“Word for Today” – 1 Timothy 1 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

April 23, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

taco-cabana-1This past Tuesday, I went to lunch at Taco Cabana with a buddy of mine.  When it comes to fast food, I have two favorite restaurants:  Whataburger and Taco Cabana.  The problem is that although I dearly love the Whataburger with jalapenos as well as the giant Cabana bowl of queso, they don’t love me back.  Because for a few years now, I’ve suffered from a weak stomach.  Thus, whenever I eat there, Tums quickly become my intimate post-meal friends.

Of course, I can eat at these restaurants with minimal ill effects as long as I eat reasonably small portions.  Ashamedly, however, my eyes usually prove to be bigger than my stomach and I wind up overeating and then paying the painful consequences.  And this is what happened on Tuesday.  I felt sick all afternoon.  The food was good, but for me, it was too much of a good thing.

Too much of a good thing.  This is an insightful maxim that accuses all too many of us.  For we all fall prey to the allure of over-indulgence.  Food is a good thing.  But too much of it can cause all sorts of disastrous health problems.  Money is a good thing.  But too much of it, if not managed wisely and humbly, can breed greed.  Sleep is a good thing.  But too much of it can make you feel groggy and hinder productivity.  In just about every area of life, a good thing can quickly turn harmful if over-used or misused.

As we begin reading through 1 Timothy, Paul opens in chapter 1 by warning Timothy to guard against those who would fall into the trap of obsessing over too much of a good thing:  “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies.  These promote controversies rather than God’s work – which is faith” (verses 3-4).  The Greek root word for “controversies” is zetesis.  In the ancient world, this was a technical term for philosophical investigation.  This term described philosophers who would discuss what may have at first glance appeared to be minutia, but, in reality, pressed toward significant and profound answers concerning important matters.  Indeed, this is the term that is used in Acts 15:1-2 during a weighty theological debate over circumcision:  “Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: ‘Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.’  This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them.”  The Greek word for “debate” is zetesis.  The upshot of this zetesis was the critical pronouncement that circumcision was not necessary for salvation because “it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved” (Acts 15:11).  In this instance, zetesis was a good thing.  But as the old saying goes, too much of a good thing…

This brings us back to 1 Timothy 1.  Apparently, there were some in Timothy’s church who “devoted themselves to myths and endless genealogies.”  A myth is not necessarily a bad thing.  For these often serve as pleasant children’s tales.  Neither is genealogical research bad.  Knowing one’s roots can be an eye-opening experience.  But notice that these people “devoted” themselves to these things.  That is, they obsessed over them and thereby caused controversies, or zetesis.  Interestingly, when Paul writes about these controversies, he calls them not just zetesis, but adds a prefix and calls them exzetesis.  We use this prefix even in English:  excursive, excoriate, extreme, excessive.  This prefix, in many instances, marks too much of a good thing.

“Moderation is better than muscle” (Proverbs 16:32).  So says the wise man Solomon.  And Solomon was a man who knew well the dangers of exzetesis.  For he was a man with much fame, much power, and much money.  And, tellingly, he used it irresponsibly and excessively at times.  And it cost him dearly.  So today, enjoy God’s good gifts.  But remember to enjoy them in a good way – in the way that God intended them and not for sinful exzetesis.  For the gifts of God, used in the way God intended them, bring exceeding joy.  And that’s an ex that we can indulge in.  Because that’s an ex that’s from God.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – Galatians 6 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – 1 Timothy 2 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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