“But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
As we think about these verses contained in 1 Timothy 6, one of the first words I noticed when I was reading was the word “contentment.” “Contentment” means “a state of happiness and satisfaction.” The Apostle Paul is recommending that we cultivate contentment in our lives because we are godly people living in submission in the midst of the order God has set up. We are people who pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. We have those things as our core values.
I want you to notice if you will the context of the word “contentment.” We are not talking about relationships or physical looks or life circumstances (which certainly does apply as we look back on 1 Timothy 1-5 and other Scriptures), but rather we are talking about finances. The sense we get from these verses is that the Christian way of living is not as its primary goal going after money and amassing wealth. That certainly does not mean that money cannot be saved or earned or business deals struck which make us money. Loving money crowds out the contentment Paul is talking about. Paul says that wanting more and more money are “foolish desires” and lead only to “ruin.” Desiring more and more money may force us to do things we would not normally do. Paul calls that “piercing ourselves with many griefs.” Paul specifically in these verses says that contentment with financial things is a must for the believer.
The Bible mentions contentment with money a few times in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Two passages from the New Testament caught my eye.
Philippians 4:11-13 tells us, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
Please notice that the often quoted Philippians 4:13 about us doing all things through Christ has a context of being content with money and physical material things. Paul found that the only way he could be content with the financial circumstances was through his faith in Christ.
Hebrews 13:5-6 reminds us, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
Again, we are shown in the Bible that the only way to be content with financial circumstances is to rely on God through it. God brings us confidence in these matters. God brings us strength.
As we think about the verses in 1 Timothy 6, one of the first words I noticed when I was reading was the word “contentment.” That also made me think about the opposite of being content which is discontent. “Discontent” is a lack of satisfaction. Synonyms are “disgruntled,” “unhappy,” and “resentment.” We know the feeling of discontentment when we feel it. As I read over these verses, discontentment fleshed out would be the opposite of what Paul says:
Verse 6: Discontentment is ungodly
Verse 7: Discontentment is trying to amass wealth even after death
Verse 8: Discontentment is wanting more than you need
Verse 9: Discontentment is a trap that leads to ruin.
Verse 10: Discontentment is the love of money.
Verse 10: Discontentment can lead you away from God.
There are plenty of stories in the Bible where the feeling of being discontent or restlessness lead to something awful. Let’s just take a look at the book of Genesis. The first book of the Bible is full of the lives of many people. Some of them dealt with the feeling of being discontent.
Even from the very beginning in Eden, Adam and Eve had a perfect place to live (Genesis 3). Satan tempted Adam and Eve to be discontent with what God had given them. He pressed on them the idea that they needed to be more than what God had already created. Their eyes were opened to more and it caused them to sin.
Abraham and Lot became so wealthy that they had to separate their flocks and herds so the land could support them (Genesis 13). Abraham was content to live as God instructed. Lot was not content to live as God instructed. He chose to move near the town of Sodom. Soon after that, he camped near it. Then he was inside living as one of them. He ended up getting captured one time and Abraham had to rescue him. Then, he lost his wife when God destroyed the evil city.
Jacob and Esau are the twin sons of Isaac (Genesis 25). The younger son schemed and tricked his brother and father into inheritance and blessing because he wasn’t content with anything. His mother also seemed to feed his feeling of discontentment. He was not content with what he had and lied and cheated his way to blessing. Then later he himself was almost cheated out of the woman he loved.
So how do we turn our back on the feeling of being discontent and cultivate a great sense of contentment in our lives? I believe we find the answers in verses 11 and 12 of 1 Timothy 6. You see, I think it is human nature, and by that I mean our default as people, not to be content. We err on the side of discontent. God knows this is our sinful nature at work.
Therefore, God instructs us when it comes to money and material things what our aims should be. Our aims for material things should not be more and more. Our aims for material things should not be the latest and greatest.
What builds contentment in our lives? The Apostle Paul lists them in verse 11: Righteousness, Godliness, Faith, Love, Endurance, Gentleness
When we keep our eyes and our heart set for these types of things in our lives, then we have weapons against the wave of discontentment that is sure to wash over us. You see, when we are self-absorbed, committed to sin, faithless, hard-hearted, quick to quit, and quite rough around the edges, discontent flourishes inside our hearts and directs our actions.
Is this easy? Paul in verse 12 tells us absolutely not. In fact, he encourages us in verse 12 to “Fight the good fight of the faith.” It is a fight to keep ourselves righteousness, godly, faithful, loving, full of endurance, and gentle. He uses the word “fight.” This is an uphill battle for us, but one worth taking on. This is a long obstacle course challenge that is worth our time and effort. Cultivating contentment will keep us from ruining our lives and making very poor decisions.
Contentment really is a spiritual issue and is not an amount-of-money issue. God is always there and never changes and informs us how we can be content with our finances. Financial contentment has less to do with money and more to do with our attitudes, belief systems, and decisions. Financial contentment brings peace of mind. Peace of mind and contentment comes from committing ourselves to righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.