Meditations in 1 Timothy: 36: A Balanced Life
1 Tim 6:6-8 But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
Note the ‘but’ that starts this verse indicating a flow of thought from what has just been said, “men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.” (v.5) Godliness for financial gain is not on, but godliness with contentment is really worth going for! The truth is, of course, that if you try to be godly to get money, you won’t be godly. Godliness is all about being like God, open to God and directed by God. You are godly when you submit to His will and let Him lead you into what He has in store for your life.
Contentment is being at peace with what you have, not striving to get more and more. It may be that you sense the Lord leading you on into something more than you are or more than you have at the present, but that is very different from striving and struggling to achieve your own ambitions. Contentment is about being satisfied with what the Lord has given you in your present situation, a place of peace in His will for you.
Thus put godliness together with contentment and you have a person at rest in who God is making them to be and that, says Paul, “is great gain” (v.6c) Note that is not a phrase we would use commonly today and so it needs explaining and so Paul goes on to do that: “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” (v.7) This is the reality of life. When we were born, we had nothing. When we pass through death we will take nothing of this present world with us. In other words, everything we have in this present life is transient and does not last. We need to assess or value it accordingly. Look, he says, “if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (v.8) That is his stance in life. Food and clothing are the basic essentials of life and so if we have them, we should be content; anything else is a bonus. In this materialistic and affluent age, we need to see it like that otherwise we will be striving all the time to get and have more and more. That is a life of stress.
He continues, “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.” (v.9) The path of seeking out riches, he explains, is one full of temptations and traps and wrong desires that so often lead to ruin and destruction. Those who are out to make more and more money take short cuts, make dubious ethical decisions, do others down, verge on the illegal; it is so easy to go morally and ethically astray in this area.
And then he declares a general principle: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (v.10a) Note that it isn’t money that is the root of all evil, but the love of it. You can use money in a whole variety of ways without a problem but it is when you create an emotional attachment to it or reliance upon it that you are opening the door to a whole lot of wrong things or things going wrong. We might note in passing that having or creating wealth is not wrong in itself. The richest man in the Bible was undoubtedly King Solomon and he had it because of the wisdom given him by the Lord. Creating it and possessing it is not wrong in itself; what is important is how you create it and what you then do with it. Those are the areas where we particularly need the Lord’s guidance and perhaps correction.
Paul wants Timothy to be alert to the dangers and hence he adds, “Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (v.10b) Note again it is not ‘everyone’ but some people who have been eager to make money who have allowed their desires and their chasing after money to drift away from the faith (“I was too busy to go to church and be involved in church life.”?). Such people got into difficulties and created many problems for themselves that ended up causing them hurt.
So, finally, Paul gives Timothy a warning: “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” (v.11) Timothy, your calling has been to be a man of God, not a chaser of money, so instead of chasing it, flee from this money-making approach to life. Instead of pursuing money, pursue “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” Let a right standing with God, putting on the character of Jesus, being a man led by the Spirit, Timothy, a man of faith, a man filled with love from God, a man who endures against the trials and obstacles of life and a man in whom in found gentleness when you meet him; let all these things be the things you pursue, you chase after, you work for. May it be so!