CONTENTMENT 1 Timothy 6
“Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (1 Tim. 6:6–7).It’s fine to have money as long as money doesn’t have you.
Even servitude provides opportunities to minister (6:1–2). A love of money characterizes false teachers (vv. 3–5) and is a trap believers are wise to avoid (vv. 6–10). Godly people pursue righteousness (vv. 11–16), and view their wealth as providing opportunities to do good (vv. 17–21).
Understanding the Text
“Those who benefit from their service” 1 Tim. 6:1–2. The New Testament has a unique outlook on relationships. There is no shame in being a slave, because servitude provides a person with an opportunity to benefit others. The thought is reflected in other passages. Whatever role God gives us in life provides some opportunity to do others good. The husband who loves his wife shows the same concern for her needs that Christ showed for the church. Thus “headship” is transformed by Jesus’ example from a grab for power to a commitment to servanthood. In the same way the wife’s “in subjection” position is not demeaning, but a description of one way she takes the lead in serving her husband. You and I need to adopt this biblical perspective in all that we do. Are you an employee? Then work hard, to help your employer make a profit. Are you an employer? Then make sure you pay your workers a fair wage, and that you have a real concern for each one’s welfare. When we see each relationship as a God-given opportunity to minister, all of our relationships with others will be fulfilling. And we will glorify God in them. “Who think that godliness is a means to financial gain” 1 Tim. 6:3–5. One attribute of the false teacher, mentioned in nearly every New and Old Testament passage on the subject, is a love for money. They slip on a cloak of religion, not because they love God, but because they see it as a way to make a buck. Paul noted other attributes: they invent distinctive and false doctrines to set themselves off from others (v. 3). They have an unhealthy interest in controversy—often encouraging suspicion of or antagonism toward others (v. 4). And those who follow their teachings are characterized by envy and malice rather than by Christian love (v. 5). We need to be alert for such signs when popular new teachers appear. But more than that, we need to be alert for an unhealthy interest in money arising in our own hearts. Godliness often costs us opportunities to pile up earthly riches, and seldom pays material dividends. But it sure pays off in the end! “Godliness with contentment” 1 Tim. 6:6–8. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” He didn’t use the wrong word. Sometimes I know I’d feel more comfortable if I had my “10 years bread” socked away in CDs or a money market fund. But if I did, I wouldn’t have the same motivation to rely on God for tomorrow’s, or this week’s, or this month’s needed income. What God wants me to cultivate is an attitude of contentment with what I have now. Having “food and clothing,” Paul said, “we will be content with that.” God provides the necessities—and I don’t need the luxuries. How do I know? Why, when I die, nothing material I’ve gained will be taken with me. But the essential “me”—all that I am as an individual, all that I have or will become, is carried on into eternity. In the last analysis, nothing else counts. So if you’re not rich, count it a blessing. The opportunity to deepen your faith in God as you trust Him for daily bread is a great blessing. For the more godly person that you are becoming will enter God’s presence, and every material possession will be left behind. “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” 1 Tim. 6:9–10. The common misquote of this verse says, “Money is the root of all evil.” This is a double misunderstanding. Money isn’t bad in itself, and having money doesn’t automatically make you a bad person. And, every evil does not find its roots in money. Much good is done by money given by Christians and used to help others. What Paul warned against is a love for money, for that passion for wealth can motivate a person to any and every sort of evil deed. Love for money can lead a person to lie, to defraud others, to betray friends, to steal, cheat, slander, and murder. A person whose goal is to get rich is sure to be betrayed by that passion. If riches come, it’s all right to welcome them. But it is a “temptation and a trap” to desire them (see DEVOTIONAL). “Flee from all this” 1 Tim. 6:11. The Christian life isn’t one of negatives. Wherever there is a “don’t,” we find implied a “do.” It’s the same with a desire for money. Paul said flee this kind of thing. And then he listed values to hold in money’s place. What are we to love and pursue if we don’t love and pursue money? Why, righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. So when it comes to making decisions, we have some pretty clear guidelines. Which choice accords with righteousness? Which will help me grow in godliness? Which will help me develop and express faith, love, endurance, and gentleness? Try using these guidelines when you make the significant decisions in your life. You’ll find true contentment. And you’ll spare yourself a lot of grief! “In the sight of God” 1 Tim. 6:13–16. Sometimes we can fool ourselves about the motives for our actions. But we can never deceive God. And, deep down, you and I usually know when what we are doing is out of God’s will. Paul used powerful words to remind us that we live “in the sight of God” when he urged Timothy, and us as well, to “take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” Ordinary people “take hold of” earthly life, and understandably pursue earthly goals. We can’t criticize the non-Christian for being motivated by money and the power or security he thinks it will bring. But you and I have been called to eternal life! We’ve been called to live here on earth in the constant awareness that our destiny is eternity. We know that life here flickers but for a brief moment, and then as we pass into the presence of God will burn brightly forever and ever. You and I, then, should never be deceived, or take the empty goals of earthlings as our own. So let’s live “in the sight of God,” not only aware that He sees us, but seeing Him. If God is ever before us, the vision of His glory will release us from the inferior desires. “Those who are rich” 1 Tim. 6:17–21. Earlier Paul asked us to view slavery as an opportunity to serve. Now he reminded the rich that their wealth gave them a unique opportunity to serve others. But again, attitude is important. The rich are not to count on their riches, nor to guard their wealth jealously. Instead the rich are to “put their hope in God,” and “be rich in good deeds.” A generous rich man is a bright jewel in God’s crown. And, in being generous, the rich will find a meaning in life that they would otherwise never know (v. 19).
Eager for Money(1 Tim. 6:6–11)
“I want a college major that will prepare me to make a lot of money.” “I want to marry a millionaire.” “I need to take this transfer if I’m going to advance in the company.” I suppose each of these statements expresses a pretty common viewpoint. Each, however, also expresses something else. Each makes it clear that eagerness for money is a value that determines the speaker’s decisions. Paul had a lot of sympathy for such folks, because they’ve missed something vital in Christian faith, and have set out on a course that’s likely to “pierce themselves with many griefs.” Why? Well, for one thing, we Christians are placed here on earth to serve others and to glorify God. Looking at college as a ticket to some high-paying job means that the person is not looking at his life-work in a Christian perspective. All too many fast-track businessmen over 40 look back, and realize that in their pursuit of money they’ve sacrificed their families, health, and their own higher ideals. The grief they feel when it’s too late can never be assuaged by a six-figure salary, even with bonuses. The girl who wants to marry a millionaire is being totally unrealistic about marriage. The qualities that make for a happy, successful, and lasting marriage can’t be measured by one’s bank account. If such women are unfortunate enough to find their millionaire, they all too often pay a high price in loneliness, lovelessness, and unhappiness. The person who evaluates a transfer only in terms of financial benefit is also ignoring more important values. Is the family settled down in the present community, with a circle of good Christian friends, and a significant church life? How will the spouse and children be affected by a move just for the sake of the career? Again, moves motivated by a desire for money have often proven disastrous, and created many griefs for the individual and his or her family. What Paul is saying to us isn’t that we should ignore the economics of our decisions. He is warning us that if we find an eagerness for money pushing out consideration of other, more important values, we’re in serious personal and spiritual danger. We can be sure of one thing. That desire for money was not given to us by God.
Keep “money” last on your list of reasons for making any significant decision in your life.
“Of all temptations, none so struck at the whole work of God as the deceitfulness of riches, a thousand melancholy proofs of which I have seen during my fifty-year ministry. How deceitful indeed are riches! Only a few—perhaps sixty, maybe not even half that—of the rich people I have known during my fifty years of ministry, as far as I can judge, were as holy being rich as they would have been had they been poor.”—Charles Wesley