“Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment;” (I Timothy 6:6)
It is Friday night, beloved reader, but one week after I have written this. Still, when you read it (if you read it soon after it is posted) it will be Friday but Friday morning. Early Friday morning. So early Friday morning that the contentment of having reached the end of the week will not yet be apparent. But when I wrote this, the contentment of Friday night was all around me.
“. . for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” (Verses 7 – 10)
There is nothing that the writer of I Timothy (Paul) has written this far that speaks against the contentment of the week’s end. In fact, in the Jewish tradition Friday night was a time of setting aside all other concerns and preparing for the Sabbath. Some Christian traditions still hold to Saturday being the Sabbath, and their contentment I imagine is double or triple on this evening.
What Paul does say and commend is to be satisfied with what one has. And perhaps there are some who by the estimation of basic sufficiency do not have enough and so this exhortation to be content does not apply to them. Paul says if a person has food and clothing (using himself as an example) than one should be content. Paul on other occasions speaks to the need of helping each other and insuring sustenance. In fact in some of his other epistles he urges reciprocal sharing. Here, in his first personal letter to Timothy, he reveals more of his inner self than his outer teacher/preacher persona. Thus the comments that follow are directed to Timothy.
“But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will bring about at the right time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” (Verses 11 – 16)
This is not to say that we should not also follow this good advice. In fact (I am using that phrase a great deal) this one of those not so increasingly rare occasions where I would echo Paul’s sentiments. Have you noticed that trend, beloved reader, that Paul and I are closer in our thinking and sentiments? Maybe there is hope for one of us yet! Paul continues . . .
“As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.” (Verses 17 – 19)
Perhaps it is my mood of contentment that allows me to see Paul in a softer lens. Or maybe “the present age” is leading me to look and see issues more critically and offer more exhortations. Whatever the reason, this passage from I Timothy aligns with my thinking. And so I recommend it to you, beloved reader. But let me add that it is my hope and prayer that you have contentment in your life; that you have food & clothing, shelter & resources, and friends & family that God’s shalom is your reality. Selah!