1 Timothy 6:1-21

Slaves, believers under a “yoke of servitude,” were to accord their masters “all honor,” striving not to have “God’s name and the teaching” blasphemed. By being respectful of their owners and exemplary in discharging their duties, slaves would avoid becoming objects of legitimate complaints and displeasure. Masters would then not speak abusively of the God whom their slaves worshiped nor of the way of life that “the teaching,” with its focus on God’s Son, motivated. (6:1)

Slaves with believing owners were not to look down on them, despising them as not having any standing above them as Christ’s disciples. Instead, they should more readily serve them, recognizing that they are benefiting beloved brothers in the same family of faith. The things that Paul wanted Timothy to use as a basis for teaching and exhortation related either to what he had set forth up to this point or the matters he mentioned thereafter. (6:2)

Anyone who taught things other than the “healthful words of our Lord Jesus Christ” and which were not in harmony with the teaching “according to godliness” is described as “conceited” (typhóo), “not understanding anything, but diseased about searchings” or controversial questioning and “fights over words.” (6:3, 4)

Jesus’ words, or the thoughts he expressed, are “healthful” or sound, promoting the well-being of believers. Nothing he said would ever lead anyone into a course of life that would be injurious. His words, when followed, result in lasting benefits. Teaching “according to godliness” designates teaching that serves to motivate those who heed it to live uprightly in harmony with Christ’s example. (6:3)

For the Greek term typhóo, the meaning “conceited” has the support of the Latin Vulgate and the Syriac. The Vulgate renders the word as superbus (conceited, arrogant, insolent, or superb). Typhóo can also signify to be deluded, and ancient Greek writers even used the word to denote being mentally sick. In this context, typhóo may describe a state of being extremely arrogant and deluded. Individuals who fit this description exalt their own ideas above the plain words of Jesus and often resort to bluster and ridicule when trying to persuade others to accept their distortions of the truth. (6:4)

Arrogant and deluded, advocates of error have no understanding of Jesus’ words but perceive them in a distorted manner. These persons are “diseased” in their thinking, raising speculative questions and delving into matters that are pointless. They debate and argue, fighting about the use and significance of words instead of focusing on the message the words as a whole convey. (6:4)

The questionings (“searchings” or “seekings”) and the fights over words breed “envy, strife, blasphemies, evil surmisings” or suspicions and “wrangling.” Often the objects of the envy or jealousy are those who may be more persuasive in their argumentation. Entrenched in their wrong views, advocates of error are given to strife or quarreling. They resort to blasphemy, slander, or abusive words when countering those who reject their wrong opinions. Insisting on the correctness of their twisted views, they look with suspicion on persons who question their position and are quick to assail their reputation on the basis of hearsay and without any verifiable evidence. Teachers of falsehood are so self-deluded that they are willing to wrangle, repeatedly engaging in fierce arguments to defend their unfounded opinions. (6:4, 5)

Paul described the men who engaged in wrangling as “corrupt in mind and despoiled of the truth, supposing godliness to be a means of gain.” These teachers of falsehood were morally corrupt in their thinking and did not possess the truth as Jesus Christ had revealed it through his example and teaching. They were completely deprived of this truth, as if it had been snatched away from them as booty. These corrupt men imagined godliness (in their case, a mere profession of godliness) to be a way to derive gain. This suggests that they used their position as supposed teachers to profit materially or to elicit the admiration and praise of those who accepted their teaching. (6:5; see the Notes section.)

Persons who are truly reverential do not seek to exploit their godliness for any kind of profit. But, in itself, godliness does lead to “great gain” when accompanied by “contentment.” The godly person is content with the basic necessities of life, not yearning for riches or a luxurious lifestyle. Humans enter the world with nothing and, at death, cannot carry anything out with them. Realistically, then, godly persons are content with food, clothing, and adequate shelter, recognizing that all material things are temporary in nature. Their life as godly persons is one of “great gain,” for they enjoy an inner sense of well-being from knowing that God’s loving care, concern, and aid will never be lacking. Their hope of an eternal future as his beloved children is certain of fulfillment. (6:6-8)

“But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and many senseless and injurious desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the root of all evils is the love of money [literally, love of silver], by which some, [in] reaching out for [it], were led astray from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” (6:9, 10)

Those who make it their aim in life to be rich will soon act out of harmony with a divinely approved course. When the goal to be rich begins to control the life of individuals, they will find themselves tempted to use dishonest or questionable means to accumulate wealth. The longing for riches is ensnaring, for the entire life becomes captive to acquiring money and possessions. Desires that are focused exclusively on obtaining material things are “senseless,” for nothing of a material nature has lasting value. Material things cannot be retained as permanent possessions. The determination to be rich hampers a person’s ability to recognize what has the greatest importance in life. In value, nothing compares with having an approved relationship with God and Christ and being a part of his family of beloved children, wherein genuine friendships flourish. Those who greedily reach out for riches end up hurting themselves and others, sacrificing a good conscience and failing to respond in a compassionate and caring manner to fellow humans. The final result can be spiritual ruin and destruction because of forfeiting a good relationship with the Father and his Son. (6:9; see the Notes section.)

From the standpoint of where it can lead, “the love of money is a root of all evils.” When greediness controls them, persons are willing to do almost anything to obtain money. They may use questionable, fraudulent, or even violent means to acquire it, completely disregarding the harm they are causing to themselves and fellow humans. Paul knew of some in the community of believers who had become entangled by a love for money and, therefore, had ceased living a life of faith in God and his Son. Those who had been “led astray from the faith” experienced “many pains,” as if they had stabbed themselves all over their bodies. Hopelessly ensnared by their love for money, they may have sensed within themselves the emptiness of their lives. For transitory material possessions, they had given up a relationship with God and Christ, a clean conscience, a sense of well-being from an awareness of divine care and help, a loving family of fellow children of God, and a hope of sharing with them in a permanent inheritance. (6:10)

Referring to Timothy as a “man of God” (a man in God’s service who had been granted a special ministry or sacred trust), Paul urged him to “flee from these [things],” as would one in making a speedy escape from a grave danger. Based on the context, “these things” would be the desire for riches and the love of money, and all the injurious things that could result. Instead of a pursuit centered on obtaining temporary possessions, Timothy was to pursue the things that are enduring ― “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.” These qualities are not the ones that distinguish the conduct of persons who greedily seek to gain riches. (6:11)

Pursuing righteousness means seeking to do what is right, just, or fair. The pursuit of wealth, if not outrightly dishonest, is marked by unfairness toward others. “Godliness” requires that God and Christ be the center of one’s life and not the acquisition of material possessions. In the pursuit of “faith,” Timothy would have endeavored to continue growing in his faith in God and his Son. There is also a possibility that “faith” here denotes trustworthiness, which would have called for Timothy to demonstrate himself to be faithful in discharging his responsibilities. Love is a selfless concern and care for others, and includes a willingness to put the interests of fellow humans ahead of one’s own. This kind of love is woefully lacking among those who are determined to be rich, for they are often callous and even hateful toward the afflicted. To “endure” denotes to bear up patiently under difficult or distressing circumstances. The wealthy, on the other hand, tend to be impatient and demanding, being easily irritated when developments are not according to their liking. In their attitude, the rich may be harsh, overbearing, and demeaning, but Timothy was to be gentle, mild, or meek. (6:11)

Timothy’s fighting the “good fight of the faith” involved his struggling to uphold the faith in God and Christ, defending it and resisting those who would introduce false teachings. He would have needed to keep his own faith strong and pure and to assist the community of believers to do likewise. (6:12)

To take hold of the “eternal life” to which he had been called, Timothy had to maintain a firm grip on his relationship to God and Christ, never letting it slip from him. According to Jesus’ words, eternal life is knowing him and his Father, signifying an enduring relationship with them. Ultimately, believers will enjoy this relationship in the sinless state for all eternity. (John 17:3) Timothy came into possession of the real life, the eternal life, upon putting faith in Jesus Christ, accepting the forgiveness made possible through his sacrificial death, and thereby coming to be reconciled to his Father. (6:12)

Timothy also needed to take hold of the “good confession” that he confessed “before many witnesses.” The “good confession” could refer to the acknowledgment of his faith in God and Christ at the time of his baptism. This confession would have been made in the presence of many witnesses. Another possibility is that he, at the time of his being designated for special service with the apostle Paul, made the expression of faith before numerous witnesses. Timothy’s following through on Paul’s admonition required that he act in harmony with the expression of faith that he had made publicly, continuing to adhere to it without wavering. (6:12)

In a solemn manner, Paul charged Timothy to carry out his commission, declaring his charge to be made “before God, who makes all alive, and Christ Jesus, who [when] testifying to Pontius Pilate, [made] the good confession.” God is the source of life, the sustainer of life, and the restorer of life. Thus Timothy would have been reminded that he was accountable to the Father to whom he owed his life. Moreover, in faithfully carrying out his responsibilities, he would be in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ and was to imitate his example. To Pontius Pilate, Jesus made the “good confession,” declaring that his kingdom was not of this world and that he had come into the world to bear witness to the truth. (6:13; John 18:36, 37)

The “commandment” Paul charged Timothy to keep “spotless” and “irreproachable until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ” appears to have related to the directive he had given to him about carrying out his commission. At the time of his return in glory, Jesus Christ would become manifest to all on the earth and his living disciples would be changed, joining him and the believers who had been resurrected immediately upon his arrival. It was Paul’s earnest desire that his beloved fellow worker be found approved at the time of Christ’s manifestation, having fulfilled the command respecting his commission in a spotless and blameless manner. (6:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17)

According to Jesus’ words, only his Father knew the time when the manifestation would take place. (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32; Acts 1:6, 7) Christ’s appearance in glory is to occur at the time his Father had predetermined. Reasonably, then, his Father would be the one who would “show” the manifestation in its “own times.” The Father is the “happy” and “only Sovereign,” enjoying an unparalleled state of well-being, contentment, and satisfaction as the Supreme One. Although he has committed the kingship to his Son, the Father remains the Most High and so is the “King of kings and Lord of lords.” None of the deities that have been or are still revered possess immortality. They are, in fact, lifeless. Only the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ is the God who is immortal, dwelling in “unapproachable light, which no man has seen nor can see.” The divine glory is of such a nature that no human would be able to endure the sight. God’s greatness and magnificence is such that Paul rightly ascribed “honor” or dignity and eternal might or dominion to him. The apostle concluded the prayerful expression with “amen” (so be it). (6:15, 16; Exodus 33:20; see the Notes section on verse 15.)

Earlier, Paul had warned about the grave spiritual danger posed by a desire for riches and a love of money. Among the believers in Ephesus, some were wealthy and so he directed Timothy to aid them to keep the right perspective regarding themselves and their possessions. Timothy was to command the “rich in the present age” not to be arrogant nor to set their hope on, or to place their trust in, “uncertain riches.” Believers should not assume a proud bearing on account of their means and regard themselves as superior to others because of their wealth and what they can accomplish with it. Present riches are uncertain, for they are temporary and cannot provide real security. Circumstances are subject to change, and war or persecution could lead to the loss of all material possessions. Like other believers, the wealthy should rest their hope on God, fully trusting him to supply their needs. He is the one who provides richly or abundantly everything that humans can enjoy. All good things are really his gifts. (6:17; Acts 14:16, 17; 17:28)

Wealthy believers were to use their assets well in doing what is good, being “rich in good works, generous, ready to share.” Through generous and willing giving to those in need, the wealthy would become “rich in good works.” (6:18)

In this way, the rich would be “treasuring,” storing, or building for themselves a “good foundation for the future.” Their record of generous and rightly motivated giving would prove to be like a treasure deposited in heaven. It would be comparable to their having built a secure and lasting foundation, one that God would look upon favorably and reward richly. Through the proper use of their assets, they would be taking hold of the “real life” or, according to other manuscripts, the “eternal life,” signifying a never-ending relationship with the Father and his Son. (6:19)

Timothy had been entrusted with the sound words of the truth that centered on Christ and what his death accomplished. Additionally, he had been commissioned to serve the community of believers. Paul’s admonition for him to guard what had been entrusted to him would include the deposit of sound teaching and his assignment of service. His being vigilant regarding what he had received would necessitate his “turning away from profane, empty expressions and the contradictions of the falsely called knowledge.” Those who promoted falsehood represented their views as valuable knowledge. Their opinions, however, proved to be no knowledge but defiling and empty, worthless, or ruinous teaching. The contradictions of this “falsely called knowledge” may refer to the strife and disputes to which erroneous views gave rise. (6:20)

By being taken in by this “falsely called knowledge,” some believers had deviated from the faith. They had allowed the baneful influence of erroneous teaching to turn them away from the truth that Jesus Christ had revealed through his words and deeds. (6:21)

Paul concluded with the prayerful thought, “Favor [be] with you.” The pronoun “you” is plural in many manuscripts, suggesting that the apostle’s desire was that the community of believers (and not just Timothy) be recipients of God’s gracious favor in the form of aid, guidance, and blessing. In other manuscripts, the “you” is singular. (6:21; see the Notes section.)


In verse 5, many manuscripts end with the additional words, “From such [persons] turn away.”

After “snare” (in verse 9), a number of manuscripts add, “of the devil.”

The Greek text of verse 15 does not specify who would be doing the “showing.” Numerous modern translations are explicit in identifying God as the one. “Our Lord Jesus Christ, who at the due time will be revealed by God.” (NJB) “At the time God has already decided, he will send Jesus Christ back again.” (CEV) “God will make that happen at the right time.” (NCV) “The appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ which God will bring about in his own good time.” (REB)

In numerous manuscripts, the concluding prayerful expression ends with “amen” (so be it).