“But godliness with contentment is great gain. 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. 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. 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.”
Christianity is the worst career, but the best calling in the world. Being a Christian doesn’t pay the big bucks, but the gain is greater than anything the world has to offer. The Christians who have achieved the highest contentment with their godliness are the happiness, because wherever there is true godliness, there is contentment. I don’t think at all that this means you can’t have dreams and goals of your own–but I DO think it means you should learn to be content with what God gives you, and know that it’s best for you. He sees a bigger piece of the canvas than you do, remember.
If you think about it a little, it’ll dawn on you that trying to become a big shot on earth is kind of a stupid goal anyway, because eventually you’ll die and you won’t be so much of a big shot then, will you? Whatever we receive in this world is from God, because He allowed us to have it, and on the flipside, He can take back whatever He wants. If we were born with just ourselves and our lives, shouldn’t we be content to live with just ourselves and our lives? We can’t be poorer than we were when we were born, and yet God provided for us. Ecclesiastes is a rather depressing book to read, but it does put things in perspective, and verse 5:15 says, “Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand.” Like that old saying goes, you can’t take it with you, and the fact that you have it now is purely by God’s grace. If that’s not a call to humility and gratefulness, I don’t know what is.
If God gave us what we need for life, we should be content, even if we don’t have all the pleasures available to us. Matthew Henry’s Commentary says, “If nature should be content with little, grace should be content with less.” Back in Proverbs, a few special dudes get their own chapters to share a little bit of their wisdom (don’t ask me how they wheedled that little privilege out of King Solomon). One of them, a guy named Agur, prayed, “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.” (Proverbs 30:8) He not only didn’t ask for blessings, but he asked for no more blessing than the bare minimum! He could have asked for something from each section of the food pyramid so he would have an almost impossibly well-balanced diet, but instead, he asked only for bread, just enough to keep him alive. Job was pretty darn humble, but I think Agur is a pretty good humility role model too.
What happens when people die and lose all the worldly possessions they have worked so hard to achieve? Let’s take a happy little hop to another section of the Old Testament, Judges 18. Israel didn’t have a king at the time, and the tribe of Dan was trying to find somewhere to settle. They sent five warriors out to explore, and they spent a night with a guy named Micah. Then they went and found a place called Laish, and they saw that the people there were safe and prosperous. They returned to their tribe and encouraged them to attack, which the Danites did. Or, at least, they were planning to. When they reached Micah’s house, the five warriors went inside and stole all of Micah’s valuable possessions while the whole of their army was standing outside. They even convinced Micah’s priest to leave with them. But Micah gathered all of his neighbors and went after the Danites. When he caught up with them, they asked him why he was so ready to fight them. In verse 24, Micah said, “You took the gods I made, and my priest, and went away. What else do I have?”
See, when Micah got home, he found all of his possessions gone, as well as his priest, who had clearly put up no fight to stop the intruders. He felt so lost without all the things he’d gained and created over the years that he gathered an army and went after an army of 600 Danites. It didn’t do him any good in the end; he realized that his army wasn’t all that big and he went home, and the Danites went on to ransack Laish and pillage and plunder and so on and so forth. But you see what I’m getting at with this story, right? Micah didn’t know what to do when his things were taken from him. It drove him to ALMOST do something that would have been really stupid and it probably would have killed him. But as for us, we don’t need to concern ourselves with worldly riches, because we’ve got infinitely better ones coming when we die. And BOY, is it a relief when you stop worrying so much about where your money is coming from! When you just give your finances to God, you’re able to live a much happier life.
Notice that the verse in 1 Timothy doesn’t say “those who ARE rich fall into temptation,” but rather, “those who WANT to be rich.” You can have money and not love it, but people who crave worldly wealth are eager and violent while trying to achieve it, and when the devil sees where their focus is, he will bait his hook accordingly. Some people are determined to be rich and will be satisfied with nothing left, and therefore put themselves in danger of being ruined forever. But worldly desires are foolish and hurtful, and we should be both ashamed and afraid of them because of what they can do to us. Many Christians have been drawn away from the faith because they coveted money, such as Demas, who is mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:10, and those who depart from God only rack up sorrows for themselves.