In writing to you about discontentment, I am writing about a familiar foe of my own, and it usually shows itself in the form of envy or covetousness. I see good things someone else has, especially if they have more of it than I, and my heart sinks. However discontentment shows itself in your life, I thought for this final letter on it I’d focus on one passage on contentment that has not yet been directly referenced.
In 1 Timothy 6:6-8, Paul writes, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” Discontentment obviously reveals what we consider “great gain.” To desire great gain is to be human. We all want to be happy, and there is nothing wrong with that. What Paul does here, however, is he shows us what truly is great gain: Godliness with contentment.
Why? Earlier in 1 Timothy 4:7-8, Paul explained the great value of godliness: “Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Godliness is of great value because it is the one thing you can train yourself for now that will actually still benefit you in the life to come. What about contentment? Again, Paul broadens our horizons: “for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” It is simple, isn’t it? Yet how often do we lose sight of the relative impermanence of the things we wish we had?
The best way to live in this world is with contentment with the things genuinely necessary in this world, which Paul mentions next in our passage: food and clothing (which many take to include shelter). When you really think about it, what else do you need in this life? Maybe you say, “Ok fine; I don’t need the things I’m discontent about, but it sure would be nice to have them.” Maybe, but for how long? Will you take them out of this world with you? Do they hold hope for the life to come? How great then is the gain that comes with them?
It is small in comparison to the gain that comes from godliness, which holds promise for the life to come, and contentment, which enables us to live happily in the present life with only the things necessary for the present life. We have a Savior in Jesus Christ who contented Himself with the loss of even His food and clothing for us, and He has gained for us eternal life in the world to come. Fix your eyes there, and it will reorient what you call “gain.”