Godliness Is Not Goodness
Have nothing to do with profane myths and old wives’ tales. Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. (1 Timothy 4:7-9)
Reading Paul’s letter to his young colleague, Timothy, is often inspiring and encouraging to me in the life we have as Christians, and particularly as pastors and leaders. Every Christian is a minister, every disciple of Jesus Christ is young and in need of instruction. Paul’s words still seem lively to me as nuggets of gold, as wisdom from my elders that is worth more than gold and silver, for me to heed and to practice in my life and my ministry.
What touches me here is Paul’s word about “godliness” as being more superior in value or quality of life than anything else…”holding promise for both the present life and the life to come… worthy of full acceptance.” Godliness is not the same as goodness, righteousness, holiness, kindness, gentleness … which we often refer to or use interchangeably with our moral obligation and character. Godliness has its focus in God – God’s goodness, interest, will and purpose for life. The means of grace or works of piety and mercy are certainly godliness… as long as our focus is on God. Paul said for Timothy and us to “train yourself in godliness” and “have nothing to do with profane myths and old wives’ tales.” Paul was being personal and directive to Timothy. But I believe we all have our own “profane myths and old wives’ tales”… our interests, values, wisdom, knowledge, rights, plans, focus, even shortcoming, etc. These have great value, yet godliness is to be superior over all these things.
Christianity is not about goodness but godliness… honoring God and doing God’s will and living God’s way in our lives. This should be our focus, our will, our goal, our training, our pursuit, and our practice… as United Methodists, ministers and disciples of Jesus Christ, though many people today live their Christian life only in the sense of goodness rather than godliness. So, let’s take a moment to reflect today, what does godliness mean to you? How do you go about living with godliness in a world that is bombarded with special interests, insecurity, different knowledge, desires, plans and goals? Where do you see godliness fit in as you look forward for tomorrow… for our life and church together? My hope is that we keep our eyes on Jesus… seeing God’s big picture and being true to his will, way, interest, purpose, and goal.
Lord, we praise you for your words of wisdom from Paul. The world today is filled with goodness that is worthy of praise. But your way and your goodness are transcended in all of these. Teach us how to live in godliness, and not to look after our own goodness or interest, but to your goodness and interest. Forgive us our sins, make us holy, and give us the heart to do your will in all that we say and do. Amen.