What People Will Be Like
1You can be certain that in the last days there will be some very hard times. 2People will love only themselves and money. They will be proud, stuck-up, rude, and disobedient to their parents. They will also be ungrateful, godless, 3heartless, and hateful. Their words will be cruel, and they will have no self-control or pity. These people will hate everything good. 4They will be sneaky, reckless, and puffed up with pride. Instead of loving God, they will love pleasure. 5Even though they will make a show of being religious, their religion won't be real. Don't have anything to do with such people.
6Some men fool whole families, just to get power over those women who are slaves of sin and are controlled by all sorts of desires. 7These women always want to learn something new, but they never can discover the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, these people are enemies of the truth. Their minds are sick, and their faith isn't real. 9But they won't get very far with their foolishness. Soon everyone will know the truth about them, just as Jannes and Jambres were found out.
Surely there is wisdom in looking at the bright side of things, of accentuating the positive in our lives and speaking well of the situations in which we find ourselves. The apostle Paul suggests this in various ones of his letters and even in the earlier parts of this second letter to Timothy. (See 2:1-2)
At the same time we recognize – and Paul makes plain in the verses for today’s reflection – that there is a dark side to life. There are ugly actions and attitudes that destroy lives and lead to pain, sorrow and discontent to say nothing of personal suffering. Sugar coating (or denying) what happens when people are “ungrateful, godless, heartless and hateful” or when they “hate everything that is good,” will not make the ugly effects disappear. Simply smiling and ignoring the dark side of life will not do.
We might question though why Paul tells Timothy about the evil that people do and the drastic effects of wrong choices. Will this not simply discourage young Timothy? If this was all that Paul wrote then perhaps that would be true. But in the context of the whole of this letter (and even this chapter) the honest assessment of the ugly side of life, I think, helps Timothy to face reality; it keeps him from being naïve. It also validates what he is no doubt facing every day. Why pretend it isn’t there?
It is a fact that there are those who choose to do evil instead of good. Recognizing this provides a sharp relief to the message of the gospel and the powerful effect for good that it initiates and sustains. It is as if Paul is telling Timothy: “Don’t be surprised or dismayed at the ugly things you see. God is for you and the gospel you preach has the power to bring light where there is darkness, love where there is hate and goodness where there is evil.”
Lord God, I too am aware that there is ugly stuff in the world and that there are people and forces in society that bring havoc. Help me not to lose courage or to fear but to see how clearly your love and mercy counteract the darkness. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.