In a long list of sins that make the last days difficult, the apostle Paul cites the next-to-last in contrast with a great quality that God seeks in man:
loving pleasure rather than loving God
2 Timothy 3.4 NET
- Who? These are people, v. 2, in general in this long list of sins to whom Paul refers and, perhaps, people in the church. Such as these cause times to be hard, because (1) they oppose the gospel; (2) they are more resistant to the message; and (3) such attitudes manifest themselves in the church, requiring great efforts at teaching and discipline. That such people have some form of religion, v. 5, only makes it worse.
- Where? Where does man devote his attentions? The compound word of this phrase, loving pleasure (Greek, philedonos), near the end of the list, corresponds to the first item, lovers of themselves (Greek, philautos). These cannot be loving God (Greek, philotheos). Whoever loves self seeks satisfaction in pursuing his desires and becomes an enemy of God.
- When? It seems that Paul is looking into the future, to the “last days” v. 1, but he recommends that Timothy “avoid people like these” v. 5. (The “last days” generally describes the Christian era.) Certainly, lovers of pleasure describes our modern times, since people live for the weekend and vacation time, nations compete to see who has more holidays, the market turns on sales of entertainment, and the sign of our times is the theme park.
- How? Teaching determines conduct. Paul here “is most concerned about the moral degeneracy which sets in as a consequence of wrong teaching” (NBC21). He wants his friend to understand the source of such conduct, to perceive (v. 1) the effect this will have on those who seek to live in holiness, and to devote himself to sound doctrine as the only solution.
- Do what? One must not become a lover of pleasure, in order that one may be a lover of God. Don’t allow yourself to be influenced by such people, but avoid them, v 5. Insist on sound doctrine, in order to prevent the church from being taken and controlled by them.