Our theme this year, though disrupted by the coronavirus, has been the theme of Overflow. Jesus told his disciples that out of our hearts would flow streams of living water. So we have asked this question through the year: what flows out of us? It was not initially planned this way but two of the topics regarding what flows out of us comes from 1 Timothy 6. I had not planned to teach this book and its faith foundations. But the coronavirus changed all of the preaching plans for this year. So, seeing this was going to happen, I held off from doing overflow last month so that we would do two of them, back to back. In doing this we will also finish our series from 1 Timothy. What we are going to look at in today’s lesson is that we would overflow with contentment. People would look at us and see content Christians. So how do we find contentment?
Where Contentment Is Not (6:3-5)
Verses 3-5 show us where contentment is not found. You will notice that Paul describes people of those who are false, but claim to be followers of Jesus. They do not listen or agree with the sound teachings of Christ in the scriptures. They are conceited, understand nothing, crave controversy, quarrel over words, leading to envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people. We should consider the frequency of Paul’s concern about people who show this fruit. Paul has repeatedly warned about these kinds of false disciples (1:4; 4:1-3; 4:7-8). But there are people who try to find their joy in causing problems. It seems that their attempts at pleasure come from stirring the pot and fanning the flames of strife. Contentment does not come from causing problems.
Further, using God is not the means to contentment either. Notice what Paul says at the end of verse 5. They think that godliness is a means to financial gain. Using God for your own selfish purposes will not accomplish what we think it will accomplish. God refuses to be used in this way. When Israel tried to use God for their own gain and selfish purposes, God rejected them and they lost everything. Remember that one of the big questions for the book of Job is will Job serve God for nothing (Job 1:9). Do you serve God for what you think you will get out of him in this life or do you serve God for who he is? It is a very important question. The apostle Paul notes that there are those who claim to be followers of Jesus but are using godliness as a way to cause problems and seek financial gain.
Where Contentment Is (6:6-8)
So then where is contentment found? Paul tells us that godliness with contentment is of great worth. Devotion to God paired with contentment will be a great wealth to your life. The first view toward contentment is relative. Look at all that you have now and compare it with what you started with. We start with nothing and we end with nothing. So appreciate what you have and stop being focused on wealth and possessions. Material possessions are not the key to a good life. Godly contentment is the key to a good life. Simply look at all that we have. Contentment is about seeing what you have and not focusing on what you do not have. Discontentment immediately arises when we look at things we do not have. This is what advertising is all about. They are trying to show us what we do not have so that we will no longer be content and buy what they are selling. Look at what you have and appreciate it. God is letting us borrow these possessions. We do not start with them and we do not end with them.
The second view is an absolute view of contentment. Notice what Paul say sin verse 8. “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” Paul says that with the essentials of life we should be content. This is quite a perspective change especially for the prosperous point of view that we have in this culture. Paul wants us to think completely different about what we have. The word translated “clothing” might be a little too exact as the word is plural and can be translated “coverings.” Thus Paul might have in mind both clothing and shelter. If you have food and coverings, you have enough right now. Everything else is a want, not a need. We often think of our needs as retirement plans, cars, phones, and the like. Paul is telling us that we can only have contentment when we change our definition of what we need. We will overflow with discontentment when we think we should have so much more than what God has already given us. If we have food and we have covering for our bodies, we are to be content with that.
I hope we feel how challenging those words are. Imagine that all you had was food, clothes, and shelter. Would that be good enough for us? Would we think that we ought to have more, especially when we see what everyone else has? I hope that we can see how verses 7-8 work together. Do not look at what everyone else has. Everything we have is from God and we are not taking it with us. Everything that is more than food and clothing is a bonus.
Discontentment, therefore, is not a wealth issue but a heart issue. Discontentment looks a life incorrectly. If we are not presently satisfied with what we have, we will not be satisfied with what we want. Nothing is going to fill that desire because discontentment is a heart issue. Having more is not going to fix the problem. Listen to the wise teacher of Ecclesiastes:
Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. (Ecclesiastes 5:10 NIV)
You will not be happy by having more. You will be happy when you enjoy what you have. Great wealth is in being happy with what you have and walking with the Lord in godliness.
The Problem of Not Finding Contentment (6:9-10)
Now Paul is going to warn us about not choosing to be content in verses 9-10. The desire to be rich is very dangerous. The desire for more will bring disaster to your life. Listen to what Paul says in verse 9. This desire for more will lead you into all kinds of temptations, into traps, and into many other senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into destruction and ruin. Notice that Paul does not say that this is possible but that this is a spiritual truth for life. This is what happens when we are discontent and desire to increase what we have. You will experience temptations, traps, and harmful desires until you are plunge into destruction and ruin. Should we not run far away from discontentment when we hear the absolute danger and disaster that will happen? Godliness with contentment is critical because disaster is prepared for those who keep wanting more.
Why does this happen? Paul explains in verse 10. Loving money is a root for all kinds of evil. Notice that Paul does not say that money is the root of all evil. That is not what he said. What he said is far broader and far more condemning. The desire for money is a root for all kinds of evil. Having money is not the problem. Wanting more money is the problem. Discontentment is the ground for all kinds of future problems and future sins. Paul then wants to prove this to us by showing that this has happened to so many other people. Look at the rest of verse 10. By not dealing with these desires, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. It has happened to others and it can happen to you. Reaching for more only causes more pain. Reaching for more never gives you what you are looking for: satisfaction or contentment.
When talking about important characteristics as the people of God who are to overflow with streams of living waters, contentment is a characteristic that is easy to overlook. The point Paul wants us to see is that great gain is not by having wealth or possessions. Great gain comes from godliness. Desiring God is when you will experience the wealth of life that God offers. But we can easily miss this as we look at possessions and become discontent. We allow our hearts to want more and more rather than realizing joy and satisfaction comes by wanting more and more of Jesus. We must train our hearts to stop looking for joy outside of Jesus. We must train our hearts to stop looking for more and more. The next time we think that another possession or another person is the answer to our contentment, we must have the warning flag raise in our mind that this is not true. Bigger, better, or newer never delivers what we think it will deliver.
Paul wants us to think about the result of our discontentment. Notice that Paul told us that temptations, traps, snares, harmful desires, along with ruin and destruction come from discontentment. Loving money leads to all kinds of problems. Would you take a moment and consider how many temptations you have experienced in your life simply because you were not satisfied with what you had? How many traps and snares have we experienced because we were not content? How many times have we been led into other harmful desires because we are not happy with what we have? Sexual immorality is one of this desires because we are not content with our present marital situation. How many times has our lives been dragged through ruin and wreckage because we keep wanting more and more? How many griefs have we experienced because we have a love for more? We need to bring our eyes inward and look at all that God has given to us. None of it is ours but is given to us by God. We cannot keep it when we die. So what is the point of desire more and more? It is only hurting us.
Finally, if I were to ask you if you are rich, I would imagine all of us would say no. We usually define being rich as those who have far more than what we have. But we need to change our definition. We are rich when we have a deep relationship with God (godliness) and with food and clothing we are content (6:8). Pursuing stuff will not make you happy and will not give you the gain you are looking for. Pursuing God will make you happy and give you the gain you are looking for. So do we overflow with contentment? Are we satisfied with all that God has allowed us to have and use while we spend our days on the earth?