“But godliness with contentment is great gain” (I Timothy 6:6).
In this day of Madison-Avenue sales pressures and an ever-increasing array of technological gadgets and creature comforts, the Christian virtue of contentment is a rare commodity. There is even a widespread error among born-again Christians that material prosperity is a token of spirituality and divine approval on an affluent life style.
Instead of a blessing, however, such affluence (if it comes) should be regarded as a testing, for Jesus said: “unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48). Paul was perhaps the most faithful and fruitful Christian who ever lived, yet he died penniless, in a Roman dungeon. His own testimony concerning material possessions and standards of living was this: “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Philippians 4:11,12).
In the context of our key verse above, the Apostle Paul has actually been warning young Pastor Timothy against the influence of those who suppose, among other things, “that gain is godliness,” and who think that their material prosperity is proof of their spiritual prosperity. “From such” says Paul, “withdraw thyself” (I Timothy 6:5). Material gain in no way either produces or denotes godliness; rather, godliness itself is the gain, if accompanied by contentment in Christ (otherwise, of course, it is not true godliness)! Even the most impoverished believer can acquire riches in heaven, where it really counts. In the meantime: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).