2 Timothy 3:14—4:5 (NRSV)
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is[a] useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
4 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: 2 proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. 5 As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.
[a] 2 Timothy 3:16. Or Every scripture inspired by God is also
After reading a few versions of the scripture, these few verses from The Message are what stood out to me.
2 Timothy 4 3:5 from The Message
“You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food - catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you - keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.”
It’s easy to find examples of Christianity being wielded as a weapon and scripture being cherry-picked to suit an agenda or defend actions or policies. So how do we separate “solid teaching” from “spiritual junk food?” Sometimes it’s straightforward. Other times it’s less clear. How can I be certain that I, myself, am not cherry-picking?
Maybe I can sit with some questions that will help me sort nourishment from spiritual junk food.
Does this message challenge me or disrupt my own personal comfort?
Does this teaching lead me to widen my circle or lengthen my table?
Who is included or excluded if I act on this message?
Am I being called to prioritize “we” or “me” in this teaching?
What is the broader context of this scripture?
Am I listening to a diverse set of voices?
Solid teaching must be challenging, and maybe questions like these will help me avoid getting too comfortable and filling up on spiritual junk food. May these be reminders to do the hard work of seeking true nourishment.
[Ann Foisy has been attending Central Christian for a few years with her husband, Luke, and daughters, Claire & Julia.]
To me, this passage from Timothy is a call for one’s patience and steadfast perseverance in the teachings. Timothy explains to us that all scripture is inspired by God, and if we continue to absorb these precious lessons we will become more and more one with God.
I’d like to explore one verse that gave me pause: verse 15. In the two versions of the text I explored, the Revised Common Lectionary and the New International Version (NIV), there is a slight difference in wording, which sparked some reflection. The NIV states, “from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus,” while the Common Lectionary uses the word ‘childhood’ in place of the word ‘infancy.’ Albeit a very minor change in wording, gave rise to some questions. Are we born knowing the teachings inherently? Surely, we must study intensely and carry out the ministry daily to learn and change our circumstances.
The verse states, “. . . Scriptures, which are able to make you wise.” I’m not suggesting that infants are all knowing but I am curious to know just how close we are to the God at the time of birth, and for that matter, at the time of departure. As we go through life, are we drawn away from or towards the Holy Teachings? I once heard in a Buddhist discussion class the recommendation that if you become irritated with another person to picture them as a newborn infant, remembering that we all came from a mother, who gave us (varying degrees of?) love. The scriptures are here for all of us to become more proficient in knowing ourselves and others. May God bless us with the present moment and in all times past and future. Many blessings upon your path.
[Alex Holzman has been Central’s Sunday Host for the past three years. He makes the coffee and turns on and off the lights.]
Before Psychology, Theology, Ministry, and Politics, I was trained as a journalist, a tribe whose sacred writings command reverence for, and passion for locating, facts. We believed that facts should determine decisions and actions. Still do. Paul’s warning that a time will come when people will not endure sound teaching and will seek teachers to suit their own likings, seems eerily prophetic. The choice of passion over information jeopardizes this entire planet.
Why do people turn away from facts? Because those that they see don’t offer them a believable hope. I have often said that “false hope is better than no hope at all,” and we have seen the offering of much false hope from both sides of the political aisle (though to my eyes the misleading is not equal).
Paul champions “the sacred writings” as sources of hope. Those writings don’t say much about “making the world safe for White people,” but say a lot about welcoming the stranger, taking responsibility for the poor, not “selling the needy for a pair of shoes.” They aren’t big on patriotism, but urge Christians and Jews and anyone else who listens to join across boundaries, creating a community that’s stronger than the greed and armies of the rich.
So let’s address ourselves to creating hope: hope in God; hope in local and international neighbors; hope in those who have taught led, and inspired us; hope in our willingness to sacrifice some of our own advantage and privilege so others may live.
[Brian Grant is a Disciples minister and licensed psychologist, doing psychotherapy in Nora after Religion and Personality Ph. D. at Chicago a thousand years ago. Brian is also a Central elder and Faculty Emeritus at CTS.]