1 Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
This statement by Paul, while certainly true, seems almost Buddhist at first glance. Buddha taught that the way to enlightenment was the extinction of all desire, and Nirvana was nothingness. His problem was that he recognized the problems our lusts cause us, but he had no concept of a loving heavenly Father, much less a Son who would love us enough to die as our redeemer, so his philosophy ended in nihilism. Paul comes at the problem of human lust from a completely different angle. He’s not starting with the negation of desire (“contentment”) he’s starting with godliness, that in its full expression is going to bring contentment in relation to all things temporal. The question then becomes, what is godliness? As I understand it, it is placing God first and foremost, with a commitment to trust and obedience. In most English translations of the Bible, the word appears close to 50 times, yet we don’t use it much these days – maybe because we don’t see much of it! We value ambition of all sorts, but godliness makes intimacy with and obedience to God the goal, rather than anything material. The thing is, all other things are ultimately unsatisfying. I forget which “filthy rich” person was asked, “How much money is enough,” but their reply was classic: “A little more.” Likewise, when temporal authority is the goal, the culmination is megalomania. We see too many hints of that in politicians! Paul here shares the solution to all that: not the negation of desire, but placing God first and allowing Him to rearrange our desires.
This is something I’ve had to grow into. I started out with the huge advantage of parents who were indeed godly, but even with that example I have struggled with “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” (1 John 2:16) I’ve heard good sermons that pointed out that those three things were at the root of Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden. I’m as human as anybody! However, I have learned over the years that the only desire that is fully satisfied, and satisfying, is the desire for God. The ultimate fulfillment will come when I am before His throne, but I have the assurance that day will come, and that is enough. There are all sorts of things on this earth and in this life that are nice, and I’m grateful for them, but they are less and less goals in themselves. Like Paul, my goal has become to “know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11) That’s a desire I know my God will fulfill!
Father, thank You for how You have grown me. Thank You for helping me understand that my role is essentially cooperation, giving You permission to do Your will in and through me. Thank You for the understanding that Your plan for me is far better than anything I could come up with myself. Help me indeed cooperate fully with Your plan so that it may be fulfilled on Your schedule, for the blessing of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!