Here in verses 9 and 10 Paul is describing the poor. It is not until verse 17 does Paul give instructions for the rich. It is not the contented poor he has in mind, but the envious poor, those who ‘want to get rich’ and are motivated by ‘the love of money’. Read the stories of Adam and Eve, Achan, Judas, and Ananias and Sapphira, they all came to grief through some form of enviousness.
Many people will say, “Money is the root of all evil.” This is one of the most misquoted passages of Scripture; it is true that becoming consumed with the quest for material luxuries can sidetrack even the most well-meaning Christian. In verse 11 Paul says to Timothy that you are to be a contrast to the world, who chase after riches. Timothy was to do the opposite, he was to flee to from all this and not to allow greed to distract him from the things that are really worth going after: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Like Timothy, we should concentrate on running away from evil. But we run after many things which attract us, like pleasure, promotion, fame, wealth and power. Instead, we should concentrate on the pursuit of holiness which is righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.
So how do you acquire all these great things? You ask God to build them into your life. Then be ready for the way he does so! For example, is God allowing you to go through hard times? Now is a great time to learn endurance! Don’t quit. Don’t give up hope. Endurance is learned by enduring, not by avoiding hardship at all costs. What about pursuing love? Maybe God has linked you in some way with a person who’s very hard to love. Love that person anyway! Pray for that person. Do something kind for that person. Love grows the most when it’s the hardest, and the person who is hardest to love probably needs love the most.
There is no particular secret to learn, no formula to recite, no technique to master. We are simply to run from evil as we run from danger, and to run after goodness as we run after success. That is, we have to give our mind, time and energy to both flight and pursuit. Once we see evil as the evil it is, we will want to flee from it, and once we see goodness as the good it is, we will want to pursue it.
Pursuing riches takes a lot of effort. So does pursuing godliness. Each will take you in a different direction. One leads to grief; the other, to joy. So choose your path wisely.
- Henry Blackaby