3rd Sunday after Pentecost June 26, 2022
1 Timothy 6:6-12
12, 425, WS #789 (or TLH #428), 47
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ +
Prayer of the Day: O God, because Your abiding presence always goes with us, keep us aware of Your daily mercies that we may live secure and content in Your eternal love; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (NKJV)
Dearly Beloved Fellow Believers,
If we have investments, when we get our monthly or quarterly statement, what we look for is a gain. What we like to see in the figures on the statement is evidence that our investments are now worth more than they were on the last statement. What we don’t like to see is a loss, though we know and accept the fact that investments of various kinds often do diminish in value.
Though the word gain is most often used in connection with money and investments, the most important gains in life are in other things. If, say, over the past year you have gained knowledge, if you have completed classes or training, then you have experienced a real gain. If you have gained experience in your work, you have a gain that will benefit you in the years to come. If you have gained something less tangible or measurable like confidence, you have experienced a worthwhile gain; you have something more than what you had a year ago, something that will help you in your life, something that you can use to serve the Lord and be a blessing to other people.
In our text the apostle Paul tells us about something that promises not just gain, but “great gain.” Ordinarily the promise of great gain will make people listen. If you talk about something that promises to make a big profit, you will usually have people’s attention. But here it is godliness that Paul says will bring us a great gain. “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” he says. At this statement, people might be skeptical. They might not think that godliness will benefit them; they might not believe that it will involve a real gain for them.
Do we ever have doubts about the gain in godliness? Are we sure that an investment in godliness will result in a real gain for us? Let’s consider what Paul says here about “The Gain in Godliness.”
Before we go any farther, we need to take a closer look at this word “godliness,” the word that figures so prominently in our text. The word that Paul uses here means devotion to God. True godliness is the attitude of the heart that holds God as highest. Godly people have God in view; maybe not consciously every moment of the day, but God is really always in their mind. When confronted with a decision, godly people want to know what God would have them do. In matters of faith, they want to know what God’s word says and want to do what God’s word says. Godly people are still sinners, but they are grieved by their sins, repent of them, and trust in Christ for forgiveness.
Ungodly people do not have God in view. Their decisions are made without reference to God’s word. They don’t ask, “What does God think of this?” but perhaps, “Is this legal?” “Is this socially acceptable?” or “Will this benefit me or hurt me?” This is not to say that ungodly people may not have moral standards, only that their standards are not God’s standards.
To ungodly people, godliness does not appear profitable. Even to us, at times, because of our sinful nature, it doesn’t appear profitable. Godliness doesn’t appear to bring gains; it appears to bring losses. If we have God in view at all times, we will not always do what we would like to do. For example, if we have a car we want to sell, we may be tempted to be less than honest and forthcoming about its condition. But if we have God in view, we will want to be honest, even if it means getting less money for that car; even if it means not selling the car at all. Godliness means saying “no” to many things that might otherwise be attractive to us: certain jobs, friends, or activities. The ungodly person will ask, “Where’s the profit in that?”
And Paul acknowledges that godliness is not a means of material gain. In the verse that precedes our text, Paul warns Timothy about some who thought that godliness was a means of material gain. Timothy should have nothing to do with such people. We have them also in our day: people who use religion as a way of making money. This is true of preachers who tell people what they want to hear so that they will give generously and support the preacher’s luxurious tastes. It is true also of those who will choose a church and join a church for the purpose of social networking or for business contacts. It is true of those who buy into what is sometimes called the “prosperity gospel,” a message being peddled in our day that God wants all of us to be materially prosperous and will make us rich, if we only ask Him.
Far from teaching us to look for material prosperity, the Lord teaches us to beware of money and material things as temptations and snares. Paul here warns against the desire to be rich. He reminds us of the suffering that people have brought on themselves by wanting to be rich. Instead of teaching us to build material wealth, the Bible teaches us to be generous with what we have. It teaches us to share with those who are in need. It teaches us to support the work of the church, the proclamation of the gospel.
Though godliness is not a means of material gain, Paul insists, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.” There is great advantage to living as a believer in Jesus Christ, to having God in view at all times. There is even an advantage that relates to material things. Godliness offers this great benefit: contentment. Contentment is a precious gift of God. To be happy and satisfied that today you have something to eat and a place to live—that is a gift that money cannot buy. Does wealth buy contentment? It certainly does not. Wealth breeds the desire for more wealth. “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10) Do material possessions bring contentment? Certainly they do not. That good feeling that comes with the purchase of some desired item is among the most fleeting of feelings. There surely are rich people who are content. There are people with many material possessions who are content. But their contentment didn’t come from their wealth or possessions.
True contentment can come only from godliness. We are content when we keep God in view. We are content when we remember that we have a good and gracious heavenly Father to provide for us everything that we need. We have in God a Father who has the wisdom to know what we need, to know what to give us and what to withhold from us. We are content when we understand what Paul says here: that “we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” Even the unbelieving have a notion of this; “you can’t take it with you,” they say. But they say this with the idea that money should be spent and enjoyed. Paul means something quite different: we are creatures of God, completely dependent on Him from the day we are born until the day we die. And when we die we will still be dependent on Him; when we leave this world we won’t have anything of our own to give to God in exchange for an eternal home with Him. Wealth is useful for many things, a blessing when received with thanksgiving and used wisely, but it is also temporary and fleeting. And it is of no value at all when it comes to that which is most important and far-reaching, our soul’s salvation.
But godliness, as Paul says earlier in this same epistle, “is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8) That’s why he urges Timothy—and all of us together with him—to pursue godliness together with the things that go with it: righteousness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. The forgiveness of sins that Jesus Christ won for us; faith in Jesus Christ by which we have eternal life; love for God and our neighbor; the Christian graces of patience and gentleness—these are all things that don’t cost anything, but oh, how valuable they are. They are gifts of God’s grace. Gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to us through the Word.
No, these things don’t cost anything—they are available to rich and poor alike—yet God would have us pursue them. He would have us recognize the true and lasting value of His gifts so that we don’t do what comes naturally, which is pursuing material wealth and possessions. Oh, how people pursue wealth! When money beckons, people run after it as fast as they can. And which of us is immune to its appeal? But Paul tells Timothy to recognize the spiritual dangers in the desire for riches. People have gotten themselves into a lot of trouble trying to get money. Some have even strayed from the faith—a bad bargain indeed. “Flee these things,” Paul warns. But actively pursue the good gifts of God’s grace in Christ. When it comes to these things, don’t ever be satisfied or think you have enough. When it comes to righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness, seize every opportunity.
And when we pursue the gifts of God’s grace, we will most certainly see a gain. In financial matters there are no guarantees, there are no sure things. Gains may be small or non-existent. But those who seek the gifts of the Holy Spirit will always realize a gain; the Spirit will give an increase in faith and its fruits. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.