Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy. (1 Timothy 6:4,5)
I recently spoke to a group of students at a Bible College and in my opening remarks, I made a comment I've made often over the years to students. I noted that "attending Bible College can be one of the biggest threats to your faith."
Understandably they were curious as to what I'd say next. Surely Bible College is a time to grow deeper in one's walk with Jesus as time is spent studying His Word alongside other believers? What's the threat?
Quite simply, the threat is that we begin to see the Bible as a textbook to be debated and understood, rather than God's instrument for godly living as it speaks directly into our lives. Our mindset as we read His Word can be more about, "How can I explain this in an assignment?", than "How can I apply this to my life?"
Paul has this threat in mind as he continues his letter to Timothy, a young leader of God's people. Having talked in the previous verse about the value of the Word of God in godly living, he warns how the same Word of God can lead to ungodly living such as "arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions."
In his book "Be Faithful", Warren Wiersbe states that, "A believer who understands the Word will have a burning heart, not a big head." Here is one danger you'll face as you come to understand more of Scripture. You'll risk becoming proud, always wanting to show off your Bible knowledge to those you lead and even those you work alongside or are accountable too.
How will you know when pride is taking over? Paul gives us the sign: you'll start to stir up arguments. When someone disagrees with you, you'll feel the need to prove yourself to be right. Instead of responding with humility and grace, you'll become offended that someone else thinks they know more than you and as such will embark on proving them wrong, not because you want them to better understand the Truth, but because you want to prove yourself to be right.
As Paul rightly points out, such a response out of a wrong motive inevitably leads to harming our relationship with one we should love, through "jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions",
There is a second more subtle danger we face that this verse alludes to. It is illustrated by the fact that there is a world of difference between a textbook and a personal private message from a close friend.
When I first become passionate about reading the Bible in my teens it was more about understanding Bible prophecy and the Book of Revelation. Armed with charts and timelines I'd spend hours reading and figuring things out.
In time this interest shifted to study controversial topics like the cessation of the gifts, the baptism in the Holy Spirit and women in leadership.
In the meantime, other passages like the Sermon on the Mount and the Psalms held less appeal. I'd heard it all before growing up in church.
As I look back now I can see how God has graciously changed my view of Scripture and my desire around what I like to read. Now the Bible reads less like a textbook and more like a place where I encounter Jesus as I slowly reflect on what He is saying to me as I read.
Don't misunderstand me. It's a good thing to study theology and to come to an accurate understanding of what the Bible teaches. But as you read and reflect, go beyond seeing the Bible as a textbook that informs your mind to a message that changes your heart.
Do I find myself getting into arguments over theology with other people that ultimately harm my relationship with them? How should I respond instead?
Do I tend to engage Scripture more with my mind than with my heart?