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, 4he 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…”
– 1 Timothy 6:3-4 (NASB)
Lately, I’ve been asking myself the question, “How would I know if I was paying attention to a different doctrine or to those advocating unsound words that were not supported by the teaching and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ?” In 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, the apostle Paul charges young Timothy that sound doctrine conforming to godly living is the will of God for the man of God.
My life journey has been continually assaulted with different doctrines that contradict Paul’s charge to Timothy to pursue righteousness and godliness (1 Timothy 6:11). I want to be a discerner of the times like the men of Issachar in 1 Chronicles 12:32; however, I’m constantly being tempted to pay attention to those advocating different doctrines.
In my late teens, I used to make regular trips to the corner drugstore to buy my next self-help book. The titles and content were always alluring, promising me riches and happiness. The books encouraged me to follow “master keys” for opening the door to life’s financial blessings, including thinking right and acting enthusiastic. But there was always something missing.
Into my college years I can well remember my life plan was to get my degree, land a high-paying job, make beaucoup bucks, and live the American dream. Then, I would be “successful,” of course only according to the world’s value system. Looking back on those years, I now realize how far away my thinking was to the sound doctrine of Scripture and God’s call to service and sacrifice in the life of a Christian. My heart was taken up with the things of this world, and I was totally immersed in “different doctrine” thinking that money was the answer to all of life’s problems and challenges.
If you were to ask me back then “What do you really want,” the answer would have been “I want peace, happiness, significance, a good reputation, the respect and admiration of my friends, parents and society, and above all financial success.” Of course, I wanted a woman in my life too but that’s a topic for another day.
While at college, a godly Christian barber with a heart for evangelism was cutting my hair. He showed me the love of God, challenged me with the Scriptures, and talked to me about Bible prophecy. God’s Holy Spirit was working in my heart, and soon, my devotion and zeal to read self-help books was replaced by a desire to read the Scriptures and learn about Jesus Christ.
I can still vividly remember the first time I walked into a Christian bookstore. The shelves were filled with “God-help” books that replaced all the “self-help” books I had been reading. I purchased a Thompson Chain Reference Bible and started devouring the Scriptures.
After college graduation, I had exhausted the supply of self-help books at the corner drugstore. Like every college graduate, I was feeling the pressure as a young man in my early 20s to land the perfect job and take my place in society.
The self-help books always encouraged me, but there was always something missing. God had surrounded me with Christians while at college, and He was giving me a regular dosage of Scripture through my barber’s ministry. I was convicted of the sin in my life and that I needed to place my faith and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross to obtain salvation. A personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and a newfound love for the scriptures replaced my interest in self-help books.
I began a lifelong journey of learning and understanding how money permeates our society and can advocate a “different doctrine” that contradicts God’s commands in scripture. I also learned that contrary to what my flesh desires and our society promotes, the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ encourages me to take up my cross daily (Luke 9:23) and live a life of self-denial, giving, and service to others.
Fast-forward. For more than 30 year now I’ve been the president of a small wealth management firm and have had thousands of conversations with Christians and non-Christians about their money. I have observed firsthand the ongoing battle of faith (1 Timothy 6:12) Christians are engaged in to not pay attention to false doctrine masquerading as truth in Christendom and in our culture. We are bombarded and immersed in “different doctrines” that do not conform to what Jesus taught. Our culture and “prosperity gospel” preachers suggest that more money, a bigger house, a better car, and expensive vacations are the tickets to contentment.
This is not to say the Bible is against people who are wealthy. It is most certainly not! Abraham was blessed with flocks, herds, silver, gold, servants and livestock in Genesis 24:35. Isaac in Genesis 26:14 “became rich, and continued to grow richer until he became very wealthy.” David in 1 Chronicles 29:28 died at an old age with riches and honor. Solomon in 2 Chronicles 9:22 “passed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom.” In Matthew 27:57 we learn that Joseph of Arimathaei was a rich man and disciple of Jesus. God is not against His people having money or blessing them financially.
But false teachers present “different doctrines,” communicating that the praise of men, pleasure, possessions, wealth and ease will bring joy, peace and contentment, when in fact the opposite may be true. I’ve personally learned, as well as observed in the lives of our clients, that idolizing these things can bring anxiety, fear, depression and distress. When the focus of my heart is on sound doctrine and godliness, and living to please and glorify God, I experience a refreshing contentment in my soul.
Here are a couple of Questions for Reflection
Consider what predominates most of your thinking time, beliefs, and desires in your life. Have “different doctrines” about money and possessions captured your heart? Are you more content when your life focus is on Jesus, or when you’re focused on the praise of men, pleasure, possessions, ease and wealth?
Have you experienced that following the “sound words” of Jesus Christ related to a life of devotion to God, self-sacrifice, giving and service to others (Matthew 5:16) actually brings you more of a contented state of being? Is your life characterized by looking out for the interests of others, as well as looking out for your own personal interests (Philippians 2:4)?
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Thanks for reading!