In A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens describes the main character in this way, “Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!” This long list of colorful adjectives helps us understand what type of character Scrooge was.
In today’s reading Paul uses eighteen adjectives to describe life in the “last days” (v. 1). For Paul, the “last days” refers to the whole span of church history from the resurrection of Jesus to the Second Coming. These characteristics were true of the false teachers who had been damaging the church. Paul warned Timothy and encouraged him to live in a different way. These people were utterly self-centered. They claimed to know how to be truly godly, but instead were deceptive and destructive. Timothy would do well to “have nothing to do with such people” (v. 5).
These false teachers would “worm their way” into the homes of gullible women (v. 6). These women were likely widows who had considerable resources at their disposal to support the ministry of the false teachers. Paul compares these false teachers to Jannes and Jambres. These are the traditional names of the Egyptian magicians who copied some of the miracles Moses performed in front of Pharaoh (Ex. 7:11). In the same way, these false teachers closely imitated true apostles and teachers. While they might have looked the same on the outside, their message and their lives would lead to destruction. Paul encouraged Timothy that, in the end, “their folly will be clear to everyone” (v. 9). He closes on a note of hope. No matter how dark those “last days” get, we know that the Lord wins!
>> The list of eighteen descriptions can be a helpful checklist by which to measure our own lives (vv. 2–4). Read slowly through this list and ask the Lord if there are areas you need to confess about and ask for God’s help to change.