This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
CHEVRON FINED $8.5bn FOR 18.5bn GALLONS OF TOXIC WASTE IN AMAZON
1 Timothy 6:6-21
6Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; 7for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; 8but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. 9But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.
11 But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15which he will bring about at the right time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. 16It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen.
17 As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, 19thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.
20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the profane chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge; 21by professing it some have missed the mark as regards the faith. Grace be with you.
That money is the root of many evils is well illustrated in the story of Chevron’s pollution of the Amazon.
Central to this passage is the concept of the “good confession” or maybe we should translate “profession”. Timothy is said to have made this before many witnesses, probably at his baptism. This has bound him to Jesus Christ and his promised salvation, while also committing him to the way of Jesus, which is not the way of the world but leads to eternal life. It is clear that the writer expects Christian people to be distinct from others by their readiness to forego passing happiness for the sake of eternal happiness. Jesus showed this readiness when he made the “good confession” that is, when he refused to compromise his witness to God to save his life. The ethic of godliness (the virtues of Jesus) combined with contentment (satisfaction with a modest livelihood) is attractive even if the advice to the rich adds up to not much more than asking them to be benevolent. If I managed to live by the precepts of this writer, I’d be a better minister
38 As Jesus taught, he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, 39and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! 40They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’
41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’
The difference between the decent teaching of the author of Timothy and the more radical teaching of Jesus is seen here. He sees that the larger sums donated by rich people are “out of their abundance”, whereas the widow has given her whole livelihood (literally her “whole life”). The danger of conventional decency, with its honours, is shown by Jesus in his criticism of the religious leaders who enjoy the honour more than commandments of God. Sometimes the demand of Jesus for radical commitment may seem over the top in comparison with a more settled faith; but the radicalism that grasps the heart protects believers from hypocrisy. The poor person, who seeks no honour but gives her all, is honoured by Jesus.