2 Timothy 3:1-5 “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”
In our text, Paul gives Timothy and us a dose of reality about the times in which we live. He warns us that “in the last days difficult times will come” (3:1). When Paul says “the last days,” I understand that he is referring to the period of time between Christ’s ascension and His second coming. As you read through this long list of evil characteristics, you probably think of the godless enemies of the faith. In verse 5 where Paul says that they hold “to a form of godliness, but they have denied its power.” You realize, “Good grief, he is talking about those within the church!” He is describing professing Christians. Some are church leaders. They teach Bible studies. They are not passive, sit-in-the-pew members, but those who are active in ministry. But their religion is just an empty shell. They lack the reality of a genuine walk with God, who looks on the heart. They talk a good message, they put on a good front, but in their motives, their thought lives, and their personal relationships, they are not godly people. It is easy to read this list and think, “You know, I once knew someone who fit this description. But I think that Paul wanted Timothy and us to do some personal soul-searching as we read this list and ask, “Lord, is it I? Could I be drifting into holding to a form of godliness, but be denying its power to transform my heart?” Yes, Paul’s message is to us too.
If we look at the daily news bulletin or we read the newspapers what do we get to understand. Let me share a few of the news came to my attention in the few weeks. Former Lt Col, a medical doctor, stabs to death her husband, an ex-Captain in Hyderabad a few days before. Local police received a call from 23-year-old daughter informing them about the stabbing incident at their house. Police took criminal into custody. “She confessed to the crime. That night, the couple had an argument. She came with a kitchen knife from behind and stabbed him. “She claimed her husband tortured her physically and emotionally”. In Kerala, a 24 year old person murdered his 16 year old sister. According to the reports the person premeditated the murder of his family members and served them ice cream laced with poison. He committed such a heinous crime against his own sibling as he was angry with his parents and his sister for standing against his wild wishes. He was not fond of his parents who objected to his friendship with certain people and he was conscious of the fact that his sister knew about his behavior and feared that she might tell it to parents. He also imagined he would be able to grab the family property and run away with it to make a comfortable life. In another incident a Malayalee Nurse working in Florida, USA was coming out of the hospital about 7.30 Am after her night shift to the parking lot to get her car; her husband met her there, stabbed her repeatedly, and then drove over her with his car and killed her. In yet another incident, a 19-year-old woman who tested positive for Covid-19 was raped by an ambulance driver while being taken to hospital late night.
What are we seeing all these? What circumstances lead someone to commit murder, rape, or acts of molestation? Why does society have such a deep-seated wish for vengeance against people and other crimes lead to newspaper headlines, television and radio news reports. In any such instance, what may be the reason and causes one ventures in to such drastic, heinous and cruel acts. No simple answer is enough to explain such incidents. It is quite a baffling question for us as Christians, spiritual leaders, parents and teachers on how to show the younger generation the right way to lead a life of being better citizens and even better Christians. When we look in to the details of all the mentioned cases, the outcome of ultimate disaster and tragedy happened due to behavior and thoughts lead to those incidents. Though many of us do not resort to such extreme measures, it is not wrong to admit that we do just as much harm to others through own behaviors and thoughts. For us as God’s children, we must go back to the values the Bible teaches us. The values we learn from the Bible are definitely not based on materialism, competition and comparison. Family is where any individual learns happiness and positive values for life. Do not instill materialism into our children’s mind; rather let them learn to live a responsible life which is accountable to themselves, their family and society. The life style and communication of parents always influence a child’s valuation and approach to material things and comforts. Teach children to give more value to people than things. When they learn to live life with this responsibility, then they will be able to make their life successful. Competition between siblings is the result of parents foolishly comparing their one child with the other. An attitude of competition can cause insecurity, jealousy, and rivalry between siblings. It is all about good parenting -to know what to give at what age. Love, discipline, values, respect for opposite gender and so on. But in the busyness of life many parents forgot to bring up their children in the right direction and to compensate for the quality time parents were supposed to give their children, they instead provided them material luxuries of life. It may be in the form of bikes, cars, expensive mobiles, Tabs or other gadgets. What role do-and should-parents play in a fair society. Parenting is a very important responsibility which is lacking in our society.
In Chapter 3 of Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he lists the characteristics of the “disturbing times” to come in the “last days”. “For men will be lovers of themselves…” We are living in a Selfie-age. We all understand what I am talking about? A selfie is a self-portrait digital photograph, typically taken with a digital camera or smartphone. If I am correct according to what I read in a report, every day 93 million selfies are posted online, and every 10 seconds, 10 are posted to Instagram. It’s a selfie world, and we got here really, really fast. Just think about it: Within the last decade, phone makers introduced front-facing cameras, the selfie stick, modern technology and the social-media brought us to the end days. The focus of modern psychology is self-love. In fact, self-love is seen as the root of society’s distresses and trouble. According to the Bible, self-love leads to self-deception and self-delusion. Self-love sees the acknowledgment of our sinful nature.
Ultimately the love of self produces self-justification, which drives people away from seeking the Savior. Through self-love we place a false value on ourselves, which therefore feeds our selfish nature. In contrast the Bible tells us that we are “not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Just as love of self produces self-justification, the love of money produces self-provision characterized by the thought, “I can do it because I can afford it.” Paul previously warned Timothy that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Now, in the “last times,” mankind will be obsessed with the acquisition of personal wealth. Remember the Rich, Young Ruler? He came to Jesus seeking “everlasting life” and went away sorrowful. In the end his earthly possessions kept him away from the everlasting kingdom of God he was seeking. According to the world’s ways, when you love yourself supremely you gain self-justification. When you love money you gain self-provision. With these in hand you have every right to love boasting and be proud of your accomplishments. This leads to self-promotion. This attribute is seen today as a virtue. Psychologists call this “positive self-talk.” The Bible calls this action an abomination. Having secured self-justification, self-provision, and self-promotion, people grow to a place where they hate authority. Ultimately they become haters of God. The world’s reaction to blasphemers is laughter. God views this act as deserving of capital punishment.
You will never be able to escape the reality of authority. It all began when you were a child. Generally, parents serve as the first example of authority in all of our lives. It is therefore no wonder when we see the young people of the world rebelling against an authority which they were never taught to respect. After all, if they are taught that they are nothing more than animals, they will certainly act like animals. Thanksgiving flows from the lesser to the greater. These people hate recognizing anyone but themselves. To be “unthankful” to either God or man for their provision is to declare that everyone else in their life as lesser in stature and unworthy of respect. They seem to be only “set apart” unto their own pleasures. The foundation of Biblical love is giving, not taking. These people see no reason to live a life that has personal sacrifice for the benefit of anyone other than themselves. To slander is to have no concern for the truth. To lack self-control shows an unwillingness to change. To be brutal is to show no limit of wrath. In the end, people who exhibit these characteristics love to cause conflict. Finally, they become “traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.” These are those that are undependable, un-teachable, pleasure-seeking that have no room for a real relationship with God.
What should be our response be to this disturbing last-days global trend? Paul’s advices us “And from such people turn away!” I know every generation has faced its struggles and identified with this verse, but I think we will have to agree that we are in the midst of dangerous days. These days are certainly trying, difficult and troublesome days. In many circumstances they have become violent and threatening days. When we consider the world scene, we see the rise of radical religious groups and the relentless persecution of Christians around the world. We are not yet facing physical persecution, but the attack on Christians everywhere is increasing. We are seeing the foundations of our faith crumble within society. Those who hold a biblical view and moral principles are going through difficult times. We have lost all sanctity for human life. Right is now wrong, and wrong is viewed as right. We are in terrifying times! These are strong words, but they are given for our good. The word turn means to shun and avoid. This is not a mere suggestion, but a command of God. I know that we must live among the world and we are to be a witness to the world, but we must not embrace the world. We are commanded to come out from among them and be a separate people. We cannot embrace the ideals nor submit to the demands of our society.
The words Paul shared within the text closely resemble the day in which we live. One thing is certain –we are nearer the Lord’s return than ever before. These days will not improve. They will shine worse and worse before the Lord comes. We must stand for truth in these perilous days, but that requires the help and guidance of the Spirit. If you are struggling while living in these difficult days, come and seek the strength that comes from the Lord. If you are unsaved, I urge you to come to Christ by faith today. He is coming again, and only those who have received Him as their personal Savior will be granted access to heaven. The world is being deceived and headed toward hell. Come while there is time and opportunity!