phil 4:11, 13)." [ref]

"Paul’s teaching here is that the possession of a godly piety makes a person independent of outward circumstances, and self-sufficient, enabling him to maintain a spiritual equilibrium in the midst of both favorable circumstances and those which are adverse. ... This inward self-sufficiency is a natural accompaniment of godly piety." [ref] As another commentator puts it: "Godliness combined with that inner God-given sufficiency which does not depend on material circumstances (the opposite of the false teachers’ greed) is indeed of great gain." [ref]

Here Paul sets forth a very simple but highly effective formula: godliness + contentment = great gain. "[F]or Paul the Christian goal is a genuine relationship with God, our source of contentment, and a healthy detachment from material things. This combination is great gain. In contrast to [1 Timothy 6:5], gain here is measured according to spiritual rather than material value. Eternal benefits are surely promised, but the focus is on how the believer with this healthy perspective can avoid the many pitfalls of greed in the present life." [ref]

The Bible has much to say regarding money and contentment:

• Everything comes from God (1 Chronicles 29:11-14; Colossians 1:15-17; 1 Timothy 4:4)
• Money cannot buy salvation (Proverbs 11:4; Ezekiel 7:19; Matthew 16:26; Luke 16:19-31; 18:18-25)
• Riches do not last (Jeremiah 17:11; 1 Timothy 6:17; James 1:10-11; Revelation 18:11-19)
• Money never satisfies (Ecclesiastes 5:10-11; Luke 12:15)
• Don't show favoritism to the rich (James 2:1-9)
• Money carries responsibility (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
• Obey God rather than chasing after money (Psalm 17:15; 119:36; Proverbs 19:1; 1 Timothy 6:17)• Be content (Philippians 4:11-13; 1 Timothy 6:8; Hebrews 13:5) [ref]

QuoteWorthy: Little Desires
To whom little is not enough nothing is enough. ... Add not to a man's possessions but take away from his desires. - Epicurus [ref]


1 TIMOTHY 6:7 - The Eternal Perspective

brought nothing into ... cannot take anything out of (1 Timothy 6:7)
"That is, 'nothing the world can give is any addition to the man himself.'" [ref]

"Having arrived naked because we are going to leave that way and cannot possibly leave any other way, the few things we really need for our short stay are not going to disturb our minds as godly people; we are simply going to be content. That is our great source of spiritual gain. Those who do not perceive what Paul here says are to be pitied, especially if they try to make their false godliness a means of gain." [ref] This life is temporary. As the Greek makes clear, Paul's point is "that because we cannot bring anything away we brought nothing along when we arrived." [ref] As one commentator notes, this "is a perspective which should influence our economic lifestyle. For possessions are only the travelling luggage of time; they are not the stuff of eternity. It would be sensible therefore to travel light and, as Jesus himself commanded us, not to store up for ourselves (that is, to accumulate selfishly) treasures on earth (Mt. 6:19ff.; Lk. 12:16ff.)." [ref]

This is "a common Jewish and Christian idea. ... [Material things] should freely be used and enjoyed to the glory of God if one has them (cf. 1 Timothy 4:3-4; 6:17)" [ref], and they contribute to godliness only to the extent that they enable us to serve Christ, including serving others in his name.


1 TIMOTHY 6:8 - Material Sufficiency

food and covering ... content (1 Timothy 6:8)
While this same sentiment was popular among the philosopher's of Paul's day, most likely here Paul "is drawing from the model of Christ (Mt 6:25-34; Lk 12:16-21)." [ref] "God has promised to supply the needs of His people if they are faithful (Philippians 4:19; Matthew 6:33), and that should be enough. If the Lord, in His grace, provides more than this for any of His children, it is probably for the purpose of testing our faithfulness, to see if we will use such prosperity in ways to please ourselves or to honor the Lord." [ref]

"Covering" (Greek skepasma) likely includes the idea of shelter/dwelling. [ref] [ref] [ref] [ref] [ref]

Is Paul saying we are permitted nothing more than the barest essentials? "Probably not, for what Paul is defining is not the maximum that is permitted to the believer, but the minimum that is compatible with contentment. This is clear because he has already portrayed God as the good Creator, whose gifts we are to receive with thanksgiving [1 Timothy 4:3ff.], and he will soon add that God ‘richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment’ [1 Timothy 6:17]. So he is not advocating austerity or asceticism, but contentment in place of materialism and covetousness." [ref]

Christians have material needs like everyone else. The difference is that we can/should be content once our needs -- but not necessarily our wants -- are met. [ref] "The desire to meet the needs of the body is not criticized. It is the yearning for material riches, as if these could satisfy the soul, that is here condemned." [ref]

As one commentator put it:

It is not that Christianity pleads for poverty. There is no special virtue in being poor, or in having a constant struggle to make ends meet. But it does plead for two things. [1] It pleads for the realization that it is never in the power of things to bring happiness. ... Happiness always comes from personal relationships. All the things in the world will not make a man happy if he knows neither friendship nor love. ... [2] It pleads for concentration upon the things which are permanent. We brought nothing into the world and we cannot take anything out of it. ... Two things alone a man can take to God. He can, and must, take himself; and therefore his great task is to build up a self he can take without shame to God. He can, and must, take that relationship with God into which he has entered in the days of his life. We have already seen that the secret of happiness lies in personal relationships, and the greatest of all personal relationships is the relationship to God. And the supreme thing that a man can take with him is the utter conviction that he goes to One who is the friend and lover of his soul. [ref]

One commentator offers a "helpful discipline" for fostering contentment:

One helpful discipline in contentment involves distinguishing between needs and wants. We may have all we need to live but let ourselves become anxious and discontented over what we merely want. Much of the advertising industry attempts to change our perception so that more and more of what we want becomes what we think we need. Paul lived what he preached: "I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need" (Philippians 4:11-12 NKJV). Like Paul, we can learn to be content without having all that we want. Otherwise we will become slaves to our desires. The writer of Hebrews offered this advice: "Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for [God] has said, 'I will never leave you or forsake you'" (Hebrews 13:5 NRSV). [ref]


1 TIMOTHY 6:9 - The Dangers

But those who want to get rich (1 Timothy 6:9)
Whereas 1 Timothy 6:6-8 is addressed to the contented poor, 1 Timothy 6:9-10 is addressed to the covetous poor. [ref]

"Those who want to be rich cannot understand contentment because they can never have enough money. ... By refusing to be content, people's desire for money feeds their greed. Soon their passion makes 'wanting more' the only value." [ref]

"Want" (Greek boulomai) is "to desire to have or experience something, with the implication of some reasoned planning or will to accomplish the goal." [ref] As one source explains: "This desire to be wealthy is not a passing emotional thing, but the result of a process of reasoning. Mature consideration has been given the matter of the acquisition of riches, with the result that that desire has become a settled and planned procedure. Vincent says: 'It is not the possession of riches, but the love of them that leads men into temptation.'" [ref] Even if one never actually acquires the riches, the all-consuming desire for them nonetheless leads to temptation, a snare, etc. [ref]

Two additional points are worth noting: 1) Today's "[m]iddle-class North Americans understand 'rich' much differently from the way Paul’s first readers would have; in the widespread poverty of the ancient Mediterranean, most people would have viewed the lifestyle of middle-class North Americans as 'rich.'" [ref] 2) "Like many writers of his day, Paul addresses those seeking to accumulate wealth (cf. Prov 28:20) rather than those who had already become wealthy through inheritance or industry (1 Timothy 6:17)." [ref]

fall (1 Timothy 6:9)
The thought here is "keep on falling" or "continue falling" or "continue to fall" (Greek empiptō; verb, present active). [ref]

As one commentator notes well:

The Old Testament is full of admonitions against covetousness, especially the Wisdom literature. We are warned that money is addictive, since ‘whoever loves money never has money enough’ (Ec. 5:10). We are told not to be ‘overawed’ by the wealthy, but to remember that they will leave their wealth behind them (Ps. 49:10, 16ff.). It is also explicitly stated that ‘one eager to get rich will not go unpunished’ (Pr. 28:20). So we should pray to be given ‘neither poverty [i.e. destitution] nor riches’, but only our ‘daily bread’, i.e. the necessities of life (Pr. 30:7ff.).

Jesus must have reflected on this strand of Old Testament wisdom. He certainly endorsed it, telling us to beware of greed, and reminding us that our life does not consist in the abundance of our possessions (Lk. 12:15ff.).

Moreover, the warnings of Scripture are conveyed to us not only through verbal instruction and exhortation, but through cautionary tales as well. Adam and Eve, Achan, Judas, and Ananias and Sapphira all came to grief through some form of covetousness (Gn. 3:6; Jos. 7:20–21; Mt. 26:14ff. and Jn. 12:4ff.; Acts 5:1ff.). [ref]

temptation ... snare ... foolish and harmful desires (1 Timothy 6:9)
"As a snare keeps an animal imprisoned, so the ungovernable passion for wealth fastens its clutching tentacles about 'those who pant after the dust of the earth' (Amos 2:7). Cf. Psalms 39:6; Proverbs 28:20; Matthew 6:19-21, 24-26; 19:24; James 5:1-6." [ref] As one source puts it: "[F]alling into 'temptation,' they become enmeshed in a 'snare,' and this snare holds them with the cords of 'many thoughtless (devoid of sound reason) and hurtful lusts.'" [ref] And another commentator writes: "[T]hrough their greed [the Devil] ensnares them in materialism and moral compromise; they become ready ‘to sacrifice duty and conscience to the pursuit of wealth’." [ref] "Foolish and harmful desires not only are for wealth itself but are probably also immoral cravings unleashed by access to wealth. Wealth leads people into circles where the rules are different, the peer pressure is tremendous, and the values are totally distorted. What, for the believer, might have been unthinkable from the outside becomes quite natural once on the inside." [ref]

foolish and harmful desires (1 Timothy 6:9)
"Of course greed is itself a desire, selfish and even idolatrous (Eph. 5:5), but it breeds other desires. For money is a drug, and covetousness a drug addiction. The more you have, the more you want. Yet these further desires are foolish (they cannot be rationally defended) and harmful (they captivate and do not liberate the human spirit). [ref]

"Sin never walks alone. The desire to become rich causes the man ... to fall into numerous cravings. One kind of craving easily leads to another. The person who craves riches generally also yearns for honor, popularity, power, ease, the satisfaction of the desires of the flesh, etc. All spring from the same root, selfishness, which, being the worst possible method of really satisfying the 'self,' is both senseless and hurtful (cf. Matthew 20:26-28)." [ref]

which plunge men into ruin and destruction (1 Timothy 6:9)
"As the third and final stage in the downfall of the covetous, their wrong desires plunge them into ruin and destruction (9c). The metaphor pictures them sinking and drowning, either in ‘utter destruction’ (BAGD) or, taking the two nouns separately, in disaster in this life and in the destruction of hell in the next. The irony is that those who set their hearts on gain end in total loss, the loss of their integrity and indeed of themselves. For, as Jesus asked, ‘What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?’(Mk. 8:36)." [ref]

As another source puts it: "Paul was painting a graphic word picture of a greedy person drowning under the tremendous weight of material desires. 'Destruction and perdition' [NKJV] are synonymous with ruin and irretrievable loss. This loss may be experienced in this life, as through a wrong purpose for living, or it may be experienced in the afterlife if material desires lead a person away from Christ (see 1 Timothy 1:16; 2:4; Luke 16:1–14)." [ref]


Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, most people still believe that money brings happiness. Rich people who allow their resources to serve God may be happy, but only because they do not let money and possessions control them. But people who constantly crave more wealth and more possessions are caught in an endless cycle that only ends in disillusionment, ruin, and destruction. How can you keep away from the love of money? God, through Paul, provides guidelines:

  • Realize that one day riches will all be gone (1 Timothy 6:7, 17).
  • Be content with what you have (1 Timothy 6:8).
  • Monitor what you are willing to do to get more money (1 Timothy 6:9-10).
  • Love people more than money (1 Timothy 6:11).
  • Love God's work more than money (1 Timothy 6:11).
  • Freely share what you have with others (1 Timothy 6:18).

See Proverbs 30:7-9 for more on avoiding the love of money.

- Life Application Bible Commentary on the New Testament [ref]


1 TIMOTHY 6:10 - Love of Money ... The Destruction

the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil (1 Timothy 6:10)
This was "a widely used ancient proverb." [ref]

"The predicate naturally lacks the article so that we should not stress either 'a root' or 'the root.' Money-love is 'root of all the evils' ... All things that are 'bad' may grow out of money-love as shoots grow out of a root; nothing good ever grows out of it. This shows what money-love really is. A root is hidden in the evil; what it is we see from the growth it sends up." [ref]

The literal reading is "all the evils" (NASB). Either this is hyperbole [ref], or Paul's intended meaning is indeed all sorts/types/kinds of evil. "Surely men today need no proof of the fact that men and women will commit any sin or crime for money." [ref]

"What then are the evils of which the love of money is a major root or cause? A long list could be given. Avarice leads to selfishness, cheating, fraud, perjury and robbery, to envy, quarrelling and hatred, to violence and even murder. Greed lies behind marriages of convenience, perversions of justice, drug-pushing, pornography sales, blackmail, the exploitation of the weak, the neglect of good causes, and the betrayal of friends." [ref]

by longing for (1 Timothy 6:10)
This phrase (Greek oregō) pictures someone stretching "in order to touch or grasp something." [ref] The meaning is that "'in, while, or by aspiring' [= 'longing for'] these two things happened to these people, which constitute them concrete warnings for us: 'they were made to wander away from the faith (passive: by their unnatural aspiration) and pierced themselves with many pains.'" [ref]

Here we might pause to recall that "God’s laborer is certainly worthy of his hire (1 Tim. 5:17–18), but his motive for laboring must not be money. That would make him a 'hireling,' and not a true shepherd (John 10:11–14)." [ref]

pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Timothy 6:10)
"Paul describes the toll taken in spiritual loss, broken relationships and damaged reputations as griefs that pierce like thorns." [ref] While Paul does not provide specific examples of "griefs," surely they would include such things as "unrest, boredom, dissatisfaction, gloom, envy" [ref], "worry and remorse, the pangs of a disregarded conscience, the discovery that materialism can never satisfy the human spirit, and final despair." [ref]


[1 Timothy 6:6-10], which is the apostle’s charge to the Christian poor, both the contented poor and the covetous poor, is calculated to make Christianity’s critics explode with anger. ‘This is precisely what Marx meant’, they will say, ‘when he called religion “the opium of the people”. Christianity instils into the proletariat a false contentment with their lot. It encourages the poor to accept their poverty, and to acquiesce in the status quo (instead of rebelling against it), on the flimsy ground that they will be compensated in the next world.’ How shall we reply? We have to concede that Marx was partly correct in his analysis. Christianity does teach contentment, and some Christians and churches have misused this Christian emphasis to defend the exploitation of the poor and to keep them in their oppression, while promising them freedom in heaven. But Paul is not guilty of this. Two clarifications of his teaching need to be made.

First, as we have already seen, the poverty he is writing about is not destitution, which is destructive of humanness, but a simplicity of lifestyle which is entirely compatible with human dignity. With the latter we should be content, but not with the former.

Secondly, the contentment Paul is writing about is not acquiescence in social injustice. On the contrary, we are called to combine personal contentment with the quest for justice, especially if it is justice for other people that we are fighting for.

The apostle’s essential emphasis is clear, namely that covetousness is a self-destructive evil, whereas simplicity and contentment are beautiful and Christlike virtues. In a word, he is not for poverty against wealth, but for contentment against covetousness.

- John R. W. Stott [ref]


*Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. ( | **This outline is from The Bible Exposition Commentary, by Warren W. Wiersbe