The Great Gain of Christian Contentment

October 24, 2021 Speaker: Josh DeGroote Series: First Timothy - Guard the Deposit

Topic: Jesus Christ Passage: 1 Timothy 6:6–6:10

Contentment. One of the great lessons every child needs to learn is how to be content. Every child is born as a bundle of desires, wants, and needs. And the battle is to provide for the needs of our children, bless them with things they want (NOT everything), and teach contentment. In fact, sometimes, it can be hard to help them even differentiate between needs and wants right? 

All these desires for things can be so strong that it is even expressed as “I NEED this” or “I cannot live without that”! Almost always said with a lot of drama and exaggeration. Well, it’s not just little children who need to learn contentment. So do older children. And so do teenagers… and young adults… and the rest of us. This is a lesson we all need to learn. We need to learn like Paul did when he said,

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. (Philippians 4:11b-12)

At a time of unprecedented affluence that we all experience to some degree (in the west and even more in America), we need to learn to be content in every situation. Our text this morning contrasts the love of money and what money can provide with true contentment. 

Jeremiah Burroughs wrote a book with a great title: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. It’s a wonderful book. The title says so much though. Contentment is rare, not common. It is a jewel. And it is Christian contentment in particular. Not a joyless, godless resignation to how things are. It is a Christian contentment. In the opening pages of the book, Burroughs describes contentment as “a sweet, inward heart-thing. It is a work of the Spirit indoors.” True contentment is an inward reality. It is a heart-thing, the seat from which all the springs of life flow (Proverbs 4:23). And it is indeed a work of the Spirit. 

[Well, let’s look at how this text contrasts contentment with the love of money; and then look at the great gain that is to be had in godliness with contentment.]

Remember last week, in our discussion on false teachers in verses 3-5, we concluded by seeing how false teachers see godliness as a means of gain. In other words, often they are motivated by money, greed. 

Godliness With Contentment

And what Paul does is he digressed from the subject of false teachers, to point us to the great gain that is to be had in godliness with contentment. When godliness is accompanied with contentment, there is great gain. Verse 6,

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment. 

Notice it doesn’t just say a little gain, but great gain. In fact, it seems Paul is insinuating that the false teachers are aiming far too low when they are motivated by earthly riches. We will look more at that later. But the point Paul is making is that in godliness - a godward life, a life lived in reverence for God - there is great gain… when godliness is accompanied with contentment. So what is this sweet inward heart-thing called contentment? This word is only used two times in the original Greek and it means “a sense of being well supplied, well cared for, a condition of life in which you have no need”. If I could put it this way: it is a sweet inward, gracious sense in our hearts that everything is okay. And here is the important qualifier: this is independent of external circumstances. Remember Paul, “I am content when I have plenty and when I have nothing.” Paul tells us in verse 7 why he can say that godliness with contentment is great gain:

For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.

We came into the world dirt broke. And guess what, when you die, you can’t take anything with you. I read somewhere that when John D. Rockefeller died, one of his assistants was asked “How much did he leave behind?” to which the assistant wisely answered, “He left it all behind.” We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. Paul, when he wrote this, may have been thinking of Job. Do you remember the story of Job? He was a wealthy man: land, oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels. He had a lot. In a single day, he lost it all. And to top it all off, all of his children died when a windstorm came and demolished the house they were in. How did Job respond? It says,

He arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. (Job 1:20-21)

Job understood that what we have and don’t have ultimately is up to God. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. That’s true contentment. We understand the opposite too. Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.” Again Rockefeller, who apparently at the height of his wealth was worth about 1% of the entire US GDP. When he was asked one time, “How much is enough?”, his response was, “Just a little more.” Paul, in verse 8 gives us the biblical perspective:

But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 

Whatever is above our basic needs, is a blessing to be enjoyed, but apparently not needed for our well-being, for a life of godliness with contentment. Paul is not advocating for a life of asceticism or a vow of poverty or anything like that. We are to enjoy God’s good gifts, but by God’s grace we are to cultivate this inward, sweet, gracious sense that all is good, even when we don’t get that promotion; or when the finances are thin; or we don’t get that new iPhone. Remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount to quell our anxieties about the things we really need?

25 "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:25-34)

Did you catch it? The Father feeds the birds. He clothes the lilies. He knows what you need and will give what you need. Seek the Kingdom. The LORD gives and the LORD takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord. This is godliness with contentment. 

[Paul contrasts this with an extreme desire for riches, money, and things money can give. We need to hear this and be warned. KIDS, pay attention. There are massive temptations here for you. Trust me. I used to be your age… and I have six kids…]

The Love of Money

Before we jump into verses 9-10 about the dangers of riches, I want to make two sidebar observations. One, you don’t have to be rich to love money. It is obvious that some wealthy people exhibit this love of money in their desire for ever more money. But you can be a beggar in Ethiopia and have an intense desire to be rich. The second observation is this: wealth itself is not evil. It isn’t! God often blesses our hard work with material wealth. 

This text does NOT say, “Money is a root of all kinds of evils”. It is “the love of money.” In just about eight verses down the road, Paul gives positive instruction to those who are wealthy. He says,

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, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share… (1 Timothy 6:17-18)

Listen to the pithy way JC Ryle puts these two things together “We love money without having it, and we may have money without loving it.

But there is great danger, a deadly danger in the love of money. Notice two things:

1. It inevitably spirals downward. Verse 9,

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. (v. 9)

Those who desire to be rich… first, fall into temptation. Temptation is not sinful, but the lust for riches leads one to fall into temptation, which then descends to being caught in a snare, which descends to falling into foolish harmful desires, and finally where does the downward spiral end? Hell. Ultimately the desire to be rich plunges people into ruin and destruction. The picture here is of a person or object being plunged into the sea and sinking to the bottom. The love of money spirals inexorably downward. 


2. It produces a whole bunch of wicked fruit. 

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil… (v. 10a)

The love of money is the root of great evil, all kinds of evil. Really the normal sense of the Greek is “all evil”. You might think how can that be? Let’s think this through… The next phrase says, “It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith…” The love of money entices the soul to forsake faith in Christ. It lures the soul to walk away from God. Because truly money becomes god. 

To love money is to serve money, to worship money. This is a clear link to idolatry. And Jesus said “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Luke 16:13)

The love of money is the root of great evil - the greatest evil, which is to turn away from Jesus Christ. Think of two egregious examples we have in the Bible. The Pharisees. In the very next verse in Luke 16, after Jesus said you cannot serve God and money, it says “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard these things and ridiculed him” (Luke 16:14). And they conspired to murder him. And of course, we know Judas was greedy and betrayed Christ for 30 pieces of silver. Money is the root of all evil. 

I hope you see the stark contrast between true contentment and loving money! But we have a problem...

Great Gain

No amount of natural persuasion about the evil of loving money can wrench someone free from it. No amount of warning of the fires of hell have the power to wrench someone free from the desire to be rich. And no mere stoic, joyless resignation to the way things are can produce a true, deep contentment. We need to know the great gain that is found in godliness with contentment. 

What is the great gain of godliness with contentment? Contentment must not be seen as a kind of self-sufficient, “I’ll be fine, I’m good, everything is okay here.” No, the Christian who is truly content is so because he finds his sufficiency in Christ. I want to you show you this from Hebrews 13:5,

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Do you see the logic? Don’t love money. Be content with what you have, with your earthly goods. Why? Because Christ has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Be content with your earthly possessions, because if you are a Christian, you have CHRIST! This is what Paul discovered. Remember Paul before he was converted? He had a bright future as a Pharisee - he was the cream of the crop. Probably a nice living ahead of him. And yet after Christ converted him, listen to what he says:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:7-8)

For Paul, Jesus was not just a ticket to heaven. He was not the means to everything else he wanted in life. He was not garnishment on the plate of mostly worldly pleasures. What Paul gained in Christ, so far surpassed whatever he lost in earthly advantages, riches, and comforts. What is the great gain of godliness with contentment? Jesus Christ and all the blessings of God that come in and through him!

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32

Jeremiah Burroughs wrote, “It is the happiness of heaven to have God be all in all.” This is the great gain of godliness with contentment - to know Christ as the infinite Treasure that he is. To relish all the eternal riches that belong to us in Him! We need a taste, a relish for this. We need to see with the eyes of faith this glorious reality. We live in the land of plenty. The air we breathe is covetousness, a desire for more and more and more. So I want to suggest we take three action steps to very deliberately cultivate an enjoyment of this great gain we have in Christ, our supreme Treasure. Three action steps, in the following order!

Application (3 P’s)

  1. Pray - Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1 - “spirit of wisdom and revelation; open the eyes of our understanding…” Like the blind man, let’s pray “Lord open our eyes to see the glory of Christ.” 
  2. Point - speak to one another about Christ, point each other to Him… 
  3. Promote - Promote Christ as your Treasure! In one sense this is evangelism. You talk about and promote what you treasure most!

Such that we know and experience what Paul knew and experienced when he said in Philippians 1:20-21 when he said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” 

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