In reading the closing thoughts of Paul’s first letter to Timothy, I paused at this statement: “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. Grace be with you.” 1 Timothy 6:20-21 NIV
Before I continue, some introduction and context are required. Paul, formally Saul of Tarsus, was called the apostle to the Gentiles, an interesting assignment since Paul had been raised under strict Jewish observance. Prior to his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus in Acts 9, Paul had been a zealous persecutor of the infant Christian church simply known as people of the Way.
Following an encounter with the risen Christ, Paul became a powerful voice for the very cause he had violently opposed. While his change may seem radical, it is totally consistent with his teaching. For example, when Paul wrote to the churches at Corinth, he said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV
Timothy was one of Paul’s best-known converts; he became a traveling companion and fellow laborer with Paul during Paul’s missionary journeys. Paul often referred to Timothy as his “son in the faith” and was confident in his abilities to communicate on his behalf to churches Paul had established.
Paul begins his closing instruction with an exclamation unfortunately not translated in the New International Version. It is simple “O” Timothy. Paul wanted Timothy to look carefully at this last portion of his letter. It was important. Had he been texting, he might have used all caps, but he wasn’t so “O” would have to do.
What then was so important? Paul uses a banking term that could be translated as “guard the deposit,” keep a very close watch what has been given/deposited with you. What was entrusted to Timothy was the truth of who Christ is. For a Christ follower the idea of truth is supported by the words of Christ when He responded to a question of one of His disciples. Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 NIV
Paul goes on to advise Timothy to “turn away from godless chatter” from a Greek word that could be translated as “uttering emptiness.” Rudolf Carnap, described as one of the giants of 20th century philosophy, wrote “In metaphysics, including all value and normative theory, logical analysis yields the negative result that the alleged statements in this domain are entirely meaningless.”
I am not sure I want to spend more time with that pearl of wisdom, but culturally we have in many ways accepted the idea there are no absolutes in the truth department. Around 2,500 years ago a philosopher named Aeshylus wrote, “In war truth is the first casualty.” Paul understood that in the conflict/war for the soul, truth would require diligent protection.
Bill Upton is chaplain of the Tooele City Police Department.