Lesson 11: "Godliness with Contentment is Great Gain" (I Timothy 6:6)
I Timothy 5:22--6:10
Paul's Letters To Preachers. Welcome to lesson #11. This begins in v.22 (of I-Tim. ch. 5); more or less a continuation of those things we just covered in our last lesson. Slaves and master relationships along with what Timothy was to teach this social group is covered in these verses (i.e. at the beginning of ch.6). We're going to try to get down through 6:10 in this lesson. We'll read these verses before we begin our discussion. We studied in the verses we just covered (i.e. ch. 4 & 5) some of the things Timothy was to do and teach if he was to be a good minister. In ch. 5, Paul gave guidelines for Timothy conducting himself in relation to some of the different social groups at Ephesus, the older men of the congregation, the older women, the younger men, the younger women, widows and finally Timothy's relationship to/with elders, or congregational overseers. Because our time was short, we covered that elder section pretty fast at the end of our last lesson. It seems that some today object to the idea of "paid elders;" however, if you get the thought in Paul's ox quotation from back in Deut. 25:4, the point is clear. Oxen were used to work the grain fields and the owners were commanded to allow or permit those beasts to graze as they went, i.e. feed upon the very grain they were treading or plowing. Now, obviously those beasts were not permitted to use any more of the grain than was necessary to live and survive. But, to me this implies that elders can be compensated for their efforts out of the church treasury whenever the need exists. Then in v.19, the apostle discouraged bringing complaints against the elders. We talked a little bit about this. We should never bring a complaint, repeat charges, or spread any gossip concerning the elders until we have absolute proof of their wrong doing. Paul here IS discussing our relationship to elders; however, this is no different than the directive Jesus gave concerning all members of the church (back in Matt. 18:15-16). In the last verse of our last lesson, (v.21), Paul emphasized that Timothy should not be slack in teaching these things and it should be done without the slightest hint of partiality. That brings us to v.22, our starting point in this lesson. Let's read beginning in v.22 and we'll read down through 6:10, if you are ready. Please read with me! Here we go, (beginning in I-Tim. 5:22). Paul said to Timothy:
"Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure. Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities. Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgement; and some men they follow after. Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid. Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, 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."
O.K., Paul knew how to split it down the middle, didn't he? Common sense just oozed out of that man. Let's back up to 5:22, where we began reading. Paul said to Timothy, on one side of the coin, "Lay hands suddenly on no man" and then on the other side of that coin he warned "neither be partaker of other men's sins..." Going back to those accusations against elders, some are ready to lynch them, i.e. lay hands on them suddenly, if anything goes wrong, the slightest human error. That's one extreme! The other extreme is that when some fall in to temptation and sin, we just condone it and go right on and make no attempt to correct them or to discourage immoral conduct. Paul said: "keep thyself pure." In other words, don't go to the extreme of violence on one hand and then turn around and lightly and quickly excuse sin on the other hand, (either) i.e. we must be balanced, you see. And, it might be worth your time to meditate a moment on that phrase "keep thyself pure." One of Jesus' beatitudes was: "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God." (Matt. 5:8). This "KINDA" helps us understand what Jesus meant. Purity is a real virtue, don't ever forget it.
Then comes v.23, "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake..." I'll bet you have heard this one quoted more than once. It is amazing (and a. little telling) how some use this verse in trying to justify strong drink, i.e. alcoholic beverages. It's amazing how they can skip over and quickly forget that last phrase: "keep thyself pure," and emphasize: PAUL SAID, drink some wine Timothy! Those false teachers at Ephesus may have been condemning wine for any and every purpose, commanding to abstain t-totally, this is not clear. Do you remember what Paul said about their commanding to abstain from meats back there in I-Tim. 4:3? "God hath created it to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth... nothing is to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving." If you analyze v.23 real close, it is evident Timothy had some kind of reoccurring stomach ailment, Paul used the word "often." This tells you a little about Timothy's health. Now, it would be speculation to try to identify Timothy's disease; but, I read into this that Timothy, being a little timid possibly, may have went to extremes trying to be a good example, i.e. to the extreme of refusing wine even for medicinal purpose. You don't have to read very far to learn that wine in those days was commonly used as a medicinal agent back when the corner drugstore didn't have maalox, peptobismol, alka-seltzer, tylenol or even tums. As a matter of fact, they didn't even have the drugstore. Thus, wine and similar products were the only medicines they had. Some abused them then, just like now. Paul is telling Timothy to use a little wine, for his illness, it has nothing to do with using it in excess or for intoxicating purposes, just the opposite.
Now, in v.24 Paul said: "Some men's sins are open beforehand..." i.e. their sins are advertised and well know, like David and Bathsheba. Their sins are known before the judgment. However, that's not always true. Some men's sins are secret or hidden and may not be revealed until the judgement, Timothy should be aware. On the other side of the coin good works are sometimes the same way, some good works are known now, open for everyone to observe; however in a similar way, some good works will likewise never be known until the judgement; but, these things cannot be hid forever, they cannot be permanently sealed. Timothy should teach this.
Then beginning in 6:1, that phrase "under the yoke" is another term for slavery, which was as common as taxes in the Roman empire. Paul said, "Let...servants," i.e. slaves do this. In other words, this is what Timothy was to teach. Slaves should honor their masters, according to Christian doctrine. Christian slaves should honor their masters, and be happy to do them service; especially those slave masters who were Christians; realizing that in their service they were benefiting their Christian brethren. They should not resist and harbor negative feelings. As we mentioned before, those who were sincere Christians and exhibited the Christian faith would soon abolish slavery in the natural course of time. It would occur naturally in the Christian way of doing things. However, the Christian faith did not require instant liberation of all slaves and those who taught contrary to this were not teaching Christianity. Any attempt to eradicate slavery by preaching hate was going at it the wrong way. It would result in a revolution that would only perpetuate the old system; bring on strife, evil surmisings, and men of corrupt mind (v.5). Paul told Timothy to "withdraw thyself" from any who exhibited such thinking.
However, Christianity on the contrary was not based on materialism. Thus, Paul said in v.6, that "godliness with contentment is great gain." It is the only positive approach, really. "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out." All you can use is what you can use today, tomorrow may never be. Our stomachs hold less than a quart of food at any one time. I only need so many breaths of air in any one day. I can't feel any pain except the pain I have right now. If I had wealth enough to buy the whole state in which I live, I wouldn't have days enough to use it. It would just be something to pay taxes on and keep me awake at night? Now, that is not to say that it is wrong to enjoy material things. Paul said, "nothing is to be refused," (I-Tim. 4:4), IF, if what, Paul? "If it be received with thanksgiving," and that's another way of saying "godliness with contentment" here in v.6, and Paul said THAT is a great gain, spelled G-A-I-N. It has promise in this life and the life to come, as Paul said (back up in 4:8). It's something everybody is looking for and very few will accept. The accumulation of material things is a little like Paul defined EXERCISE, "it profiteth little." (I-Tim. 4:8). The emphasis must be on the spiritual and point toward eternity, not predicated upon reaching utopia today, this hour, if not sooner. On the other side of the coin, Paul said: "having food and raiment, let us be therewith content." To be content is another way of saying I can be happy. Happiness is a state of mind. Happiness is not the sum total of material things, i.e. the ultimate of accumulated wealth. That feeling is an illusion, your wants just keep stretching like an old yarn sock. You can't fill it! Go back and read the experience of Solomon, the richest man who ever lived. I speak of the book of Ecclesiastes, in the Old Testament. Solomon wrote that book, the whole book, to simply makes this one elementary point. Paul said to Timothy at the end of v.2, "These things teach and exhort." This is so important! That gain called contentment and happiness comes with real Christianity. Now, I'm not talking about all that fake stuff down the street called denominationalism, the doctrines and commandments of men. No man is an island. Christianity, real Christianity is built on love and the Bible word for love in the Greek is spelled, A-G-A-P-E and it means: to seek the highest interest of another. That is exactly 180 degrees from covetousness, that feeling of desiring to have and to own everything. Now, you could write a book on this and fill a thousand pages with every facet of love; but, what Paul said to Timothy in v.9-10 covers it all in two verses. Please read it with me! Paul said to Timothy, BUT...i.e. here is the contrast: "they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lust, which drown men in destruction and perdition. [FOR, here is the reason why] 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." How sad! How sad!
In the minutes we have left, let’s re-skin those verses and analyze every word and every phrase. "They that will be rich." What does that mean? Those who have the ambition to get rich, have aspirations that will lead them (by way of temptation) into a great snare. What is the picture? What is a snare? Have you ever seen one? Have you ever used it? A snare is a trap. It is a gimmick that hunters use to catch small game. One of the simplest, back in the country where I grew up, was to bend over a small hickory bush in the snow, tie a string to the bush. The other end of that string was tied to a carrot. Rabbits love carrots. It's a great temptation to a hungry rabbit. The other end of that carrot was anchored to the ground, a stump or a rock with another simple piece of string. A third piece of string was tied to the top of that hickory bush and on the other end of that string was tied a loop (called a noose). The noose was placed right in front of that carrot, such that a rabbit must stick his head right through the noose to eat the carrot. Can you visualize it? The rabbit was tempted there by a simple carrot. Remember, temptations have strings attached. Right in the middle of mister rabbit's lunch, as he chomped that sweet yellow carrot and that carrot snapped; that hickory bush lifted mister rabbit to his death. That's the picture Paul paints. I doubt if you can make the point any more succinct if you use every page in that thousand page book that I suggested. Paul says the ambition to be rich leads one (v.9) "into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition." A drowning man is not a very pretty picture. That word "perdition" is another word for hell. Paul was polite enough to use another word. But, lost is lost. Right now, I'm too busy to go to church. I'm too busy to study the Bible, I don't have time, I'm working on my first million. It takes every hour I have. I can study the Bible when I get old. I can go to church when I don't have anything else to do. OH, I'm not against it, I'm just too busy. Little boys and girls ought to go to Sunday school, SOME! All old people ought to be Christians. But, right now, I'm too busy, too much money riding on it. Just this morning, I saw a cartoon in a church bulletin with two bums, two older men very shabbily dressed, sitting on a park bench. One of them said to the other, "when I was rich, I had much difficulty with tithing. Then he added: now that I'm poor, I find it to be no problem." You better believe, things can look different from the other side of the desk. Paul said, "the love of money is the root of all evil." ALL EVIL? did you get that? The ASV say, "the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil." Do you believe the apostle? David Lipscomb in his commentary says, (I quote) "Covetousness is a vice that become stronger in old age when other vices are weakened; it can never be satisfied." (unquote) I won't argue the point! In closing, let's read Paul! (middle of v.10). He said, "while some coveted after [money, i.e], they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." That phrase, "pierced themselves through" carries the idea of an arrow or a spear which Paul calls "many sorrows." Do you remember that phrase about "godliness with ...[something]" up in v.6. I'll see you in lesson #12, have a good day.