Devotional # 207. 9/18/16. 1 Timothy 6:6-10.
Intro. Everyone is searching for happiness (actually they mean “contentment”). This week we will be solely focused on what “contentment” and “godliness” for the Christian looks like.
vv. 6-10. Godliness with Contentment
We come to a very famous verse, “now godliness with contentment is great gain.” We’ve been covering the first part of the equation – “godliness” – through this whole book of 1 Timothy (not to mention elsewhere like Devotional # 201). Think about what Paul has told us in 1 Timothy from the beginning where he confessed prior sins but how Jesus transformed his life (1 Timothy 1:12-17, Devotional # 195). From there how his heart was to see every Christian live a godly life, calling them out when they’re wrong, exhorting when they’re doing well. This bring us to the second part of this equation – “contentment” – which Paul will spend the rest of this section talking about.
First, we see that there can be “godliness withOUT contentment.” In other words we can infer that its possible to be godly but not fully content. And we know that it’s impossible to be truly content without God. Sure, there can be joy in sin (Hebrews 11:25) but ultimately it won’t last (Luke 15:13-15).
Second, we’re given the truthful context of our lives. We come into this world with nothing and we leave with nothing (v. 7). The implication is that God took care of us on either side of our earthly life and we controlled nothing (reminiscent of Job 1:21). So while on earth what makes us think we control anything? As rich as your family is or as poor as your family is your basic needs are covered by God (v. 8). Paul gives us the first part of contentment: that we receive the goodness of God providing “food and clothing” with humility. What happens when we ignore that fact?
Thirdly, ignoring that our basic needs are taken care of can lead to the “desire to be rich.” The simplest definition of “riches” is having more of something than others. Our sin nature isn’t satisfied at having enough, it always wants more: a better house, a faster car, a new wife, etc. But all of us have seen others, and experienced it ourselves, the “desire to be rich” makes us “fall into temptation” and “lusts” which end up “drowning” us in “destruction” (v. 9).
As we move into verse 10, let’s consider that there are two types of kids: one finds $5 on the ground and buys ice cream, the other puts it in savings. One can end up with a tummy ache and the other can end up greedy. Both of those kids will grow into adults and have experiences and molding and run-ins with God. There are two types of adults: one gets a bonus and buys a 200” TV; the other gets a bonus and saves it. Both of these can end poorly. For example, the first, has the TV fall while setting it up which breaks his leg. The second, saves the money under the mattress (having gotten cynical about the banking system) and is robbed. Of course these are sarcastic generalities but the point is made – just because you get some money doesn’t mean it should go to your own desires.
These two categories are seen everywhere: spend or save. There’s nothing wrong with either – in moderation. I’ve heard lower/middle class Christians complain about not having more money but every time they get $10 they blow it. Why would God bless you with more if you can’t handle a little (and don’t give me the, ‘Well, if I had more I wouldn’t blow it’ excuse)? And I’ve seen other Christians who are wealthy but they spend it on themselves (the old, ‘it’s my money, I earned it’ excuse). Sadly, both of these groups of people are never truly “content” (or, dare I say, godly).
This sums up the next famous verse in this section: “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Jesus told us something similar to this in Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13 (mentioned in Devotional #26 and Devotional # 59). As always, we must not misquote this as, “money is a root of all kinds of evil.” But it is the “love of money.” I was wondering which of the four Greek words for “love” Paul uses here. But it’s actually philargyria which, in the whole Bible, is only used here and is translated as “love of money” (Source 1). Since that doesn’t give us much looking at the root (philargyros) can help. It means being “covetous” as used in Luke 16:14 and 2 Timothy 3:2 (Source 2). So being driven by a desire for money that is not yours is a root of all kinds of evil. Last week we talked about symptoms, problems and root causes (Devotional # 206). Fausset is careful to note that the English translation “the root” should be “a root” of all evil. The point is that money “is not the sole root of evils, but it is a leading ‘root of bitterness’ (Hebrews 12:15), for ‘it destroys faith, the root of all that is good’” (Source 3).
Unfortunately this isn’t only applying to non-Christians but Paul is specifically speaking to the Christians in Ephesus. Those Christians were no different than we are today. In the United States we grow up with the consumer mentality. What I believe is different from back then is how widespread it is nowadays. Not only are new churches feeding into this all the time but even the established churches have switched to this mentality. We will spend a little more time on this next week with verses 17-19.
Therefore, the mix for the perfect earthly life (godly and content) will truthfully be “great gain” and only achievable for a Christian. As always, I have to be the downer and mention that problems and persecution will still happen but the good news is that the content Christian will take it all in stride and recognize God’s faithfulness.
In today’s reading we focused on the fact that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” We recognized: 1. The implication is that there can be “godliness withOUT contentment” (v. 6), 2. That we come into, and leave, this life with no earthly possession but God always provides for our basic needs (vv. 7-8), 3. If we don’t humbly and thankfully acknowledge God’s provision we’ll strive after riches which will be dissatisfying (v. 9), 4. There are two types of people: spend or save, and how if those aren’t kept in moderation then you won’t be content (v. 9), 5. How “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” which feeds bitterness and destroys faith (v. 10), 6. How pervasive this is in the American church today.
So what can we do about it? We can note the warning signs in our own lives and in the lives of others. We can take action, through reading the Bible and prayer, training ourselves to desire the Word of God over the dying and corroding new gadgets and possessions that clamor for our attention every day. Next week we’ll talk about fleeing the sins that keep us discontented.
Source 1: philargyria, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5365&t=KJV
Source 2: philargyros, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=G5366&t=KJV
Source 3: A. R. Fausset, partly quoting Bengel, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/1Ti/1Ti_006.cfm?a=1125010