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.
1 Timothy 6:6-8 (NIV)
Read: 1 Timothy 6:1-10
Consider: Envy can be a very destructive emotion. It can start off by just a glance at what someone else has and can lead finally to being so all-consuming that it produces discontent in the individual and their circumstances. The writer of Proverbs puts it well when he says: ‘A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones’ (Proverbs 14:30). This is very emotive language, yet it gives a very clear picture of the effect of envy on the human soul.
While the Bible has much to say about envy and its avoidance, it does not condemn an individual for having ambition and wanting to improve their lot in life. It is when the desires of the heart become the primary focus of a person’s life that the problems start. Envy is essentially comparing yourself with others, and then focussing on the difference there is between their life and yours. Envy is not the preserve of the poor, as it can be evident in all walks of life and across all scales of wealth. Of course, there are those who imagine that having more money, power or status will make them content. What they generally find is that none of these things produce real contentment in their heart.
Moving on to the virtue of contentment. Notice how James describes it in the verses quoted above: ‘… godliness with contentment is great gain.’ James understood that godliness and contentment go together.
The writer of Hebrews encourages his readers to be content with what they have, rather than craving more and more. He puts it this way in Hebrews 13:5-6 – 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.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’
Paul writing to the church at Philippi says in Philippians 4:11-13 – I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Paul knew that true contentment was not something that could be found in more and more possessions. He could state that he had ‘learned the secret of being content in any and every situation …’ It was a ‘secret’ because he knew many people don’t find it. He also knew that contentment was not something that can be generated in ourselves, by ourselves. It isn’t as if we can say ‘Today I will be content’ and somehow magically it appears. No, Paul knew the secret was that only in Christ could true contentment be found because it was only through Christ that we can have the strength to be victorious in this area of life. As Paul says: ‘I can do all this through him who gives me strength.’
So let’s rely on God to produce real contentment in us through the working of his Holy Spirit.
Pray: Father, we recognise the tendency in us to envy others for their ‘success’, yet forgetting that true contentment is not to be found in more. Help us to desire godliness with contentment in our lives, as we live in Christ day-by-day. Amen