To Timothy, My Son
Most of us have concluded that the years 2020-2022 have been pretty world-changing. There was another set of three years long ago that brought a lot of change in the Middle East – the years 68-70AD. In that space, Peter was crucified upside down, Paul was beheaded, and Jerusalem and the second Jewish Temple were destroyed. Other apostles had already been martyred for the faith in Syria, Egypt, Greece, Armenia, Persia, and India.
Paul knew that this letter to Timothy (2 Timothy) was his last. His time to depart this earth was at hand (see 4:6). God had given Paul revelation about pieces and parts of end times prophecy, but as was typical of the Lord, He gave Paul no timelines. Paul thought it must be soon, maybe in the next 10-20 years. Paul knew other apostles were being killed, false teachers were building wealth and reputation in the church, and young men of the second generation, like Demas, were falling away.
How about Tim? Timothy was godly but the youngest of the Ephesian elders. He was timid. He had stomach issues. Paul chose his words carefully under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and encouraged Timothy to avoid the spirit of fear which is not from God. God through His Spirit gives power, love, and self control. He exhorted him to stay faithful and to entrust the gospel to faithful men.
The 19 Horribles
In the third chapter Paul gave Timothy a heads-up about how people would change in the last days before Jesus’ return. In only five verses, Paul listed the 19 Horribles. These characteristics have been around since Genesis, but toward the end, society will come under a dominant spirit of the age (zeitgeist) and be defined by it. You might feel these Horribles are strangely familiar.
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”
2 Timothy 3:1-5
Do you notice #7? Right there in the list of horribles … “ungrateful.” Just like “the hinge” in Romans 1:21 that started the long slide downward for society, unthankfulness and ungratefulness are no small sins. The Greek word means “without grace.” Ungratefulness emphasizes personal hurts, disadvantages, and inequalities, finds flaws and faults, embraces victimization, and rejects authority and society at large for messing everything up. The sister of ungratefulness, three words further on, is “unappeasable.”
“The wicked are always ungrateful.”Miguel de Cervantes
Companions of Ungratefulness
It is a well-settled proverb that we imitate our companions (Proverbs 22:24-25). It is through others that we often invent, or reinvent, ourselves. We may dress alike, laugh the same, use the same phrases, and repeat their views about things. The companions of an ungrateful person will often become ungodly. You may say that is a harsh statement. I ask you to consider if it is true. The incessant highlighting of wrongs, faults, short-comings, and injustices will strongly impress the mind to also begin seeing the cup way below half-empty.
A person that is thankful and expresses that gratitude attracts different people. She knows there are big problems that require great thought, humility, and serious discussion, but she will highlight things in or around the situation that are cause for joy and cause to give credit to God or other people. This is not a matter of spinning the truth or “redefining reality,” but it is recognizing every reality as a mix of light and darkness, of beauty and brokenness, of merit and mess. It is a characteristic of greatness and great leaders.
It is possible that a believer well grounded in the faith and convinced of the Sovereign One’s control will be able to maintain heaven’s perspective in the midst of ungrateful company. But they will be thought of as alien. Ungrateful people think a chronically grateful person is “just unreal” or is “living in a make-believe reality.”
“Ingratitude is always a kind of weakness. I have never known men of ability to be ungrateful.”Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
At the end of the Horrible 19, Paul says, “Avoid such people.” Steer clear of them. Don’t seek their company. Paul used the word “avoid” in his letters to Timothy and Titus, saying to avoid quarrels, avoid irreverent babble, and avoid controversies. Similar idea. Ungrateful people are known for the skills of irreverently quarreling about controversies – fault-finding, knit-picking, and mocking.
Instead, Timothy was to surround himself with people who wanted to seek after God, to give credit to Him for what He had done, and to thank those used by God for making life and service a better experience.
So what about you?
First question: Are you described as a person who is ungrateful?
Second question: Do you hang out with ungrateful people?
Do some introspection and evaluate if you are th(i)nkful. Are you on a regular basis looking for things for which to think thanks? Do you express that thanks to God verbally or write it down?