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. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people 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. — 1 Timothy 6:6-10, NIV
It’s too easy to focus on how rich people oppress poor people, but that’s not what the passage is about, either. (Plenty of scriptures do indeed concern oppression and how God is against oppressors, but not this one.)
In fact, being rich is not a problem in Scripture. It’s wanting to get rich, being eager to get money, loving money and riches, that causes evil. And one aspect of that evil is that love of money makes it impossible to be content.
Rich people in love with money can’t be content with what they have. They always want just a little more. People who don’t have money can be content, but not if they love money and itch to get rich.
Love of money destroys contentment not only with material things, but relationships. People who love money tend to love money more than they love friends and family. Friends and family eventually resent it.
People who love money tend to love money more than they love God. God doesn’t stew in resentment, but he does say that abandoning faith in God and putting it in money has painful consequences.
Here’s another less well known scripture that views the issue from a slightly different angle:
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5, NIV
God will not leave or forsake his people. His people may very well leave or forsake God. Faith means trusting God not only with all our heart, mind, and body, but with our things, our money, too.
That is the entire significance with the commandment to tithe. God gives us material blessings, but the gifts must never be more important to us than the giver. By returning 10% of what we receive back to God, we acknowledge that he is our source. We may have worked hard for our income, but it came from God, not just from our own efforts.
Actually, it’s not enough for Christians to live on 90% of our income. We should live on no more than 80% and save another 10%. That will provide resources when (not if) times become hard. The trouble is that so many people can’t even live on 100% of their income.
Hard times make people make hard choices. I am certainly not condemning credit cards. But what does it mean for someone who is gainfully employed, making good money, to rack up huge credit card bills. Isn’t it a sign of trying to be richer than he really is? Isn’t it a sign of serving his own appetite more than he serves God?
Other people with the same income may not care about acquiring newer, bigger, fancier stuff. Enough is good enough. They are content. A lover of money might be a Christian, and a content person might not be. If that’s the case, that Christian has a valuable lesson to learn from his non-Christian neighbor, as well as valuable to give.
Contentment is better than striving–especially for mental health. Contentment with godliness is great gain. Oh, and did you notice that I reversed the scriptural word order? According to 1 Timothy, it appears that godliness without contentment isn’t gain at all.