1 Timothy 6:1-10
Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. – 1 Timothy 6:6-8 NLT
True godliness should make a difference in the way we live our lives. In this short series of verses, Paul addresses three different groups of people in the church in Ephesus. His point was to remind Timothy that the Christian faith was to be a practical part of everyday life. It was to make a difference in the way believers lived and interacted with the world around them. First, he addresses slaves – specifically those slaves who had come to faith in Christ and were now part of the body of Christ. Slavery was a huge part of the culture in Ephesus, with all kinds of slaves living and working in the community. Some had been sold into slavery. Others had been forced into slavery because they had been unable to pay their debts. And these slaves would have been of various backgrounds and cultures. There would have been both Jewish and Gentile slaves. But the ones to whom Paul is referring are believing slaves – those who had placed their faith in Jesus Christ and were now part of the local fellowship in Ephesus. Paul encourages Timothy to teach these individuals to show respect to their masters and to work hard. Paul doesn’t spend time condemning slavery or attempting to disrupt the social fabric of his day. He doesn’t condone slavery, but neither does he condemn it. He simply wants those who find themselves impacted by it to live their lives in a way that would honor God and illustrate godly behavior. In his letter to Philemon, a Christian slave owner, Paul was asking him to receive back Onesimus, a runaway slave who had become a believer. Paul encouraged Philemon, “he is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord” (Philemon 1:16 NLT). Faith in Christ does not always change our circumstances, but it does change the way we should live within them.
The next group Paul addressed were false teachers – those who were contradicting Paul’s teaching and stirring up “arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions” (1 Timothy 6:4 NLT). These individuals were obsessed with arrogant and lacked true understanding. They had turned their back on the truth of God and were concocting their own version of the truth. And their motivation was purely selfish and financial in nature. Paul said, “to them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy” (1 Timothy 6:5 NLT). Their ministry was materially motivated. And their godliness was all for show.
But Paul had a different understanding of godliness. It was to be, in and of itself, the objective. It was not to be a means to and end. Godliness was not to be used as a device to gain respect, power, or financial gain. It was sufficient in and of itself. And when godliness was accompanied with contentment, it would prove more than profitable to an individual’s life. That’s why a godly slave could remain a slave and be content with his lot in life. Circumstances have little or nothing to do with godliness and should have virtually no impact on the degree of our contentment. Godliness is not dependent upon material possessions. The godly individual does not rely upon the accumulation of things to find contentment. Which is why Paul writes, “So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content” (1 Timothy 6:8 NLT). The motivation of the false teachers was money. The motivation of the godly is Christ.
Paul ends up this section talking about those who love money. Each of these three groups were part of the church in Ephesus. There were slaves, false teachers and lovers of money participating in the body of Christ there. And not all those who had a love affair with money were false teachers. There were obviously some who had much and wanted more, and there were those who had little and dreamed of having more. In both cases, the love of money would prove to be dangerous. “…people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9 NLT). Their lives are not marked by contentment. Godliness is not their goal, the accumulation of wealth is. God is not their provider and protector, money is. Paul does not condemn money or wealth. He simply points out that the love of it and obsession over it is potentially harmful for the believer. It can have devastating consequences on a believer’s pursuit of godliness.
True godliness is accompanied by contentment. The desire for more of anything, other than Christ, can be deadly to the believer. The desire for something other than Christ for our contentment, joy, fulfillment and hope can also prove to be harmful to our spiritual maturity. Slaves needed to be content with their circumstances and live godly lives right where they were. The false teachers needed to be content with the truth of God’s Word and the message of Jesus Christ, just as it had been preached, and live godly lives without expecting any financial reward in return. Those who loved and long for money were to be content with their current financial status and live godly lives regardless of how little or how much money they had. Godliness combined with contentment is the real currency of God’s Kingdom.
Father, may we learn to pursue godliness more than anything else in this earth? We get so obsessed with changing our circumstances, thinking that is the key to happiness and contentment. But the reality is that You are and have always been the only source of contentment for our lives. Help us to continue to discover that true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men