God’s Creation Is Good (1 Timothy 4:1–5)
First Timothy affirms “God’s way of ordering reality” and that this divine ordering has implications for how Christians should behave in their households, churches, and—by an extension of the text’s logic—in their workplaces. The clearest affirmation of God’s creation order comes in 1 Timothy 4:1–5. In 1 Timothy 4:4 Paul plainly declares, “Everything created by God is good.” This is a clear echo of Genesis 1:31, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” Within the context of the letter, this sweepingly positive appraisal of creation is used to combat false teachers who are forbidding marriage and certain foods (1 Tim. 4:3). Paul counters their teaching by asserting that these things ought to be received with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:3, 4). Food, and anything else in God’s creation, is “sanctified” by God’s word and by prayer (1 Tim. 4:5). This does not mean that God’s word and prayer make God’s creation good when it isn’t good already. Rather, in thankfully acknowledging God as the creator and provider of all things, a Christian sets apart created things such as food for a holy and God-honoring purpose. As a Christian, it is possible even to eat and drink to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).
This affirmation of creation means there is no created material that is inherently evil to work with, and no job engaged with creation that is unacceptable for Christians to do if it doesn’t violate God’s will. In other words, a Christian can dig wells, design computer chips, scrub toilets, walk on the moon, fix cell phones, plant crops, or harvest trees to the glory of God. None of these jobs or materials is inherently evil. Indeed, each job can please God. This may seem intuitive to those in the modern Western world who don’t struggle much with asceticism, as the ancient Greek and Roman world did. But 1 Timothy 4:4 reminds even us not to view the material realm as something neutral in moral value or to view something such as technology, for example, as inherently evil. The goodness of all of God’s creation allows us to live and work in joyful freedom, receiving all things as from God’s hands.