“Godliness with Contentment” (1 Timothy 6:6-19)

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 26, 2010

“Godliness with Contentment” (1 Timothy 6:6-19)

In our Epistle lesson for today, St. Paul writes to his young assistant, Timothy, and presents him with two different ways to live. One is the way of greed, covetousness, the love of money. The other is the way of godliness, contentment, faith in God. These two ways of life cannot be reconciled; you cannot go in both directions at once. For one, ultimately, is the way of death, while the other is truly the way of life. And so what Paul writes to Timothy, a young pastor in the first century, also applies to all of us now in the twenty-first century. The thing to pursue in life is not greediness with coveting, but rather “Godliness with Contentment.”

Our text begins: “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”

“Godliness with contentment.” That is where the great gain is. These are two interesting words that Paul uses here. The Greek word for “godliness” is “eusebeia.” It means godliness; religion; the worship of the one true God; an upright, pious, religious life; one’s faith put into practice in a life of good works. That’s “eusebeia,” “godliness.” “With contentment.” The Greek word here is “autarkeia,” contentment; the state of being satisfied; that you have what is necessary, and that is enough. “Godliness with contentment”: “He eusebeia meta autarkeias” is how the Greek reads. Godliness with contentment: That is the real way of life, and that is what you are to pursue.

“For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” All the stuff in the middle is just transitory. It comes and goes, and you can’t take it with you. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never seen a U-Haul trailer attached to a hearse.

“But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” That’s all you really need, at any given time. Enough food to keep you going, and enough clothes to keep you warm. The rest is just gravy: nice if you have it, but not absolutely necessary. You don’t “need” a huge luxurious mansion with a four-car garage and four cars to fill it, and a heated swimming pool, tennis court, and nine-hole golf course in the backyard. I think you can get by on less. Your heavenly Father knows what you need, and he’ll take care of you. That’s contentment, godliness with contentment.

And then Paul describes the other side, greediness with coveting, and shows where that will end. He says: “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation.” I think most of you are familiar with Aesop’s fable about the dog and his reflection. A dog was walking along with a piece of meat in his mouth. He’s walking across a stream, and he looks down at the water. He sees what he thinks is another dog with a piece of meat. He wants what the “other” dog has. So he opens his mouth to bark at the other dog, and in the process, of course, he loses the piece of meat he has. That’s what his extreme desire for more got him. And it’s a good illustration of the folly of covetousness, that excessive desire to be rich, when someone is never satisfied or content.

But the problem is not just losing a piece of meat. The danger is much more serious: “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

To wander away from the faith is much more serious than the loss of some possessions. In seeking after wealth, you can lose your greatest treasure, which is life with God. When the love of money gets in the way of, or outranks, your faith in God, you have created an idol. And the “Lifestyle of the Rich and Covetous” will end in ruin and destruction.

Now notice, the love of money, the desire for riches, is not something limited to only the rich. No, you can be poor and still be consumed with the same covetousness and craving and desire for more that a rich man has. And, on the other hand, you could be rich and not let your riches become your god. The problem, you see, the problem isn’t in your bank balance; it’s in your attitude toward your bank balance. It’s in your heart. Rich and poor alike, not one of us is immune from this sin of covetousness.

But there is a better way. It is the way of godliness with contentment. Paul continues: “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

Two different directions. We cannot go in both directions at the same time. As people of God, we are to flee greediness, covetousness, and the love of money. We run away from those things. Instead, we run after and pursue things like righteousness, godliness, faith in God, and so on. God has called us to this kind of life. “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.”

God has called you to a new life, an eternal life. It is life lived in relationship with God, and in recognition, awareness, of that relationship. We know that God is our heavenly Father who will take care of us and give us what we need. It is life knowing there is more to life than simply acquiring wealth for ourselves in this present age.

Eternal life is the life we receive from God as a gift. For God gave his only Son, Jesus Christ, gave him into death, that we might live. Christ Jesus, who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He did that all for you. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” By shedding his priceless life-blood for you on the cross, the Son of God won forgiveness for all your sins, including your sins of coveting. And by rising again from the dead, Christ leads the way for you into this new life that lasts forever and which is your greatest treasure. “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” Grasp it with both hands, embrace it, and keep it close. God has called you to this.

And this changes the way we live. Paul talks about this next: “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”

If we are so blessed as to have some stuff and some money, especially if it is more than what we ourselves need to keep body and soul together, then what we can do with our surplus money is to use it to benefit others. We can be rich in good works, generous and ready to share, using what we have to help those in need and to support and expand the work of the gospel.

Another thing about this new life that we live is that we realize where our real hope lies. It is not in the uncertainty of riches, which can come and go and which one day definitely will go, on the day when we die. No, our hope rests secure in God, whose mercy and whose word endures forever. We have a future that is as bright and certain as our risen Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns to all eternity. Our future is tied to him, and so it is exceedingly bright.

“Godliness with Contentment.” That’s the way for you to live. And it is great gain indeed. Unlike greediness with coveting, godliness with contentment is based on a sure foundation–the mighty works of God to save us. Godliness with contentment, because it knows God our Father is taking care of us, this life is free and flexible to open up and step out in faith to love and serve and share. And godliness with contentment looks forward, for our hopes are set on God and the certainty of his promises.

God’s promise to you, my friends, his promise is eternal life, the new life we enjoy now and the everlasting life that we will enter into at the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ–“he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.”

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Published in: on September 26, 2010 at 12:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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