The First to Timothy 6:1-21

6  Let those who are under the yoke of slavery keep on considering their owners worthy of full honor,+ so that the name of God and the teaching may never be spoken of injuriously.+  Moreover, let those having believing owners not be disrespectful to them because they are brothers. Rather, they should serve more readily, because those receiving the benefit of their good service are believers and beloved. Keep on teaching these things and giving these exhortations.  If any man teaches another doctrine and does not agree with the wholesome instruction,+ which is from our Lord Jesus Christ, nor with the teaching that is in harmony with godly devotion,+  he is puffed up with pride and does not understand anything.+ He is obsessed with arguments and debates about words.+ These things give rise to envy, strife, slander, wicked suspicions,  constant disputes about minor matters by men who are corrupted in mind+ and deprived of the truth, thinking that godly devotion is a means of gain.+  To be sure, there is great gain in godly devotion+ along with contentment.  For we have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out.+  So, having food* and clothing, we will be content with these things.+  But those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare+ and many senseless and harmful desires that plunge men into destruction and ruin.+ 10  For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things,+ and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.+ 11  However, you, O man of God, flee from these things. But pursue righteousness, godly devotion, faith, love, endurance, and mildness.+ 12  Fight the fine fight of the faith;+ get a firm hold on the everlasting life for which you were called and you offered the fine public declaration in front of many witnesses. 13  Before God, who preserves all things alive,* and Christ Jesus, who as a witness made the fine public declaration before Pontius Pilate,+ I give you orders 14  to observe the commandment in a spotless and irreprehensible way until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ,+ 15  which the happy and only Potentate will show in its* own appointed times. He is the King of those who rule as kings and Lord of those who rule as lords,+ 16  the one alone having immortality,+ who dwells in unapproachable light,+ whom no man has seen or can see.+ To him be honor and eternal might. Amen. 17  Instruct those who are rich in the present system of things not to be arrogant, and to place their hope, not on uncertain riches,+ but on God, who richly provides us with all the things we enjoy.+ 18  Tell them to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be generous, ready to share,+ 19  safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future,+ so that they may get a firm hold on the real life.+ 20  Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you,+ turning away from the empty speeches that violate what is holy and from the contradictions of the falsely called “knowledge.”+ 21  By making a show of such knowledge, some have deviated from the faith. May the undeserved kindness be with you.


Or “sustenance.”
Or possibly, “who brings all things to life.”
Or possibly, “his.”

Study Notes

under the yoke of slavery: Lit., “slaves under a yoke.” The word “yoke” was often used figuratively to represent enslavement or servitude under the authority of an owner, or master. (Tit 2:9, 10; 1Pe 2:18; see Glossary, “Yoke.”) In the Roman Empire, there were many slaves, including some Christians. Jesus’ followers neither endorsed nor criticized the secular institution of slavery. (1Co 7:20, 21) Jesus himself did not engage in social reform, and he said that his followers would likewise be “no part of the world.” (Joh 17:14) Instead, Jesus preached about God’s Kingdom, which would eventually eliminate all forms of oppression and injustice.​—See study note on Joh 18:36; see also Media Gallery, “Common Duties of a Slave.”

keep on considering their owners worthy of full honor: Paul encourages Christians who were slaves to respect their owners, or masters. A slave’s attitude could be seen in his actions, whether he was conscientious in doing his work. His not respecting his owner would imply that Christian teachings had made no real change in the slave’s life. Such a poor example would bring reproach on God’s name.​—Col 3:22, 23; see study notes on Eph 6:5, 6.

those having believing owners: Here Paul discusses the situation in which both slave and owner were Christians. As “joint heirs with Christ,” they enjoyed an equal standing before God. (Ro 8:17) That is why Paul urges a Christian slave not to take advantage of his owner​—who was also his spiritual brother​—by failing to do his best. Rather, out of love for his brother, the slave should be all the more faithful and diligent in his service. At the same time, a believing owner was under obligation to deal fairly with his slave.​—Eph 6:9; Col 4:1.

the wholesome instruction: Paul here refers to the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Since everything Jesus taught is in agreement with the rest of the Scriptures, the expression “wholesome [or, “healthful; beneficial”] instruction” can by extension refer to all Bible teachings.​—See study note on 2Ti 1:13.

godly devotion: For a discussion of the expression “godly devotion,” see study note on 1Ti 4:7; see also study note on 1Ti 2:2.

He is obsessed with arguments: The Greek verb for “is obsessed” literally means “to be sick,” but here it is used in a figurative sense. The phrase might be rendered: “He has an unhealthy fascination with arguments.” It stands in contrast with “the wholesome instruction” from Christ that Paul has just mentioned.​—See study note on 1Ti 6:3.

debates about words: Lit., “word battles.” Those “obsessed with arguments” often debate trivialities as a means to promote their own personal doctrines, not God’s glory. Such debates “give rise to envy, strife,” and can even lead to slander (Greek, bla·sphe·miʹa), that is, abusive speech that defames others.​—See study note on Col 3:8.

there is great gain in godly devotion: Paul uses the same Greek word (rendered “gain” and “means of gain”) in two consecutive sentences. In verse 5, he refers to corrupt false teachers who sought to use godly devotion as “a means of gain” to exploit the congregation. Perhaps they asked to be paid for the teaching they did, or they tried in other ways to obtain material advantages from others in the congregation. (2Ti 3:6; Tit 1:11; see study note on 2Co 2:17.) Or they may have taught that godly devotion was a way to become materially rich. In contrast, Paul speaks of a far greater “gain,” that is, the spiritual benefits that godly devotion brings to a Christian.

godly devotion: For a discussion of the expression “godly devotion,” see study note on 1Ti 4:7; see also study note on 1Ti 2:2.

along with contentment: Paul here links godly devotion with contentment, or “self-sufficiency,” a quality that stands in stark contrast with the materialistic ambitions of false teachers. (1Ti 6:8) Contentment brings joy and peace of mind to a servant of God.​—See study note on Php 4:11.

neither can we carry anything out: The thought that Paul expresses in this verse was commonly repeated in various forms in the ancient Greco-Roman world. However, centuries earlier, King Solomon was inspired to write: “Just as one came from his mother’s womb, naked will he go away . . . And he cannot carry away anything for all his hard work.” (Ec 5:15; see also Job 1:21; Ps 49:17.) Jesus made a similar point in his illustration about the rich man. (Lu 12:16-21) Using this sobering truth, Paul urges Christians to avoid greed and materialism and instead seek lasting contentment by pursuing godly devotion.​—1Ti 6:6, 8-10.

clothing: Or possibly, “shelter.” The Greek term literally means “covering.” In this verse, it seems to refer mainly to clothing, but it may also mean other types of covering or shelter, such as a house.

those who are determined to be rich: Paul is referring, not to those who have a passing wish to have more money, but to those who have their heart set on becoming wealthy. Their way of reasoning has become faulty, twisted by greed. Such a firm determination to acquire riches could affect anyone, rich or poor.

plunge men into destruction and ruin: Those who avidly pursue riches are likely to harm themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The Greek word for “plunge” means to drag to the bottom, or to cause to sink. It is used in a literal sense at Lu 5:7, where a huge catch of fish is described as causing two boats to begin sinking. The word suggests that a person who is “determined to be rich” will inevitably “fall into temptation and . . . harmful desires” that drag him down, ruining his life by damaging his friendship with Jehovah.

the love of money: By calling this love “a root of all sorts of injurious things,” Paul may be alluding to a proverbial saying that was well-known in his day. He does not condemn money itself, which has practical value in this world. (Ec 7:12; 10:19) It is the love of money that is dangerous. In verse 5, Paul shows that some false teachers were driven by the love of money, so it is no wonder that he earlier specified that an overseer should not be “a lover of money.” (1Ti 3:1, 3 and study note) The Scriptures reveal other dangers of this love. It can never be satisfied. (Ec 5:10) Worse, it is a love that competes with and displaces love for God. (Mt 6:24; see study note on Lu 16:9.) Thus, the love of money is a root, or a cause, of a wide array of “injurious things”; it leads to the “pains” that Paul mentions next in this verse.

have stabbed themselves all over: Paul here uses a Greek verb that suggests piercing through completely as with repeated thrusts of a sharp weapon. His point is that Christians do themselves severe damage if they let the love of money become the driving force in their life. The result would be “many pains.”

many pains: The Greek word for “pain” can refer to strong emotional, mental, and spiritual pain and distress, perhaps related to pangs of conscience. The love of money certainly brought “many pains” to Judas Iscariot. That love dominated him, driving him to such extremes as theft and even the betrayal of Jesus Christ. (Mt 26:14-16; Joh 12:6) Judas fell from being a faithful apostle to becoming “the son of destruction.”​—See study note on Joh 17:12.

O man of God: Paul addresses Timothy as a “man of God,” an expression used only twice in the Christian Greek Scriptures, here and at 2Ti 3:17. However, in the Hebrew Scriptures, the expression “man of God” (or “man of the true God”) occurs some 70 times. It is used with reference to God’s prophets and other special representatives of God, for example, Moses (De 33:1), Samuel (1Sa 9:6, 10), David (Ne 12:24), Elijah (1Ki 17:18, 24), and Elisha (2Ki 4:7, 9). Paul may have used this expression to show Timothy that he had a God-given assignment to contend with the false teachers in the congregation in Ephesus. (1Ti 1:3, 4; 6:2b-10) Or Paul may have used it in a general sense to apply to a man or a woman who is fully dedicated to Jehovah and whose life and conduct is influenced by his inspired Word.​—See study note on 2Ti 3:17.

pursue: The Greek word rendered “pursue” means “to chase; to run after.” In a figurative sense, it involves striving to achieve or obtain something. Although he already had the qualities that Paul mentions, Timothy would need to continue to cultivate and to refine them, making this a lifelong pursuit. At the same time, Paul urges Timothy to flee, or run away from, what is bad, such as the snares associated with materialism. (1Ti 6:9, 10) Paul clearly sees materialism as harmful and godly qualities as beneficial. So he urges Timothy to flee the one and pursue the other.​—Mt 6:24; 1Co 6:18 and study note; 10:14; 2Ti 2:22.

pursue righteousness: In the list of qualities that Paul urges Timothy to pursue, the apostle mentions “righteousness” first. (See also 2Ti 2:22.) Timothy was already a dedicated, anointed Christian; as such, he had been “declared righteous.” (Ro 5:1) However, he still needed to work at being righteous by doing his best to adhere to God’s standards of what is right and what is wrong.​—See Glossary, “Righteousness”; see also study note on Eph 6:14.

godly devotion: For a discussion of the expression “godly devotion,” see study note on 1Ti 4:7; see also study note on 1Ti 2:2.

Fight the fine fight of the faith: The Greek verb and noun here rendered “fight” were used to refer to the struggling or contending for victory by athletes in their contests. (See study notes on Lu 13:24; 1Co 9:25.) Paul thus emphasizes that Christians must fight for their faith in Jehovah God, defending Christian truth as revealed in the Bible. This fight is truly a “fine,” or noble, struggle.​—See study notes on 2Ti 4:7.

the everlasting life: See study note on 1Ti 6:19.

as a witness . . . before Pontius Pilate: The Gospel accounts show that Christ Jesus gave a verbal witness to Pilate. (Mt 27:11; Joh 18:33-38) However, the expression public declaration may involve more than just what Jesus told Pilate in their brief dialogue. (See study note on Ro 10:9.) It is possible that Paul here refers to Jesus’ entire course of perseverance “as a witness” throughout his trial and death. Jesus’ outstanding example “as a witness” surely motivated Timothy to fulfill his assignment in Ephesus faithfully.

the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ: The Greek term rendered “manifestation” (e·pi·phaʹnei·a) is used in the Scriptures in the sense of a discernible evidence of something or a display of authority or power. It is used to refer to Jesus’ time on earth. (2Ti 1:10 and study note) The term is also used with regard to various events during his presence in royal power. (For example, see study note on 2Th 2:8.) In this context, “the manifestation” refers to a future appointed time when Jesus’ glorious and powerful position in heaven is clearly recognizable.​—Da 2:44; 7:13, 14; 1Ti 6:15; 2Ti 4:1.

the happy and only Potentate: The context and the wording strongly suggest that Paul is here referring to Jesus Christ. Paul has just mentioned “the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Ti 6:14) Here he contrasts the Lord Jesus Christ with imperfect human rulers. The Greek word rendered “Potentate” (dy·naʹstes) could refer to a king, but also to a subordinate ruler under a king’s authority, such as a prince. The word fittingly describes Jesus, who rules as King under the authority of his Father, Jehovah. Jesus is the only Ruler to whom God has directly “given rulership, honor, and a kingdom,” in fulfillment of Da 7:14. Because Jesus’ rulership is unique, he may rightly be called the “only Potentate.” He is above any earthly king or lord, including the kings who ruled in Jehovah’s name in ancient Jerusalem. Thus Jesus is King and Lord over them all.​—Compare Re 17:14; 19:16.

happy: Jesus is supremely “happy,” or blessed, as the Potentate in that he enjoys the blessing and favor of Jehovah God. (Php 2:9-11) As “the image of the invisible God,” Jesus also perfectly reflects the joy of his Father, “the happy God.”​—Col 1:15; 1Ti 1:11 and study note; compare Pr 8:30, 31.

the one alone having immortality: Here Paul further explains how Jesus differs from any other potentate, king, or lord. (See study note on 1Ti 6:15.) Jehovah resurrected his Son to immortal life as a spirit. (Ro 6:9; 1Pe 3:18) No king or lord before him had ever received such a gift, so Jesus was alone in that sense, superior to all imperfect human rulers.​—See study note on 1Co 15:53.

who dwells in unapproachable light: After his ascension to heaven, Jesus “sat down at the right hand of God.” (Heb 10:12) He dwells with the Source of all light and life. (Ps 36:9) And Jesus’ own glory is such that no flesh-and-blood human can see or approach it. Jesus told his disciples that they would see him again, but this would happen only after they were resurrected to heaven as spirit creatures. Then they would see him in all his God-given glory.​—Joh 13:36; 14:19; 17:24.

Amen: See study note on Ro 1:25.

Instruct: Or “Command; Order.”​—See study note on 1Ti 1:5.

those who are rich in the present system of things: Because Satan controls the present unrighteous system of things, people are often under pressure to become materialistic. Paul thus warns wealthy Christians to be on guard. (Ro 12:2; 2Co 4:4) Jesus taught that this system of things would be replaced by a future one under the rule of God’s Kingdom. (Mr 10:30 and study note; Lu 18:29, 30) Paul likewise taught about a system of things “to come.” (Eph 1:21; 2:7) Therefore, he encourages Christians to focus on that coming system of things by “safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future.”​—1Ti 6:19.

the present system of things: Or “the present age.” Here Paul is referring to the unrighteous system of things of which Satan is the ruler.​—See study notes on Mt 13:22; 2Co 4:4; Ga 1:4.

not to be arrogant: The Greek word for “arrogant” could also be rendered “haughty.” Paul encourages wealthy Christians to keep a balanced view of material riches. A person who is rich may feel that his wealth makes him superior. However, in Jehovah’s view, material assets do not make one person better than another.​—Pr 22:2; Mt 8:20; Jas 2:5.

to place their hope, not on uncertain riches: A wealthy person may think that his riches offer him true security. But Paul points out that material riches are, in fact, unreliable and uncertain. They can become a temptation and a snare (1Ti 6:9); they can fail suddenly and unexpectedly (Pr 18:11; 23:4, 5).

who richly provides us with all the things we enjoy: In this verse and the following one, Paul uses a play on words. First he says that “those who are rich” should place their hope, not on “uncertain riches,” but on God. Then he reminds Christians that God is the Source of all good things and that he “richly,” or generously, provides these things for their enjoyment. Of course, it is especially what Jehovah provides for them spiritually that brings them the greatest joy, fulfillment, and security. (Mt 6:19-21, 33) Finally Paul encourages Christians “to be rich in fine works,” so that they may “get a firm hold on the real life.”​—1Ti 6:18, 19.

the real life: Paul uses wording similar to that found at 1Ti 6:12, where he urged Timothy: “Get a firm hold on the everlasting life for which you were called.” So “the real life” that Paul mentions here and “the everlasting life” apparently mean the same thing. (See study note on Joh 14:6.) Both Paul and Timothy understood that Jehovah, the Source of life, originally intended for humans to enjoy a peaceful and fulfilling life on earth forever. (Ge 1:28; 2:15-17) Compared with that, a life that is brief and full of troubles, sickness, and loss is futile and frustrating. (Job 14:1, 2; Ps 103:15, 16; Ec 1:2) These factors make both life and material possessions uncertain. Paul wanted his fellow Christians living “in the present system of things” to treasure the prospect of attaining “the real life,” eternal life full of joy and peace.​—1Ti 6:17.

guard what has been entrusted to you: Here Paul includes the Scriptural truths with which Timothy was entrusted. (1Th 2:4; 2Ti 1:14; compare Ro 3:2 and study note.) The term rendered “what has been entrusted” was sometimes used of valuables deposited in a bank. It could also denote objects given to someone to care for, which is how it is used in the Greek Septuagint. (Le 6:2, 4 [5:21, 23, LXX]) Timothy was to guard the sacred message, not by locking it away for safekeeping, but by passing it along carefully and accurately when teaching. (2Ti 2:2) He would thus help guard, or protect, precious truths from being changed or corrupted by promoters of “empty speeches” and “the falsely called ‘knowledge.’”

empty speeches: Lit., “empty sounds.” Here Paul uses a Greek expression that denotes “talk that has no value,” and some Bible translations have rendered it “empty chatter” and “pointless discussions.” Such speech was based on speculation rather than on solid truths from God’s Word. It was empty in that it was of no value in building faith. (1Ti 1:6; 2Ti 4:4; Tit 3:9) Even worse, such chatter or discussion would often violate what is holy, that is, it would be profane or irreverent. Those who were involved in such discussions substituted the truths of God’s Word with the mere thoughts of men. Paul warned Timothy to have nothing to do with such speech.​—1Ti 4:7 and study note; 2Ti 2:16.

the falsely called “knowledge”: The “knowledge” Paul refers to is not fit to be called knowledge; he asserts that it is a mere sham. It finds no support in God’s Word. In fact, it contains contradictions, conflicting ideas or arguments and, even worse, ideas that contradict inspired writings. In this letter, Paul has repeatedly warned Timothy of the divisive, empty words of false teachers, who make a show of their learning and seek to influence the congregation. (1Ti 1:4, 7; 4:1-3, 7; 6:3-6) False ideas about “knowledge” (Greek, gnoʹsis) persisted. In the second century C.E., some groups of apostate Christians were known for calling themselves Gnostics, that is, “those possessing knowledge.”​—See study note on Joh 1:14.