Book traversal links for Chapter 13 Contentment Versus Covetousness
1 Timothy 6:1-10
Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself But 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 raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows, (vv. 1-10)
The outstanding verse of this section is the sixth: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” The Apostle is stressing the importance of contentment as opposed to that spirit of covetousness which so characterizes men of the world and is often found even among the children of God.
We need to remember that many of the early Christians were bondmen. Conditions of society that prevailed at that time were such that there were more slaves in the Roman Empire than there were free men. Even when the gospel began to be disseminated widely throughout the Empire we do not read of any movement on the part of Christian leaders seeking to overturn the institution of slavery, and that for a very good reason. Political circumstances and economic conditions were such in that ancient, pagan world that those in bondage as slaves to Christian masters were in a far better position than they could possibly have been if they had been freed and turned out to shift for themselves. But gradually throughout the centuries that followed as the nations received the gospel, the slaves were freed. Slavery was an accepted economic condition when Paul wrote to Timothy, and many of the early Christians were under bondage. So when the Apostle speaks of “servants” here, it is not hired servants as such that he has in mind, but “as many servants as are under the yoke.”
He exhorts these slaves to contentment. One might say that they had very little with which to be contented, but Paul would have them able to say as he himself did, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Phil. 4:11). He found that Christ was sufficient for all circumstances, and, thank God, it is just as true today! We live in a time of great restlessness. Consider the strife between capital and labor with which our own nation is confronted. We never would have to face anything like this if Christian principles prevailed between the employer and the employee. But the spirit dominant generally is that of every man for himself, each attempting to get all he can for himself and to give as little work as possible in return. Christian men and women should be careful to follow the spirit of the admonition given here, “Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.”
A Christian employee should not be content to give less than honest work for the payment he receives, and he should look up to and respect those whom he serves. If it happens that he is working for a Christian, then he is not to take advantage of the fact that both are members of the body of Christ. They “that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren.” It is so easy to expect more than one has a right to demand because the one who employs him is a Christian. The fact that both are Christians is not to change the attitude of the employee into one of self-will and independence of spirit, but should rather lead each to be considerate of the other. The very fact that the employer is also a believer is one reason why the other should do his part faithfully and give the very best possible service for the money he is receiving, “because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort.”
Paul next draws attention to the fact that what he has just said is in full accord with the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, who Himself took the servants place. He said, “I am among you as He that serveth” (Luke 22:27). He warned His disciples against all self-seeking. He said, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve” (Luke 22:25-26). He also said that He “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). When He found His disciples disputing among themselves as to who should be greatest He said, “Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matt. 20:27). And so the Apostle says here, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing.”
Where do we find the words of our Lord Jesus Christ? In the four Gospels. To me it is a shocking thing when Christian teachers seem to relegate to a former dispensation the practical instruction given by the Lord while He was on earth as though it had no weight for Christians today. What the Lord Jesus Christ taught when He was here in person ought to guide us in our behavior one toward another and in our attitude toward God. I have often heard it said that the Sermon on the Mount is not for Christians. Undoubtedly, it was given primarily to the remnant of Israel, God’s earthly people. It is instruction for the Jewish disciples of Christ while waiting for the setting up of the kingdom. But on the other hand we should not overlook the fact that the Lord Jesus said that “every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it” (Matt. 7:26-27). But, “whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock” (Matt. 7:24-25). The whosoever here is just as universal as the whosoever in John 3:16. Our Lord was speaking to His people throughout all the years while waiting for His return from heaven.
If a man denies the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, “he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions [sick about questions].” Have you ever met any of these people who were sick about questions? They take one or two little points and are always hammering away on them. No matter what text they start with when they attempt to preach they always come back to their favorite theme. They get their minds fixed on some peculiar views and cannot seem to consider anything else.
I remember an old man when I was a lad who would rise to speak at every opportunity. He had only one topic, and that was that Judas was not present at the Lord’s Supper. No matter what the subject under discussion might be he would break in with: “Brethren, I want to show you that Judas was not present at the Lord’s Supper.” We got so tired of it that we dreaded to see or hear him. I do not believe that Judas was at the Lord’s Supper, but I would hate to have no other topic except that about which to talk.
Notice this expression: “Doting [or sick] about questions.” It is a great mistake to get one or two things in the mind and constantly dwell upon them. As a result of this there comes “envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings [quarrellings] of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.”
If these malcontents can show that they have a number of adherents they are convinced that the Lord is with them: “From such,” the Apostle says, “withdraw thyself.”
“But godliness with contentment is great gain.” We have already seen in going through this epistle that godliness is literally “godlikeness”—that is, true piety. Godliness is great gain. We have received blessings, temporal and spiritual, from God, and our hearts should be going out to Him in gratitude. We should not be characterized by a spirit of restlessness. It is this spirit that dominates men of the world. You have heard of the Quaker who wanted to teach a lesson to his neighbors. So he had a large sign put up on a vacant lot next to his house, and on the sign he had these words painted: “I will give the deed to this lot to anyone who is absolutely contented.” Any applicant was directed to apply next door. There was a man living in that community who had great wealth, and he drove by, saw the sign, stopped, and said to himself, “My old Quaker friend wants to give away his lot to anyone who is absolutely contented. If there is anyone in the community that ought to be contented it is 1.1 have everything I could wish for.” So he went to the Quaker’s house and knocked on the door.
The Quaker came to the door, and the man said, “I see you want to give that lot to anyone who is contented.”
“Yes,” said the Quaker.
“I think I can say that I am absolutely contented,” the man said. “I will be glad if you will make the deed out to me.”
“Friend, if thee is contented, what does thee want with my lot?” the Quaker asked.
This spirit of covetousness is noticeable in men of the world. The Jewish Talmud says that man is born with his hands clenched, but he dies with his hands wide open. Coming into the world he is trying to grasp everything, but going out he has to give up everything.
“For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich [they that are characterized by covetousness, who are determined to be rich, who make that their one great object in life] fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil.” It should read, “a root of all evil.”
There are some men who do not love money and yet are the victims of many other evil passions. But what the Apostle is telling us here is that once the love of money finds lodgment in the heart of man every known evil may be grafted on to it.
Years ago when I was in California I was setting out a small orchard, and the nurseryman who sold me some fruit trees said to me, “You have a great many gophers. It is going to be hard to keep the ground clear of them. But,” he said, “I’ll give you some trees that are grafted on bitter peach roots. The gophers will not touch these.”
So he brought the trees grafted onto the bitter peach roots. I had quite a little orchard: cherries, several kinds of plums, two or three kinds of apricots, several kinds of peaches, almonds, and so forth, but they were all grafted onto the bitter peach roots. As I saw them being planted I thought of this text, “The love of money is a root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
So let us thank God for the grace that He has given us through Jesus Christ our Lord and has put within our hearts the desire to glorify Him. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). God gladly gives to the one who has already received His Son. Just as the love of money in the heart is a root of all evil, so when the love of Christ comes into the heart, everything good may be grafted onto that.