Theme: When the Church Acts Like the World
In this week’s lessons, we are reminded of the need to continue in those things we have learned from Scripture, in order to live a holy life.
Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:1-17
The interesting thing about these days as Paul describes them to Timothy is that they refer in this case not so much to the secular world as to the secular church. We get this from verse 5, where Paul writes of those who have a form of godliness but deny its power. Since this cannot be said of the world, which is ungodly, Paul must therefore be talking about people in the church who have a form of godliness—that is, religious people who go through all the rites of religion—but whose lives are characterized by the very kind of things he spells out here. This is the kind of troubling situation Timothy is going to be facing in the future.
As I read over verses 1-9, it seems to me that we can break them down as addressing three different ideas. The first deals with the immorality of these people. Here, we are not speaking about sexual immorality, but, instead, general immoral behavior. Notice the things Paul talks about in verses 2-4: “People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—…”
What a description that is of our age! If I were going to apply it to any period I would apply it to our own. What more characterizes our time than people being lovers of themselves? Do we have an age in the whole history of the world more preoccupied with self? One writer has called it the “me generation.” It is the “new narcissism,” as Time magazine put it some years ago. People are wrapped up in themselves, rather than in God and from him toward others.
If we are honest with ourselves, we have to say that we are not very interesting subjects with which to be preoccupied. If you want to be perfectly miserable, keep focusing on yourself all the time. You will keep going over all the things that you don’t like about yourself but cannot change. Or you will keep thinking about things that others have that you don’t but think you deserve.
If you really want to be joyous, then you have to do what the Lord Jesus Christ did, who looked not upon his own affairs but on the affairs of others. He did this to the greatest possible extent, of course, by offering himself for others on the cross. But we can follow his example by putting aside our own interests in order to serve other people. And when you do that, when you put others first, you find that you actually improve yourself at the same time.
The next category of people Paul mentions is lovers of money. Now it’s true that in any age there are always people who love money; but one thing about past ages of the world is that apart from the rich, the vast majority of people didn’t have enough money to love it. Or if they did love it, they only did so in their minds but not in reality. But today even people who are not considered wealthy do have enough money with which to feed their materialism that our society pushes at them from every angle.
The next two, being boastful and proud, seem to go together, and makes me think of Romans 1, where Paul describes the moral decline of the culture in which he lives. Then, at the end of that section in Romans, he talks about the people who not only engage in such unrighteous behavior, but then even go a step further by taking pleasure when other people do the same wicked things. Now we don’t need to comment about each item Paul gives. These are all things that Paul says exist, not only in the world, where we would expect to find them, but in the church.
What is noteworthy about whom Paul is writing in verses 1-9? How do we know who he is talking about?
What do we need to do to be joyful rather than miserable?
Application: Do you find at times that you are thinking too much about yourself? What can you do to correct this?