1 Timothy 6:6-19
Actually, godliness is a great source of profit when it is combined with being happy with what you already have. 7 We didn’t bring anything into the world and so we can’t take anything out of it: 8 we’ll be happy with food and clothing. 9 But people who are trying to get rich fall into temptation. They are trapped by many stupid and harmful passions that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some have wandered away from the faith and have impaled themselves with a lot of pain because they made money their goal.
11 But as for you, man of God, run away from all these things. Instead, pursue righteousness, holy living, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness. 12 Compete in the good fight of faith. Grab hold of eternal life—you were called to it, and you made a good confession of it in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I command you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and Christ Jesus, who made the good confession when testifying before Pontius Pilate. 14 Obey this order without fault or failure until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 The timing of this appearance is revealed by God alone, who is the blessed and only master, the King of kings and Lord of lords. 16 He alone has immortality and lives in light that no one can come near. No human being has ever seen or is able to see him. Honor and eternal power belong to him. Amen.
17 Tell people who are rich at this time not to become egotistical and not to place their hope on their finances, which are uncertain. Instead, they need to hope in God, who richly provides everything for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to do good, to be rich in the good things they do, to be generous, and to share with others. 19 When they do these things, they will save a treasure for themselves that is a good foundation for the future. That way they can take hold of what is truly life.
The Pastoral Epistle of Timothy brings us full circle here in the last chapter. If you remember, Paul forsakes his usual patterns of letters when he launches directly into the meat of the letter immediately after his greeting. The content he is aiming at is strengthening Timothy in his dealing with false teachers. In 1:3-11 and now in 6:3-16 Paul is putting the bookends on the letter. In this chapter 6, immediately before our passage, the content relates to two themes. The first is teachers who love to argue over words and nuances. In the time of this writing, the “philosophers” delighted in battles of logic and wit. (Probably not too unlike our current day politics!) But there was another side of false teachers that Paul attacks. That side involves purveying the Gospel for the purpose of profit. In the Dark Ages it was referred to as “selling indulgences.” For the right money you would be granted certain privileges in the religious world. Faith for gain. Paul concludes this thought in verse 5, “They [the false teachers] think that godliness is a way to make money.”
How do false teachers gain their foothold? You would not intentionally choose to begin following a money-grubbing sleaze bag! No, the preacher would begin in the right mind with God. Orators of the day began by connecting with the Human condition of those listening. They would offer wisdom and encouragement. Occasionally, God would put them in the right place and the right time. God would do some great work through them, and a subtle shift might begin to happen. That particular success in ministry might bring them a measure of notoriety. Maybe that notoriety was accompanied with a monetary gift. Gradually a shift in their motivation would begin to occur. While keeping up their façade, their real intentions became gain for themselves. Essentially, they got caught up in world’s definition of “life”. Life is to gain wealth and gain power over others. It morphed into being “right” rather than representing the Savior they serve. Even in the church we can get caught up in “being right.” I have long ascribed to the thought that it is not right theology that is at the center of what we do. It is building a right relationship with God.
It is worth noting Paul’s language in our passage. Twice Paul utilizes the contrast word, “instead” [vs. 11 & 17], and once uses the word, “actually.” In addition, twice Paul uses a variation of the phrase, ‘take hold of life [Vs. 12 & 19]. We will see how that brings light to how we need to live.
Our entire passage this morning, indeed the entire of chapter 6, revolves verse 6. – “Actually, godliness is a great source of profit when it is combined with being happy with what you already have.” Godliness with contentment. Godliness with contentment is a hedge against false teaching and a taking hold for what is truly life.
So, what is Godliness? What is contentment?
Godliness: Again, Paul gives us a list in verse 11. “But as for you, man of God, run away from all these things. Instead, pursue righteousness, holy living, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness.” This is Paul’s first “instead,” and in verse 12 he offers the first “Grab hold …”. He says, run from the love of money. Instead, pursue (seek eagerly) these things. The first three seem to be oriented toward God, second three seem to be oriented toward God and each other. He begins the list with righteousness and holy living. What do we think of when we hear those words? Charles Swindoll says, “Holiness sounds scary. I need not be, but to the average American it is. Our tendency is to say that holiness is something for the cloistered halls of a monastery. It needs organ music, long prayers, and religious-sounding chants. It hardly seems appropriate for those in the real world of the [twenty-first] century. Author John White seems to agree with that as he wrote in The Fight the images that came to mind as he thought about holiness: “thinness, hollow-eyed gauntness, beards, sandals, long robes, stone cells, no sex, no jokes, hair shirts, frequent cold baths, fasting, hours of prayer, wild rocky deserts, getting up at 4 a.m., clean fingernails, stained glass, self-humiliation.” Is that the picture you have when you think of holiness? Many do. It’s almost as though holiness is the private preserve of an austere group of monks, missionaries, mystics, and martyrs. But nothing could be further from the truth. Swindoll says, “I couldn’t be more in agreement with Chuck Colson’s statement in Loving God: “Holiness is the everyday business of every Christian. It evidences itself in the decisions we make and the things we do, hour by hour, day by day.”” Pursuing righteousness and holy living consists of learning to think as God thinks and will as God wills. It is seeking to be right with God (righteousness, holy living, faithfulness) and through that be right with humanity (love, endure, gentle).
Contentment: Verses 17-19 contain the second “instead” and second “take hold of …” statements. “Tell people who are rich at this time not to become egotistical and not to place their hope on their finances, which are uncertain. Instead, they need to hope in God, who richly provides everything for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to do good, to be rich in the good things they do, to be generous, and to share with others. 19 When they do these things, they will save a treasure for themselves that is a good foundation for the future. That way they can take hold of what is truly life.”
Too often we love things and use people instead of loving people and using things. The preacher in Hebrews says, “Your way of life should be free from the love of money, and you should be content with what you have. After all, he has said, I will never leave you or abandon you.” [Hebrews 13:5] His first advice is to the wealthy. He says, “Hope in God” (vs. 17). As always, Paul is not indicating that wealth is un-Christian, nor that life is to be lived in a somber, controlled way. No, he says to hope in God “who richly provides everything for our enjoyment.” Let’s think about God’s provisions for living for a moment. In Philippians 4:19 we read, “My God will supply your every need out of his riches in the glory that is found in Christ Jesus.” God will meet our needs. Again, Jesus, in Matthew 6:31-33 says, “31 Therefore, don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ 32 Gentiles long for all these things. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Paul’s second advice to the wealthy is do good with what you have. This is truly the sticking point with many. Wealth brings a protectionist attitude. ‘I have to protect what I have because I could lose it all in a split second.’ The world says, ‘amass great wealth as a foundation for tomorrow. God says, ‘when we are generous and share with others we will save a treasure for [ourselves] that is a good foundation for the future.’
This is not the first time that Paul has addressed contentment and what it does for life. In Philippians 4:11-13 Paul says it this way, “I’m not saying this because I need anything, for I have learned how to be content in any circumstance. 12 I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor. 13 I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength. Godliness with contentment is truly grabbing hold, taking hold of what is “truly life.”
Are there areas in your life where you are not content? Are you missing life? Might you be struggling with maintaining a “god-centered life? Pursue godliness with contentment. Seek to walk closer with God every day. Cultivate contentment knowing God knows what you need and will supply it abundantly. Jesus said, “I came to bring you life in all its fullness.” (John 10:10) With Paul, we add our “amen.” “Now to the king of the ages, to the immortal, invisible, and only God, may honor and glory be given to him forever and always!” “Honor and eternal power belong to him.” (1:17 and 6:16) To God be the glory! Amen!