Today’s Reading: 1 Timothy 6
There’s a word in the game of football that keeps enduring—Hut! An article in The New York Times pondered why this word keeps hanging around:
It is easily the most audible word in any football game, a throaty grunt that may be the sport’s most distinguishing sound.
It starts almost every play, and often one is not enough. And in an increasingly complex game whose signal-calling has evolved into a cacophony of furtive code words—“Black Dirt!,” “Big Belly!,” “X Wiggle!”—hut, hut, hut endures as the signal to move.
But why? . . .
“I have no idea why we say hut,” said Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce. . . . “I guess because it’s better than yelling, ‘Now,’ or ‘Go.’”
Joe Theismann, the former Washington Redskins quarterback . . . reckons he shouted “hut” more than 10,000 times during games and practices. . . . “I’ve been hutting my way through football for 55 years—but I have no clue why.”
The article conjectures that “hut” may come from the military backgrounds of many early pro football players. But that’s just a guess.
This is similar to what Christians believe and why. Many people have been told what to believe without the why or the rationale behind that belief or doctrine. And it’s been around so long, they don’t have a clue about the explanation.
The word doctrine means a set of beliefs or teachings from the Bible. Why do we believe what we believe? Or are we just saying hut, hut every Sunday and not knowing why? Will we get thousands of years into Christianity since the resurrection of Jesus and be asked why we say and do certain things and not have an answer?
Fortunately, we learn some answers in today’s chapter, where Paul tells us the why. Paul takes a thirty-thousand-foot view of doctrine. He talks about doctrinal diversions but gives us one big statement. Here are Paul’s important words:
“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, he 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, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.” (1 Timothy 6:3-5)
There it is: the bombshell phrase, the thirty-thousand-foot view of why we believe: doctrine conforming us to godliness. To know if a belief system is true, the end result of our belief should make us godly, which means it should make us look more like Jesus.
Religion tries to get us to look like the club, the people on Sundays and in the pew. The goal is not to look like Sunday people but to lift our eyes a lot higher to heaven. Our goal is not to look like the person in the pulpit but the One who sits on the throne of heaven. That’s what doctrine is supposed to do. It conforms us to godliness. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “If your knowledge of doctrine does not make you a great man of prayer, you had better examine yourself again.”
Paul wants to help us better understand how it plays out practically, so he offers the question “Can you be rich and a Christian?” as the test case. The answer is “yes, absolutely.” But Paul reminds us of some things in our lab work:
“Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (Verses 9-10)
Paul challenges not being rich, but the reason behind why we want to get rich. It’s not the money but the motive that is destructive. If we want money we will fall into temptation and a snare to many foolish desires. That desire is so powerful that people have wandered from the faith.
But Paul says that you can be rich with the right motive. He doesn’t stop there, though. Remember he says doctrine should conform us to godliness. We cannot say to Christians that we need to be rich or we need to be poor. That is religious. We can say to Christians that whether we are rich or poor, we must make sure we look more and more like Jesus.
If it’s the prosperity doctrine telling people that gain is godliness, they are wrong. If it’s another camp telling people that poverty like Mother Teresa is what God wants, that doctrine is just as bad.
Our goal in life is not to look like a rich televangelist or like a woman in India. Our goal is to look like the Man who died for our sins.
Paul continues by saying this to the rich people in regards to godliness:
“Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” (Verses 17-19)
Those words are really for all of us: Do good. Be rich in good works. Be generous. Be ready to share.
Nineteenth-century preacher J. C. Ryle captured it well when he said: Doctrine is useless if it is not accompanied by a holy life. It is worse than useless: it does positive harm. . . . Something of “the image of Christ,” which can be seen and observed by others in our private life, and habits, and character, and doings.”