2 Timothy 3 – Anti-Philanthropists

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Today’s Passage2 Timothy 3

Paul loves his lists and litanies. And to begin today’s chapter in his second letter to Timothy, he goes off on the evil men that one can expect during the last days. He loves to enumerate, but Paul’s got no love for these guys as he blasts through their negative qualities with both barrels. What makes the evil dudes of the end times so evil? Let’s take a look.

Much of it hinges on what they love and don’t love. Paul calls them “lovers of self, lovers of money” (2) and “lovers of pleasure” (4). You know the term “philanthropy,” support of humanitarian causes motivated by love of one’s fellow human beings? All these words Paul uses have that same “phil-” root that indicates love. But the guys he’s describing are “phil-self-ists,” “phil-money-ists,” and “phil-pleasure-ists.” The only human being they love is themselves. All the rest of their love they save for cash and making themselves feel good.

That last item is the Greek word φιλήδονοι, philedonoi, and buried in there is the Greek word for pleasure, hédoné, from which we get “hedonism.” I can’t help thinking of Hedonismbot from Futurama, a bloated, permanently-reclining robot, programmed to devote himself to excesses of luxury and delight, so lazy that his lower body is a couch. Here in the 21st century, Hedonismbot could easily be the poster boy for the evil men of the last days. And here’s what makes them so evil: they don’t care who has to suffer in order for them to fulfill their desires. They subordinate other people to their perverse trinity of self, lust, and things.

So that’s what they love. What don’t they love? Paul calls them “unloving” (3), but it’s a different kind of love than that “phil-” root that we just saw. The word here is ἄστοργοςastorgos; the King James Version is pretty spot-on when it translates the word as “without natural affection.” The love we’re talking about here is the kind of charitable fondness you’d feel for a family member or a pet. You want to do good things for them, not because they’re so great or fantastic, but because they’re part of your crew. And the evil man of the last days? His crew is himself; he’s got no time for anyone else. He’s a “family of me.”

On top of that, he’s got no love for good things. While most translations say these men are “haters of good” (3), a more literal rendering would be “not lovers of good.” To play off the “philanthropy” thing again, we could call them “non-phil-goodists.” They’re not fans of virtue, they’re not into cool stuff like sharing joy or caring about people or having your friends over and fixing them some crazy delicious fish tacos. If they have any role models, their role models are not good people. Pleasure gets the number-one slot in their book, not goodness.

And here’s the clincher: when he calls them out for their hedonism, Paul describes them as “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (4). They’ve got no love for God. And they might look like they love God, as Paul says they’re “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (5), but it’s only skin deep. Maybe they’re deceiving you with their shallow piety; maybe they’re deceiving themselves. But if pleasure’s got their number-one slot, not goodness, then their number-one slot certainly isn’t occupied by the goodest being there is. The awe-inspiring, all-loving, uncreated Creator of the universe, who put on human flesh to die on the cross for all of mankind’s evil? At the end of the day, the evil men of the last days couldn’t care less about him.

Paul considers himself and Timothy to be living in the last days, as he warns Timothy that he’ll encounter these sorts of men. He tells him, “Avoid such men as these” (5), and he warns him that one of these guys’ signature moves is taking advantage of vulnerable women (6). But if Paul himself was in the “last days,” then by my calculations, we’ve had over seven hundred twenty thousand last days since. Today is a last day too. So take a look around, and maybe you’ll see some of these evil men that Paul describes.

And if you see any of these evil men, love them. But don’t love the things they love.

 

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