But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. (verses 6-8)
I preached on these verses about 20 years ago in the midst of a major life decision. I sensed the Lord calling me to “leave home,” to move on from the church where I’d grown-up, in which I’d served on staff for nearly 25 years. My livelihood was at stake. It was going to be a major transition, especially for this guy who doesn’t relish change! I’d heard the call, but I was waiting for specific direction into the “next thing” before taking the step. That “next thing” wasn’t yet presenting itself, and a question began to form in my mind. Was the Lord actually asking me to exercise faith, stepping out even though I didn’t yet know where I was going?
Then I came to this passage. “Godliness with contentment is great gain … (If) we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”When it came right down to it, I realized that “provision” was the sticking point for me. Could I trust God to take care of me and my family? This passage, referencing “food and clothing,” directed me back to Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 where he talks about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Doesn’t your heavenly Father take care of them, he asks? “Are you not much more valuable than they? … will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:26, 30).
I realized this was my issue. Little faith. Would I really have enough to take the step, moving out from my current setting, even not yet knowing where I was going? It’s one thing to trust the Lord when you’ve got a pay check. It’s another to trust him when you don’t.
All of this is slightly tangential to 1 Timothy 6, but I can’t come to these verses without remembering them as the gateway into that moment of decision. I agonized (with tears) on that weekend as I studied this passage, following the thread back to Matthew 6. And the Lord spoke to me about simply trusting him, and being content with that. So we as a family chose to step out into the unknown, trusting the Lord, choosing to rest in his provision. And then we watched his hand at work. Over that succeeding nine month period he provided in ways we could never have anticipated.
The strong point of connection with 1 Timothy 6 is the word “contentment” itself, for it speaks of the settled-ness that comes from simply trusting the Lord. Not being frantic or fretful or scrambling, but rather simply content. As the Lord provides for birds and lilies, he will provide for me.
And with that, I will be content.
Thank you, Lord, for this strong remembrance. You super-abundantly provided when our family clearly had no other source. I entrust myself into your hands again, choosing to live in that settled contentment that comes from trust.
May it be. In your name. Amen.
Reflect: Is there anything standing in the way of “contentment” for you at the moment? Fretfulness? Fear? Insecurity? Love of money? Desire for more, better, richer? Speak to the Lord about any sticking-points. Trust him again.