This Sunday we consider Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 6:6-19 regarding the danger of the love of money. While the passage’s opening phrase “godliness with contentment is great gain” is primarily concerned with financial contentment, it can be considered more broadly.
In today’s Western world, the combination of godliness with contentment seems rare. Instead, worldliness with contentment is the order of the day. Super-wealthy celebrities and personalities who demonstrate self-indulgent greed are constantly displayed as “content”, smiling happily on the red carpet, while enjoying every perceivable luxury. Closer to home, we can think of friends and acquaintances who live unashamedly worldly lives, disregarding God and his love for them, and seem perfectly contented.
On the other hand, while we often faithfully pursue godliness rather than worldliness, our experience can sometimes be one of resentment rather than contentment. We know deep down that God has called us to live in a way that is ultimately best for us, but day-by-day we experience the wear and tear of living against the grain of the world; rejecting materialism and self-centred living, making sacrifices for other people, and sometimes experiencing ridicule and shame. Meanwhile we see other people having more fun, completely apart from God, leading to understandable resentment; either at our situation or at God. “Lord, I’m doing my best to live for you here – why is this so hard?!” The easiest “solution” to this resentment is to take the moral high ground, to look down on others, to rejoice in their downfall and gleefully consider God’s ultimate judgement of those who reject him. But this attitude of arrogance is certainly not contentment.
How then do we rightly reject worldliness with contentment, and godliness with resentment (and godliness with arrogance!) to actually experience godliness with contentment? In the absence of a clear easy answer to this challenge, here are a few considerations from Philippians.
- Perspective on present trials and future hope is helpful when we resent those who seem to enjoy worldly pleasure without acknowledging God. Paul encourages his readers to focus on what lies before them, God’s promised future (Phil 3:13-15).
- 2. Paul encourages his readers to rejoice, not by denying troubles and hard realities, but in recognising the peace of God even when life is hard (Phil 4:4-7). While easier said than done, remembering God’s peace in our life can lead to contentment in hard times.
3. Finally, Paul encourages us to consider the example of Jesus, our ultimate pioneer in godliness. Jesus’ humility in the face of incredible hardship and loss led to ultimate glory, providing us with a helpful example in our times of hardship (Phil 2:5-11).