Paul’s conclusion in regards to contentment and that which is truly valuable is “But if we have food and shelter, we will be satisfied with that” (1 Timothy 6:8). This is quite the contrast from the general attitude as reflected by the acquisitive human appetite. It takes a genuine work of the Spirit of the Creator God to create such contentment. This is true for all time, and stands in special and stringent opposition to Paul’s world, as it was largely defined by constructs of honor and shame.
In the end, this contentment with food and shelter leads to the removal of oneself from the always ongoing competition to increase one’s public honor and avoid shame. For the citizen of the kingdom of the Christ, it should be the case that a concern with that kingdom’s priorities, as an animation of the Spirit of the Creator God, would rush in to fill the void of this ardent opposition to the ways of the world. This contentment, realized against the backdrop in which contentment is never an option, but may simply be viewed as an accommodation and acquiescence to a perpetual and unalterable position of shame in the eyes of the culture, operates in a stark contrast with the alternative.
Along these lines, Paul writes “Those who long to be rich,” which can also be heard as those that pursue honor (and if they do, they do so according to the rules and regulations of the world’s patron, that being Caesar, thereby serving to ultimately enhance his public honor rather than that of the world’s true patron and Lord), “however, stumble into temptation and a trap and many senseless and harmful desires that plunge into ruin and destruction” (6:9).
This is not a blanket condemnation of wealth, as wealthy can certainly be used rightly and to the ongoing extension of the kingdom of the covenant God as a manifestation of the mysterious work of His Spirit, but of misplaced desire, especially on the part of denizens of the kingdom of that God. Understanding that, it is said that “the love of money is the root of all evils. Some people in reaching for it have strayed from the faith and stabbed themselves with many pains” (6:10).
The associated warning is “But you, as a person dedicated to God,” as a member of His kingdom community, with a higher and more honorable calling than can possibly be imagined (serving the poor, the blind, the lame, the maimed, orphans, widows, etc…), “keep away from all that. Instead pursue righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness” (6:11). Righteousness is to be understood as a place among the Creator God’s covenant people. Godliness can be heard as an imitation of the Christ, looking to His faithfulness in the midst of overwhelming shame. Love, endurance, and gentleness were to be the hallmarks of the church.