Choosing Contentment

Click here for more messages from the book of 1 Timothy.
Click here to return to the Sermons page.

Choosing Contentment (1 Timothy 6:3-10)
[audio:Choosing_Contentment__Ray_Fowler.mp3]
Click “►” button to listen to the message | Length: 29:51
Click here to download the MP3. (Right-click; Save Target As)

1 Timothy 6:3-10

INTRODUCTION: Please turn in your Bibles with me to the book of 1 Timothy 6:3-10. We are nearing the end of our message series on Doing Church Together from the book of 1 Timothy. So far we have looked at a number of things that we should be doing as the church of Jesus Christ together. These include such things as doing God’s work by faith, praising God for his grace, going to God through Jesus, respecting God’s order in gender, choosing qualified elders and deacons, practicing godliness, teaching by example, caring for each other, dealing with elders, and taking church to work. Today we look at another essential truth for Christian living, which is choosing contentment.

1 Timothy 6:3-10 – 3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (NIV)

Are you a happy person? Would you say that you are basically content? Some people say, “Well, I would be happy or content if only . . .” You fill in the blank. Well, I’ve got news for you this morning. Contentment is not dependent on your outward circumstances. It is dependent on your attitude and your will. Contentment is not something you gain or achieve in life. Contentment is something that you choose. You can choose contentment, or not.

Paul talks to Timothy about contentment in our passage this morning, because Paul knows that a lack of contentment can throw your whole life off course. Choosing not to be content means choosing all sorts of conflicting desires that will distract you from all the things we have been talking about in this message series – doing God’s work by faith, praising God for his grace, practicing godliness, caring for each other, etc.

Choosing to be content is one of the basic principles of Christianity, learning to be satisfied in God above all other things. We read from Psalm 73 earlier this morning where the psalmist said: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:25-26) Can you say that this morning? My prayer is that before this morning is out you will be able to say that and mean it. My prayer this morning is that you will choose contentment for your life rather than discontent. It is one of the most important decisions you can ever make.

I. Watch out for false teachers seeking financial gain (verses 3-5)

Paul begins with a warning about certain teachers who have not chosen to be content: “Watch out for false teachers seeking financial gain.” Look at verse 3 which identifies three characteristics of these false teachers: “If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching.”

That phrase “teaches false doctrines” is a single word in the Greek that means “to teach something different, to teach something other than what had been taught before.” We saw the same word back at the beginning of this letter in 1:3 where Paul instructed Timothy to “command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer.” (1 Timothy 1:3)

Paul says that these false teachers do not “agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching.” The word “sound” here carries the idea of “wholesome or healthy.” We use it this way when we say that a person is of sound mind, or sound in body and mind. The teachings of Christ are sound teachings. The teachings of Jesus, when you follow them, will nourish you, strengthen you and draw you closer to God. Sound instruction is also godly teaching, teaching that promotes godliness and results in godly living in the lives of those who hear and apply the teaching in their lives.

It is clear that false teaching was a problem even this early in the church’s history, and it consisted of: 1) teaching something different from what had been taught before, 2) teaching that which did not agree with Christ’s teachings, 3) and teaching that which did not promote or result in godly living.

In verses 4-5 Paul goes on and describes that these teachers are like. If anyone teaches false doctrines, “he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.”

First of all, these false teacher are conceited. They are teaching something different from what Jesus taught, and so they must think that their teaching is superior to Christ’s. But what makes this even worse is that they are ignorant, or as Paul says, “they understand nothing.” They claim to be teaching truth about God, but they do no know what they are talking about.

Instead, they have “an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words.” This word “unhealthy” is in contrast to the word “sound or healthy” back in verse 3. This word actually means to be sick, to have an unhealthy fascination with something. And here, instead of teaching truth that will nourish and strengthen their hearers and lead them to godly living, they focus on controversies and quarrels about words. These false teachers loved to argue and speculate and debate rather than teach the simple truth about Jesus who came to be our Savior.

And what were the results? Instead of godliness and contentment, these arguments resulted in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction. Jesus said by their fruit you will know them, and these teachers produced a very bitter fruit indeed.

Paul ends this section by saying that these false teachers were of corrupt mind, they have been robbed of the truth, and that they think godliness is a means to financial gain. In other words, what was the bottom line motivation for these teachers? Money. They were not seeking God’s kingdom or truth, but were merely seeking financial gain for themselves.

This is still a real problem in the church today, and not just in America. Let me read to you from an article in this month’s Christianity Today.

From the article Gospel Riches at Christianity Today:

Pastor Michael Okonkwo rises from his gold-coated throne before 4,000 onlookers in Lagos, Nigeria. “Hallelujah!” bellows the self-proclaimed “father of fathers, pastor of pastors,” wearing a glittery green gown. The crowd stands and roars.

A 62-year-old former banker and graduate of the Morris Cerullo School of Ministry in San Diego, California, Okonkwo touts a seminar called “Financial Intelligence”; if you’ve missed it, he encourages you to buy the tapes. Okonkwo describes the “intelligence” he preaches in his book Controlling Wealth God’s Way: “[M]any are ignorant of the fact that God has already made provision for his children to be wealthy here on earth. When I say wealthy, I mean very, very rich. … Break loose! It is not a sin to desire to be wealthy.”

Bishop of the Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM) since 1988, Okonkwo presides over the annual Kingdom Life World Conference of 150 prosperity-oriented churches. But tonight he yields the podium to the Rev. Felix Omobude, who urges the crowd to dream big. “There are so many dream killers around,” he says. “Don’t let them kill your dream.”

Omobude prophesies: “Your tomorrow will be better than today. In 2007 you will take your place.”

The crowd is thrilled. Omobude promises that women will find husbands, audience members will buy new cars, and the barren will birth twins.

To open themselves to this blessing, Omobude encourages the crowd to give N25,000 (about $200). Local schoolteachers earn only $150 per month, so the amount is significant. Yet more than 300 people swarm Omobude, who rubs oil from a bowl on their palms. Within minutes, the church nets a tax-free $60,000.

I don’t know about you, but it angers me to read accounts like that. These people are not preaching the gospel. That is not what Jesus taught. That is not sound, godly teaching. Paul says watch out for false teachers who are seeking financial gain.

II. Godliness with contentment is great gain (verses 6-8)

Godliness is not a means to financial gain; rather godliness with contentment is great gain in and of itself. And that’s what Paul says in verses 6-8. “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

The word “contentment” here speaks of having a sufficiency, or, having enough. At some point in your life, you need to decide which of two words will rule your life when it comes to having things: either “more” or “enough.” If your answer is “more,” let me tell you right now, that your answer will always be “more,” no matter how much you get, because “more things” will never satisfy your desire for more things.

Why? Because if your life is ruled by the word “more,” no matter how much you get, then you will always want more – whether you earn $30,000 a year or $3 million. It makes no difference. There are plenty of millionaires out there who have everything they could possibly want or need, and yet they still want more.

The other word you can choose is the word “enough.” And guess what? If you choose to let the word “enough” rule your life when it comes to having things, then no matter how much or how little you have, you will always be satisfied and content. Choosing contentment means deciding that you will let go of the word “more” in your life and hold on to the word “enough.”

Paul talks about this in another passage on contentment in Philippians 4. He says, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:11-12)

Paul had learned to be content no matter what his situation. You see, it is not having more that is wrong. And there is nothing wrong with working to improve your situation in life. What is wrong is when you feel you must have more in order to be content.

We really don’t need a lot in order to be content or to have enough in life. That’s what Paul says in verses 7-8. “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

What did you bring with you into this world when you were born? Nothing! What will you take with you from this world when you die? Nothing! All those Pharoahs who had their treasures buried in their tombs with them when they died were gravely mistaken. You can’t take it with you. As the saying goes, you never see a hearse towing a U-Haul. He who dies with the most toys does not win, because you don’t get to take your toys with you when you die. As Job said in Job 1:21 when he lost everything: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

How does Paul define having enough? “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” The word food here is the general word for sustenance, so it would mean sufficient food and liquid to sustain life. The word “clothing” here is a word that simply means “covering,” and so it refers to both clothing and shelter, those necessary coverings to protect us from the elements.

I like reading novels about people in the old west and on the frontier. Some of these people got by with very little beyond the daily necessities. If they had some food and shelter at the end of the day, they were quite happy and content. Food, clothing and shelter – Paul says that if we have the basic necessities of life, then we can say, “I have enough,” rather than “I want or need more.”

We need to learn to adjust our expectations. I remember when Rose, Ramón and I went through Hurricane Andrew together back in 1992 in Homestead, Florida. We went months without electricity, phone service, running water, or refrigeration. The whole county was in shambles, and we had limited supplies of food and water. I remember one day our neighbor showed up with a surprise. She had a small cooler full of ice and a 2-liter bottle of Coke. She poured us each a cup of ice cold Coke into paper cups, and I have got to tell you, Coke never tasted so good. We sipped our cups ever so slowly, savoring every moment. Why were we so enthralled by a Dixie cup filled with Coca-cola? We had adjusted our expectations. We no longer took cold soda for granted, and what a treat it was when it came.

Henry David Thoreau once wrote: “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.” That is an interesting way to define richness. You are not rich in relation to what you have, but in relation to what you do not need. In that case a poor man who is content with what he has is actually far richer than a wealthy man who wants more. We really do not need a lot. What we do need is God, and so Paul writes, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”

Philip Ryken writes the following about contentment in his commentary on Exodus:

As long as we base our sense of contentment on anything in the world, we will always find some excuse to make ourselves miserable. Our problem is not on the outside–it’s on the inside, and therefore it will never be solved by getting more of what we think we want. If we do not learn to be satisfied right now in our present situation–whatever it is–we will never be satisfied at all. . . .

The truth is that if God wanted us to have more right now, we would have it. . . . If we were supposed to be in a different situation in life, we would be in it. Instead of always saying, “If only this” and “If only that,” God calls us to glorify him to the fullest right now. . . . Contentment means wanting what God wants for us rather than what we want for us. The secret to enjoying this kind of contentment is to be so satisfied with God that we are able to accept whatever he has or has not provided. (Philip Ryken, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory, pp. 673-74)

III. The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (verses 9-10)

If godliness with contentment is great gain, then what is the alternative? Paul goes on to say in verses 9-10 that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Look at verse 9: “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.”

The phrase “people who want to get rich” is literally “people who want to have an abundance” or, I suppose we could say, “people who want to have more than enough.” You see, we are back to the choice of “more” or “enough.” Paul says that wanting more than enough is a temptation and a trap.

Jesus warned about this in Luke 12:15 when he said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” It is so easy for us to get caught up into thinking that my life can be measured by what I own or what I have. Rather, I should be asking myself, “Am I living a godly life that is pleasing to God?” That is where real life is found – in loving and serving God. People who want more than enough fall into temptation and a trap because “more” is never satisfied. Once again, if what you want is more, then you will always want more.

Paul says you will also fall “into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.” Notice that these desires are both foolish and harmful. They are foolish because the desires for more can never be satisfied, and they are harmful because they will draw you away from the things that truly matter in life, things like loving God and loving other people. Unchecked, these desires will plunge you into ruin and destruction.

The word translated “plunge” here means to sink deeply. It is the picture of either a sinking ship or a drowning man. What good does all that you have do if it only drags you down? Picture a drowning man holding onto a bag of treasure that is dragging him under, and as he fights to keep his head above water, gasping for air, he is all the time calling out, “More! More!”

Why does the desire for more eventually destroy us? Look at verse 10: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” This verse from the Bible is often misquoted as “Money is the root of all evil,” but note that it is not money but rather the love of money. There is nothing wrong with money itself. Money is a tool that can be used to help others and to further God’s kingdom. But it is the love of money that can be a root of all kinds of evil.

Jesus placed love for God and love for money at odds with each other in Matthew 6:24 when he said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” The rich young ruler who came to Christ missed out on the kingdom of God because of his love for money. We read in Luke 18: “When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:23-25)

Love of money violates the first commandment – “You shall have no other gods before me,” (Exodus 20:3) and the tenth commandment, “You shall not covet.” (Exodus 20:17) No wonder love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.

Paul goes on to say, “Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” A lack of contentment evidenced by a love for money can eventually lead you away from God and from the faith. Notice that all this was completely avoidable. They have pierced themselves with many griefs. They have brought these troubles on themselves.

What do you do with a root that is causing all sorts of trouble? You dig it up and throw it away. And that is what we need to do with the love of money. It is a root of all kinds of evil, and we need to dig it out of our lives and learn instead to choose contentment.

CONCLUSION: Which word would you say characterizes your life? “More?” Or “enough.” It doesn’t just have to be about money. Some people want more out of their marriage or more out of their church or more out of their job or more out of their life. They have never learned to say, “I have enough.” They have never learned to be content. And so they go from church to church, or job to job, or even from marriage to marriage always looking for something more.

Part of doing church together is choosing contentment, being satisfied with God and with what God has given you in Christ. Being thankful for the many blessings you already have instead of constantly wanting more or different blessings. Seeking to live a godly life that pleases God in every way.

Which word describes you this morning? “More” or “enough?” Godliness with contentment is great gain. I pray that you will choose contentment.

© Ray Fowler

You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this message provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and that you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For any web postings, please link to the sermon directly at this website.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copies:
By Ray Fowler. © Ray Fowler. Website: http://www.rayfowler.org

Click here for more messages from the book of 1 Timothy.
Click here to return to the Sermons page.