GODLINESS WITH CONTENTMENT IS GREAT GAIN
SERENITY (PHOTO BY PASTOR DAVIS)
Now listen to how the Scriptures teach us on this subject matter; it says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction, (1 Timothy 6:6-9)!” Now pause your thoughts right here for a moment and click on this video for a short introduction summary of what this lesson is about and we will meet you on the other side.
Those few simple words make a powerful and profound statement that I would like to take a few minutes of your valuable time to explore. The text is a little bit longer than our normal lessons, but I encourage you to read it through till the end, I assure you that it will bless your soul.
The lesson today is taken from Paul’s letter that he wrote to his son Timothy, known as the book of 1st Timothy. In this closing section of his instructional letter, Paul returned to discussing how Timothy should handle the false teachers. Paul main concern was not about the form of the instruction they were providing to the people, but that the false teachers disagreed with what Jesus Christ had taught and demonstrated. They erred in contradicting and discounting Jesus.
Therefore, Paul told them that false teaching is ungodly teaching; it cannot result in a godly life. Our applications of God’s word will always depend on how accurately we have understood the teaching of God’s word. But these false teachers were not merely mistaken in their doctrine; their evil went deeper. Or rather, it originated in deeper problems. They were not well intentioned teachers who had made unfortunate mistakes. Their basic motivations were evil.
Paul told Timothy to stay away from those who just want to make money from preaching, and from those in the Church who stray from the sound teachings of the gospel into controversial arguments. Paul was exposing these false teachers by revealing their real character behind their veneer of prestige. These are not very flattering words for a group of teachers who apparently thought very highly of themselves!
Paul said, “CONCEITED,” describes the trait of a person having an excessively favorable opinion of his own ability or importance. The false teachers showed all that and more, yet Paul confronted that conceit by explaining that they were actually “ignorant.” The utter falsehood of both the content and the conclusions of their teaching was worthy not of pride, but shame. They did not agree with the truth, but instead had an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words that promoted speculation and led to arguments about ideals that came not from Scripture, but from the minds of the false teachers.
The controversial ideas and the disputes about words had a devastating effect in the church. With the believers embroiled in arguments over meaningless theories and false doctrine, relationships began to deteriorate. Jealousy is followed by fighting, meaning competition and or violent and bitter conflict. Slander and evil suspicions surely follow. The seeds of false teaching in Ephesus were yielding a harvest of bitterness.
Here are some more characteristics of false teachers: they always cause trouble because they all had corrupt (debased, depraved, tainted) minds. Not only were they ignorant, but their minds were so corrupt that the truth (God’s truth) was completely absent. They were motivated by getting rich. While Paul instructed the church about the Christian leader’s right to be paid for their service, he made it clear that they should not be greedy and should not consider their ministry as a way to get rich. Those who did clearly could not be serving the Lord Christ with pure motives, but instead were serving their selfish desires.
The false teachers thought religion was a means to get rich; instead, true religion is great wealth in itself when accompanied by contentment. One’s religion does not come and go with the uncertainties of material wealth; faith in Christ, with contentment, is the wealth, independent of one’s bankbook and possessions. The false teachers had it backward.
True religion (faith in Christ) requires training and develops inner spiritual qualities, while at the same time being apparent in the way we relate to others. It exhibits true character exemplified in the way we serve others. Contentment grows from our attitude toward living God’s way. To have contentment in Christ requires four decisions about the events and possessions of our life:
- 1. We must focus on what God has already allowed us to have.
- 2. We must disregard what we do not have.
- 3. We must refuse to covet what others may have.
- 4. We must give thanks to God for each and all of his gifts.
If we fail to make these decisions, our contentment will diminish.
Finally, the great wealth that motivated the false teachers was neither lasting nor escapable of bringing contentment. Their earthly profits would be left behind. What brings great wealth has to do with eternal values. When material treasures become our focus, we quit contributing to our eternal account. Whatever gains we may experience in this life mean nothing if they cause us eternal bankruptcy!
This statement provides the key to spiritual growth and personal fulfillment. We should honor God and center our desires on him, and we should be content with what God is doing in our lives.
Paul followed up his statement about the true source of contentment by discounting any hope of ultimate contentment based merely on this life. The correct perspective on material possessions—money, houses, clothing, vehicles, jewels, land, etc.—remains eternally the same. They cannot last forever. We can lose, break, or ruin them in this life. We didn’t bring them with us when we were born, and we cannot carry anything with us when we die.
Human beings have basic needs. Believers and unbelievers alike require food and clothing (also implying shelter) for survival. The difference should be that when believers’ basic needs are met, they ought to be satisfied and content, requiring nothing more. In contrast, unbelievers are driven by society’s standards and desires, they cannot be content with only basic needs being met because they must always strive for more.
After stating the simple plan for living faithfully, Paul challenged the world’s view by showing the outcome of trying to gain contentment through the pursuit of wealth. The desire to be rich is, by its very nature, a desire that cannot be satiated. People who long to be rich cannot understand contentment because they can never have enough money. The temptation of money feeds their greed. Soon their passion plunges them into ruin and destruction. Therefore, let us feast on these words, “GODLINESS WITH CONTENTMENT IS GREAT GAIN!”