1 Timothy 6:6 - The Great Gain of Contentment
But godliness with contentment is great gain1 Timothy 6:6
The Apostle Paul in this chapter writes to Timothy about the important subject of money and what the Christian's attitude should be towards money. He says that people who want to become rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish and hurtful desires that can plunge them into ruin and destruction. He says that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Notice, he does not say that money is a root of evil, but the love of money. Money in itself is not sinful, but a "creature" of God. Paul brings up this matter in speaking of people who were teaching false doctrine and thinking that godliness was a means for financial gain. They may have become religious, or even joined the church because by doing so they would profit materially. Whatever their motives were, Paul corrects this error, saying that godliness with contentment is great gain.
We have come to the fall season of the year, the thanksgiving "season." For many people this past summer has been difficult, because much of North America has been unusually dry and hot. Many farmers and others whose income is related to farming have suffered. It is fitting that they, and we also, see how the Scriptures speak of contentment.
The word contentment brings to mind its opposite, covetousness and discontent. The world has many discontented people — as does the church. People complain and grumble. As I write this meditation many complain of Michigan's hot summer. People also complain about their work, pay checks, homes, and a hundred other things.
The word "murmuring" brings to mind the history of the Israelites in the desert on the way to Canaan. How bitter they often were. They criticized Moses in the very beginning of their journey when they stood at the banks of the Red Sea and they saw Pharaoh coming with his army of chariots and horses. Weren't there any graves in Egypt that they had to die here? Soon after crossing the Red Sea by God's miracle, they complained about the bitter water, and later they wished they had stayed by the "flesh-pots" of Egypt. This murmuring continued, in-spite of the Lord's continuing provision for all their needs. A common complaint was: "Why did the Lord bring us into the desert to kill us and our children and cattle with thirst?" They complained about their lack of meat, about the report of the first spies, about their boredom with the food, the miraculous manna. The end result was that God was much displeased with most of them, and most of them were not saved. It is a sobering fact that most of the "church people" of that day were not saved, but lost!
God wants us to be contented, satisfied with what we have. Literally, the text reads "godliness with soul-sufficiency is great gain." It means that at heart you are satisfied. Man was created having a body and soul. Animals are satisfied when they have enough food, drink, and shelter. But that is not true for man who is a spiritual being. Real life for man is more than eating and drinking. What will satisfy man as such a creation of the Lord? Will enough money, food and other material things satisfy his soul and make him contented? Of course not. Compare some of the translations or paraphrasings of this text. "A man's real life in no way depends upon the number of his possessions" — Philips' translation. The N.E.B. reads this way: "When a man has more than enough, his wealth does not give him life." Material things, money, cannot feed our souls. True contentment, is not found in how much we own and possess of the things of this world. Riches do not bring contentment and rich people as well as poor are often discontented and unhappy. Recall what Jesus said about the rich fool in Luke 12. Faced with a big crop, he planned to build bigger barns, thinking he could then "take life easy, eat, drink and be merry." But that night he died.
"Godliness with contentment is great gain," says Paul. We have to be godly — related to God. This is possible only through faith in Jesus Christ. He is our "righteousness," despite all our failures and shortcomings. And He is our Lord and Master, whom we must reverently try to serve with a holy life. He controls all of our lives and the world in which we live. By His grace, we try to commit our lives to Him and trust in His everlasting mercies. We know that all things, including adversities, work together for good for His people. The hot and dry summers are "from" Him, our crops, pay check and all the favorable and adverse experiences are from the Lord. Faith in Christ produces godly living. In it, we know that we are not our own, but, body and soul, in life and death, belong to our faithful Savior. In this faith, we acknowledge the Lord's daily love and providence and therefore try to be contented with the cars we drive, the homes we live in, our income, clothing and all our physical assets.
That kind of contentment is "great gain," says Paul.
God wants His children to grow after they have been initially saved, to become more mature children. We must grow in faith and love for God and our neighbors. We must become less earthly-minded and more heavenly-minded. We are usually slow growers, and don't make great gains, even over a period of years. The Heidelberg Catechism says that the holiest have only a small beginning of this new obedience. Paul says that we make great gains when we become more contented. To be contented when conditions are adverse, when weather is hot and dry, when the Christian fanner may barely make ends meet, when other people may have much more than we have. We make great gains when we can say with the Scriptures, "having food and clothing, lets us therewith be content."
What is the last word here? A prayer. O God, give us grace to be more godly. We have much more than the Israelites ever had. They had manna for every meal of the day and lived in tents year after year. Compare that with our modern homes and all our conveniences. Because their clothes did not wear out, evidently they never got new clothing and all the adults and children wore were "hand me downs." And they were severely condemned because they murmured. Comparing our lives with theirs suggests our need to pray for forgiveness for all of our discontent and for the Spirit to make us more godly and contented. Let's pray that the Lord will make us more willing to live within our means and not be covetous, but more Christ like. Not the high cost of living, but the cost of high living often makes us dissatisfied. Show us, Lord, that contentment means not to seek what we want, but to gratefully use what we already have.
And finally, Lord, make us realize that when we as saved sinners have Christ we can say: "My cup runs over."