In my first post on the virtue of content, I likened it to schooling that takes place over one’s lifetime under the providence of God.
In this post and those to come, I wish to continue working the same metaphor describing various aspects of the curriculum from the Scriptures.
The place to begin, I believe, is with the nature of this discipline as a compulsory subject. Anyone who has done any higher education grasps the difference between required courses and electives. I loved electives in college. I got to pick and choose what I liked. Motivation wasn’t an issue. When it came to the required stuff, I had no choice. I either took the class or faced dropping out.
Certain texts make it clear that we can’t do an end-around on the school of contentment. Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have.” There’s no denying it. God commands that we stay clear of the desire for more stuff and find satisfaction in whatever He has given us, big or small, or in between.
Then we have Paul’s words in First Timothy 6:8. “But if we have food and clothing, with these will be content.” Really? Talk about setting the bar low when it comes to your possessions. He doesn’t even include shelter in his short list. Grub in the belly and clothes on the back. Enough for me. Satisfied. No problemo. Yikes!
But here’s the kicker in that same context. If you back up to verse 6 you read this: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” You can’t miss the duty in v. 8, nor back in Heb. 13:5. We have an obligation to pursue contentment. It’s a gospel necessity. We can’t skip this course. We can’t clep out of it. We’ve got to take the class, if we belong to King Jesus.
But don’t miss the glory of it, as my new-found friend Jeremiah Burroughs would say. For that we go back to First Timothy 6:6 where Paul touches on what makes for great gain. Anybody NOT interested in great gain? I didn’t think so.
He doesn’t say that godliness in-and-of-itself amounts to great gain; he contends that godliness with contentment is great gain. Here’s how I read that. Without contentment, whatever gain belongs to godliness isn’t as great as it is with contentment. As for me and my house, not settling for less than great gain!
Of course, all this begs the question “What is contentment?” I can’t improve on the old Puritan’s definition. I’ll end with it:
Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.”
Have you enrolled? The course is not optional for followers of Jesus. It is decidedly compulsory.
Submit to the duty, but go for the glory.
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“Godliness with contentment.” That is where the great gain is. These are two interesting words that Paul uses here. The Greek word for “godliness” is “eusebeia.” It means godliness; religion; the worship of the one true God; an upright, pious, religious life; one’s faith put into practice in a life of good works. That’s “eusebeia,” “godliness.” “With contentment.” The Greek word here is “autarkeia,” contentment; the state of being satisfied; that you have what is necessary, and that is enough. “Godliness with contentment”: “He eusebeia meta autarkeias” is how the Greek reads. Godliness with contentment: That is the real way of life, and that is what you are to pursue.
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Verse 6. But godliness with contentment is great gain .] The word godliness , eusebeia, here, and in several other places of this epistle , signifies the true religion , Christianity; and the word contentment, autarkeia, signifies a competency, a sufficiency; that measure or portion of secular things which is necessary for the support of life , while the great work of regeneration is carrying on in the soul . Not what this or the other person may deem a competency, but what is necessary for the mere purposes of life in reference to another world ; food , raiment , and lodging. See ver. 7. So, if a man have the life of God in his soul , and just a sufficiency of food and raiment to preserve and not burden life , he has what God calls great gain , an abundant portion.