When we read 2 Timothy 3:1–8, we see the apostle Paul reminding Timothy not of signs of the times, but of sins of the times. He lists twenty-one behaviors that are a result of of the distorted values of people around and among his church. Paul, talking about believers who have allowed the values of the world creeps into their thinking and way of life.
We can catch the essence of the list if we focus on the four “love” statements in verses 2 and 4. Paul uses the word Philos, which is is one of several Greek words for love. Philos, emphasizes the love of a person for people or things. It’s where we get the word Philadelphia, or city of brotherly love. He uses this word intentionally to show the basic source of trouble in the world is people—specifically people who direct their love to themselves (v.2), to money (v.2), and to pleasure (v. 4) rather than to God (v. 4).
LOVERS OF THEMSELVES: We live in a “me-first” world. We abandon Jesus teaching on humility and serving others to a self-directed, self-effacing love of ourselves. Bible teacher Kay Arthur wrote, “Self-love is that poor, but very deluding, substitute of God’s love that deceptively puts man at the center instead of God. It is then that God exists for man, rather than man for God.”
LOVERS OF MONEY: People today are preoccupied with money (see 1 Timothy 6:9–10). It’s difficult to escape the barrage of commercials and media that focus on money. Yet, at the same time, we see incredible brokenness in the midst of affluence. In His teaching Jesus emphasizes the incredible power of riches to distort and disintegrate our lives. Money isn’t the issue; it’s the love of money. It’s our preoccupation with money instead of being preoccupied with God that’s harmful.
LOVERS OF PLEASURE: As with money and self, pleasure can become a distorted focus, a misdirected love. God wants us to have fun. He wants us to seek positive entertainment. That’s not the point. We cross the boundary when we crave pleasure more than we crave Him. The issue is our attitude toward pleasure—replacing our love of God with the idolatry of pleasure and loving pleasure.
LOVERS OF GOD: Friends, God must be at the center of our love. Misplaced love (or love that is focused on self, money and pleasure) is precisely why there is so little life-changing power in so many of our churches. When our love is misdirected we lose sight of all that God has for us. We lose sight of His purposes and His plans. We’re so misdirected that we have a “form of godliness” (v. 5) but we aren’t full on in our trust, reliance and confidence in God. Our lives are a merry-go-round seeking everything but the One Thing.
Where is your love directed? At God? Or is it directed in another direction that’s causing you to lose sight of the One who empowers you to be love and give love?