Pay Much Closer Attention

Great Gain in Contentment – 1 Timothy 6:6-8

Higgins Lake Baptist Church
Kevin A. Pierpont
1/18/04

A man became envious of his friends because they had larger and more luxurious homes. So he listed his house with a real estate firm, planning to sell it and to purchase a more impressive home. Shortly afterward, as he was reading the classified section of the newspaper, he saw an ad for a house that seemed just right. He promptly called the Realtor and said, “A house described in today’s paper is exactly what I’m looking for. I would like to go through it as soon as possible!” The agent asked him several questions about it and then replied, “But sir, that’s your house you’re describing.” (Source unknown)

Have you ever gone out a bought something you really wanted and maybe you really couldn’t afford it? I mean you had yourself convinced that you really needed this thing. So you go out and buy this thing. And a strange thing happens a week or two later. You find you are hardly using it. Or soon afterwards you find you have regrets about buying this thing. It wasn’t many weeks ago we were celebrating a time of thanksgiving together. I hope you took some time to reflect on the many blessings in your life and I hope you thanked your Heavenly Father who has given them to you. I hope as you did so, you had a sense of contentment with what you’ve been given.

I also hope that during the Christmas season you weren’t disappointed with what you received or didn’t receive as a gift. You know don’t you that Christmas is so much more than giving and getting gifts?

We arrive today at the point in 1 Timothy where Paul addresses the topic of contentment in 1 Timothy 6:6-8. And in verse 10 Paul says the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in the context of this passage this has direct application to those who are teachers or preachers in the church but it also has a much broader application to every believer. So how do we address this problem of the love of money? We can find help today as we look at 1 Timothy 6:6-8.

6 Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.

There’s an old saying that goes like this,

“As a rule, Man’s a fool
When it’s hot, He wants it cool.
And when it’s cool, He wants it hot,
Always wanting What is not.”
(Bits & Pieces, June 22, 1995, p. 5)

There is a lot of truth in that little saying. It’s easy to complain and always desire something different than what we have. We say the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence and yet we struggle with the reality in our own lives of that little saying. Your car seems pretty nice until the neighbor gets a new one or you bring your new car home from shopping to discover a ding in the passenger door.

How easy it is to be discontent when we are trained for discontentment. We are constantly bombarded with advertising urging us to buy the latest and greatest and soon what we do have seems inadequate.

There is another saying that says, “There are two ways to be rich. One is to have all you want. The other is to be satisfied with what you have.” Certainly the thought that we are rich when we are satisfied with what we have is quite similar to what Paul is saying in verse 6. It is great gain for us when we are marked by godliness with contentment. John Piper has said…

“Godliness that overcomes the craving for material wealth produces great spiritual wealth. So what verse 6 [in 1 Timothy 6] is saying is that it is very profitable not to pursue wealth.”

Contentment is an important quality that we should strive for in our lives as Christians. In this passage, contentment is in the context of our material goods, our possessions.

Paul also addresses the issue of contentment in Philippians 4:12.

12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. (NASB)

Paul knew what it was like to have great needs and he knew what it was to have more than enough. He learned the secret of being content in both situations. How can we say the same of ourselves? How can we be content even when things are tight? And how can we be content when things are plentiful?

Hebrews 13:5 also addresses the issue of contentment when it says,

5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. (NIV)

It’s clear that the love of money can lead to discontentment. It’s also clear that God will care for us. He will never fail us or forsake us. That should be all we need to know to cause us to live contented lives. What does our financial standing matter when we contemplate the fact that God has promised that He will never leave or forsake us? Even if we have little of this earth’s goods, we can take comfort and rest satisfied in the knowledge that God will never fail us and He has promised never to forsake us.

Back in 1 Timothy 6:6 again it says godliness with contentment is great gain. Paul makes a point of saying that it is of great benefit to us to practice godliness. In true Godliness there is contentment and great gain. But don’t mistake what I’m saying for the health and wealth message some would preach. The gain I’m talking about is not necessarily great financial gain. It’s not increased personal possessions. Listen to this passage again from the NASB,

But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.

Some were using religion as a way to profit financially. But what Paul is saying is that true gain is had in contentment that comes from real Godliness not some fake godliness for the means of personal gain.

And verse 7 emphasizes the reason we should be content.

7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

This verse sounds much like the passage found in Job 1:21,

21 And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.”

We come into this world with nothing and when we die we won’t take anything with us. The point of Paul’s argument for contentment is that we came in with nothing and we’ll depart with nothing so why ruin our time here by constantly striving for more. We can spend all our days acquiring material possessions, but in the end those possessions are worthless to us.

The only thing that matters is our eternal destiny. Have we accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior? Do we know that when we die we will spend eternity with Him? Or are we living as if today is all that matters? Are we pursuing riches on earth while neglecting heavenly riches?

Matthew 6:19-20 says,

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

It is kind of pointless to store up treasures here on earth isn’t it? In our passage in 1 Timothy 6:7, it’s plain that we aren’t going to take it with us. Since this is true it is certainly to our benefit to lead Godly lives and be content with what we have.

If we are pursuing godliness in our lives, not living for the here and now and how much material good we can accumulate, then it is gain for us. We have seen in verse 6 that it is beneficial for us to pursue godliness with contentment. We saw in verse 7 that contentment is essential because we aren’t going to take any earthly goods with us anyway.

Now look at verse 8 to see what Paul states should be the basis for our contentment,

8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.

Paul says that if we have Godliness with contentment then when we have food and clothing we will be satisfied. That is pretty basic, isn’t it? We don’t need a certain model of car, a large bank account or a brand new home to be content. We can be content if we have the basics.

We have been blessed in this country. Most of us have far more than just food and clothing. Piper says about this,

“… we can be content with the necessities of life because the deepest, most satisfying delights God gives us through creation are free gifts from nature and loving relationships with people. After your basic needs are met money begins to diminish your capacity for these pleasures rather than increase them. Buying things contributes absolutely nothing to the heart’s capacity for joy. There is a deep difference between the temporary thrill of a new toy and a homecoming hug from a devoted friend. Who do you think has the deepest most satisfying joy in life, the man who pays $100 for a fortieth floor suite downtown and spends his evening in the half-lit, smoke filled lounge impressing strange women with ten dollar cocktails, or the man who chooses the Motel 6 by a vacant lot of sunflowers and spends his evening watching the sunset and writing a love letter to his wife?”

It’s so easy for us to lack contentment in our lives when we are confused about what truly matters. Something that’s helpful to remember is how Jesus came to earth having left the splendor of Heaven to live a very humble life. He is our ultimate example of contentment.

Luke 9:57-58,

57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

It’s rather humbling to contemplate the riches that Jesus gave up to come to earth to die for us. While here He lived a simple life. He lived without luxuries that many of us enjoy. Yet, how often are we discontent with what we have? We sang a few weeks ago the Christmas carols that focused on the humble birth of our Savior. Here are the words of the 3rd verse of the hymn “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne.”

The foxes found rest
And the bird its nest
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch was the sod,
O Thou Son of God,
In the deserts of Galilee:
O come to my heart Lord Jesus;
There is room in my heart for thee!

If you struggle with contentment, whether it’s contentment with much or contentment with little, remember the humble circumstances in which Jesus lived on this earth. We need to follow His example and be content in whatever our circumstances, however humble they may be. We can rest content in the fact that God will meet all of our needs as Philippians 4:19 clearly tells us,

19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

John MacArthur says,

“The Bible then not only identifies contentment as a virtue but speaks of contentment as a command. You are to be content with whatever you have. You are to be content with food and clothing. You are to be content with your wages. You are to be content because you understand that an utterly and totally and infinitely and supernaturally resourceful God will never leave you or forsake you. Contentment is a virtue, contentment is a command. Frankly, most people don’t experience it. Most Christians don’t experience it, obviously, to the degree that God desires us to. We tend to be a very discontent people. And I have this sort of personal theory that the more you have the more discontent you become. If that is true, then this must be one of the most discontent societies in the history of the human race. We are called to contentment. We are called to be satisfied. We are called to say I have enough. Most of us don’t experience that. Paul did. Paul was a satisfied man. He was a contented man.”

How are we doing in this area of contentment? Are we happy with what we have? I think one very clear indication of our contentment is if we are thankful for what we have. If we are discontent, we will complain and grumble about our circumstances. But if we are truly content, we will be praising our Heavenly Father for all that He has given us.

M.R. DeHaan said,

A young girl whose father was a chronic grumbler said to her mother, “I know what everybody in this family likes. Johnny likes hamburgers, Janie likes ice cream, Willie likes bananas, and Mommy likes chicken.” The father, irked because he had not been included in the list, asked, “What about me? What do I like?” The innocent little one replied, “You like everything we haven’t got.

Are you like that? Do you like everything you haven’t got? Or have you learned to be content with what God has given you? Can you say, “if I have food and clothing, I will be content with that?” When it comes down to what truly matters for eternity, there isn’t much that we need.

Dave MacCasland shared the following account that really brings this point home about what really matters…

“The airline had mangled Debbie’s luggage. Then her purse disappeared. Instead of entering the airport through an enclosed corridor, she stumbled off the plane in the pouring rain. She was drenched, far from home with no money, no identification, and no dry clothes. Under normal conditions Debbie would have been furious, but that night it didn’t matter. She had just survived the crash of Flight 1420 in Little Rock, Arkansas. “When I walked off that plane,” Debbie said, “I walked off with nothing, then I stopped and thought, I have everything.” She had suddenly realized that her life was more important than all she had lost.”

We live in a day when many have not learned the secret of contentment. There is always something bigger and better waiting. People work hard to acquire more and more stuff. But when it comes right down to it, if we have the basics, we have all we really need.

And what we need instead of a focus on our own needs is a Kingdom focus, a focus on eternity. If we keep our focus on eternity instead of the here and now, we can be content with what the Lord has given. Things become clearer when looked at in the light of eternity. What will it matter if I always had the latest car or the nicest house if I was too busy to witness to my neighbor. What do all those things amount to if I’m always too busy keeping them up to spend time with my children pointing them to Christ?

The most important ingredient in contentment is found in Jesus Christ. If we know Him as our Savior and Lord, we can lead contented lives.

Maybe your life is suffering today from a lack of contentment. Maybe you haven’t trusted Christ as your Savior? If not, that is the first thing you need to do to find contentment in life.

For those of you who have trusted Christ, is your life marked by contentment? Are you thanking God and praising Him for what you have? Or is it possible you are dissatisfied and wanting more?

If you find yourself always trying to get more or you find you can’t seem to be content, I want to encourage you with a simple truth that so many Christians overlook.

The simple truth is that you need to put God first in your life. When you put God first in your life He will take care of you. How does this apply to our contentment, our possessions, and our money?

Let me ask you, how do you view giving to God and His work the Church? Do you find it difficult to give anything to God’s work? Does it seem like you never have enough after the bills are paid?

Early in our marriage Carolyn and I learned an important lesson about giving. I made some poor financial decisions that we are still paying for — no pun intended — and we always felt like we never had enough to give to God’s work. We seemed to struggle to pay the bills and to come up with what we needed to live on.

And you may have made some poor financial choices that have you in a place of financial difficulty. And you may not think that you can put God first in your finances. But I want to share a Biblical principal with you that is totally contrary to what an economist or financial advisor would tell you. Here it is; Give to God first.

You might say, “I can’t afford to give money to the Church I can’t afford to tithe, I can hardly pay the bills, I never have anything left.” I know it doesn’t make sense. In our human wisdom it makes no sense at all. But if you put God first He’ll take care you.

Give to God first. Take 10% of your paycheck and give it to God before you pay any bills and He’ll do some amazing things with the other 90%. He’ll help you make wise financial decisions that will make that 90% seem as if it’s more than the 100% you started with. 

Early in our marriage we weren’t faithful about giving just 10% (and 10% is just a starting point — some of us can and should give more than 10%) we never seemed to have enough. But one day Carolyn and I sat down and committed ourselves to giving at least 10% of all we earned to God through giving to the local church. And since we started doing that we have never gone without — much to the contrary. We have always been able to pay the bills, we have always had food and clothing and a place to live and cars to drive. Sometimes not the greatest cars and the nicest clothes but He has always provided for us. What God has done with our finances has been a miracle. He would take the 90% after we had given and make it go so much further than the 100% was going before we gave.

This may not make sense on paper but we can’t afford to overlook the supernatural power of God to provide in our lives and solve problems we think we can’t handle and make 90% go further than we thought it could. I’m not saying you will get rich if you give to God’s work. I’m not saying all your problems will go away if you give to God first. And I’m not saying this for the sake of the church. I’m confident the Lord will supply for every need in His church.

Let’s understand something. A lack of contentment is sin. A lack of contentment is a just as crippling as other sins in the life of a believer. What we need to understand is that we can’t expect to overcome this sin in our lives without God’s help. We can’t afford to overlook the supernatural help that God will give us over the sins we struggle with. And God will give us that supernatural help when we put Him first and we go to His Word and faithfully apply His Word to our lives and when we humble ourselves before Him in prayer and we ask for His wisdom and guidance and divine assistance with the sin in our lives.

There’s a dangerous tendency to lack contentment in our lives in our marriages, in our children, in our jobs. We must learn to put God first. Were going to see next week some of the dangers of the pursuit of riches and what happens when we don’t put God first.

Is it a struggle for you to be content? Confess the sin. Take steps to put God first in your life. Ask God for direction and provision and wisdom from His Word. This is a truth that applies to all our sin not just a lack of contentment.

Let’s keep a future perspective, an eternity perspective on the days God gives us here on earth. Let’s strive to live lives that are marked by contentment. Those you desire to see turn to Christ will notice because contentment is an attractive quality. Contentment will cause you to be a thankful and happy person. A lack of contentment will lead you to misery and ungratefulness. Your contentment can help lead others to Christ. Your lack of contentment can lead others to turn from Christ.

How do others see you? Do they take notice a true contentment in your life? There are others watching you to see if you are content. They may not put it in those words but others want to see if this Jesus truly makes you happy?

What’s sad is I think many people are pursuing contentment and coming up short because they don’t pursue contentment with Godliness; they don’t even try to put God first. If your life is marked by contentment it will bear testimony to the work that Christ has done in you.

Put God first in every area of your live — only He can give true contentment.