What do we mean when we talk about ‘godliness’?
2 Timothy 3
3 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.
10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Some parts of the Bible can seem very alien to us – stories about things that happened in ancient cultures with strange customs, or demons and angels and spiritual things. But Paul’s words here in Timothy are very familiar. He’s painting a picture of a world in the last days, but really it could be the world at any time – a world drowning in the very worst of humanity. It’s an important reminder that the Bible isn’t a fairy tale. It’s about the very real world that we live in.
‘Godliness’ is Paul’s favourite buzzword in Timothy. Almost all occurrences of ‘godliness’ in the Bible are in Paul’s letters to Timothy, which were written near the end of his life. As if, after his long career of travelling and preaching and doing God’s work, he found this one, efficient word to sum it all up. He gives us a picture of what godliness means in the last paragraph – faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings. Now, who else in the Bible does this remind us of?
Head: Think of all the things that Paul lists here, reflecting on godliness and ungodliness. Can you think of when you’ve seen them in people around you?
Heart: Have you seen godliness in yourself this week?
Hands: How can you ‘continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of’?
Prayer: Lord, be with us as we strive for godliness – to be empowered by your Word, and to see the world around us for what it really is. Help us watch out for those who are not lovers of God, but lovers of themselves. And help us to rely on your Word in the Bible as a trustworthy picture of your world and your love. Amen.
A song to listen to: Your Word
Zoe Harland- Creek Road Presbyterian Church- Carina