THE CONTENTMENT &
CHARGE OF THE CHURCH
The Household of God
1 Timothy 6:3-16
Our text for today is 1 Timothy 5:1-16. These are God’s Words.
3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you 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, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
The text roughly breaks down into three sections. First, Paul identifies the characteristics of false teachers in verses 3-5. In contrast, Paul instructs Timothy in godly contentment in verses 6-10. This is one of Paul’s recurring themes throughout his writings. The passage ends by telling Timothy what he is to run after as he runs away from the character and doctrine of the false teachers (v. 11-13) And all of this is to be done in the sight of and for the glory of God.
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
Twisted Doctrine (v. 3, 4)
Different doctrine than Christ (heterodox). Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed. These are great summaries of the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, and ought to be the focus of our teaching—not fringe doctrines. Those who go after different doctrines, Paul says, are pompous ignoramuses. They think they are the theologically advanced, when in fact, they are the deceived dupes
Twisted Relationships (v. 4, 5)
In verses 4, 5 Paul reminds us that doctrinal diversions lead to relational eruptions. False teachers are described as envious (the resent the blessings of others), rivalries, slander, suspicions, and friction (they’re always ready for an argument)
Twisted Affections (v. 5)
Ultimately, twisted doctrines and twisted relationships find their root in twisted affections. Rather than loving God and people, they use a veneer of godliness to get what they really love: money. A focus on true doctrine, and Biblical ethics would undermine their pursuit of their true god: money.
Godliness with Contentment
In contrast to the temporal perspective of these false teachers, Timothy, and the church he leads are to develop an eternal perspective on their life. Our life is a brief pilgrimage between two moments of nakedness, says Paul. We came into the world with nothing and that’s the way we’ll leave it. (v. 6, 7)
Paul has been taking courses in the school of contentment, and one of the chief lessons is how little a Christian needs in order for their heart to be at rest: food and shelter. With that, and Christ, Paul says we can find contentment. (v. 8)
The problem isn’t with the material things, the problem is with our desires. Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation. Notice, that Paul’s warning in this passage isn’t geared primarily to the rich, but rather to those who are poor and want to be rich. (v. 9)
Then there’s that famous verse: the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. We have to note, here again, that the verse does not say that money is the root, but rather the love of money. And, it does not say that it is the root of all evil, but of all kinds of evil. (v. 10)
Man of God
In the final section Paul charges Timothy to take 4 actions: flee, pursue, fight, and keep.
First, he is to flee the love of money, the conceit, the envy, the slander, and the quarrelling of the false teachers. He is not called to parlay with sin—he is told to run from it. (v. 11)
Second, he is to fight the good fight of faith. The Christian life is the good struggle, the good boxing match, the good race. Timothy had made the good confession—either in his baptism or ordination before the church, scholars argue about which event Paul is referencing here. (v. 12)
Paul calls upon the witness of both God the Father and Jesus Christ who made the good confession before Pilate: Timothy is to keep the commandment unstained. In other words, Paul is binding Timothy to the instructions of the letter. The letter isn’t a list of helpful suggestions from Uncle Paul. It’s binding Scripture from the Apostle of Christ himself. (v. 14)
All of this culminates in a doxology—a praise of God’s infinite and immutable character:
He is the only sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of Lords. In other words, no one delegated authority to God. He is the one who delegates authority to every earthly ruler. (v. 15)
He is self-existent, the source of all life. And he is inaccessible—he’s beyond the reach of people stained by sin. He dwells in light so bright that anything tinged with the darkness of sin cannot come near to him. (v. 16)
THE LOCATION OF SIN
Two years ago medical professionals were trying to locate what they called “Patient Zero” Where did the virus originate? Can we trace it back to ground zero? And we have to do the same with sin. As we live in a world of false teachers, as we try to discern out own lives and struggles with temptation we have to ask, “Where is the sin located? Where did it start?”
Notice, at the end of Paul’s warning against false teachers, beneath their doctrine, beneath their behaviors, what’s at the bottom? They imagine that Godliness is a means of gain. Translation: There’s something they wanted more than anything. Ok. Hold on to that thought. Now, come to verse 9 and notice a trend: “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation.” And verse 10, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils.”
What’s the commonality? Desire. The commonality is desire. Where does sin originate? Ultimately in our desires. Another Biblical way of answering the question is: Sin comes from our hearts.
Jesus, in Matthew 15 said:
18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person.
God created us as worshippers. We were made with a God shaped vacuum at the center of our being. And sin occurs when we try to put anything other than God in that place—when we desire what God has made more than God himself.
David Foster Wallace, who was not a Christian, once wrote:
In the day-to-day trenches of adult life… There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.
We have, as one pastor said, a perennial temptation to locate sin as resident in the stuff: in the money, in the house, in the clothes, in the job.
This is the kind of bad reasoning that led Francis of Assisi to sell all his worldly possession and walk around naked.
But this passage is showing us from several angles, that the problem isn’t in the stuff, it’s found in the way we relate to the stuff. It’s found in our desires. Money isn’t sinful. (If money was sinful, it would be ironic that God commands us to give it to poor people as a way of blessing.)
Money isn’t sinful, but a love and desire for money that crowds out a desire for God and godly uses of money is. So, how do we combat the love of money? Or the idolatry of wealth?
THE RARE JEWEL
The answer is cultivation of contentment. This is a common theme for the Apostle Paul:
I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
In the 1600s, as England was shaken by civil war, Jeremiah Burroughs preached a sermon series on Christian contentment. The series is not published as a book called The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.
In our own time there are plenty of disciplines that you must learn as a Christian:
- Daily Bible reading & prayer
- Courage to stand for truth.
- Giving your child a Christian education.
- Hospitality to church members & unbelieving neighbors.
We live in a tumultuous time—and you must also learn the Christian discipline of contentment. Here’s how Burroughs defines it:
“Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.”
You could paraphrase it like this:
We may define contentment as a steady, quiet, and submissive heart that delights in God’s fatherly disposal of every circumstance.
Of course, there are plenty of places in Scripture where the righteous plead with God to change their circumstances, they wrestle with God, they lay their petitions before God—and we are called to do this as well. Contentment is not apathy. It is not resignation. Contentment is not settling for the status quo. But all of our petitions to the Lord—all our laments must also be matched with joyful, “but Thy will be done.”
It’s important to note that when Christ prayed those words in the garden—that prayer of submission is what put him on the path to obey and honor God.
So, contentment is compatible with asking God to change your circumstances, to change your heart, your home, your school, your city, your state, and your nation. But, contentment is not compatible with fussing, complaining, moping, fretting, cursing, and bitterness.
- Do you want God to change the circumstances of your marriage? Then crucify the sin of fussing and complaining.
- Do you want God to change the circumstances of your work? Then go to Christ and ask him to mortify your bitterness.
- Do you want God to change the direction of the nation? He isn’t working through your snarky social media posts.
We often tell our children: there’s no situation so bad that your attitude can’t make it worse. Bitterness and fussing puts you in the best possible position to miss things, confuse things, and harm things.
So, how can our hearts be at rest—how can they be steady and quiet and submissive to our Father even as we are asking him to change our circumstances?
And the answer is Christ. Godliness with contentment is great gain. Christ with food and clothing is great gain. Jesus plus survival is great gain. Paul says that Chris is of such inestimable worth, that if you had him and the bare essentials for life you could learn contentment.
So, the source of contentment isn’t self-sufficiency, it is Christ-sufficiency.
What if Jesus kept you right where you are today for the rest of your earthly life? Would he be enough? Would his love be enough for you? Would his forgiveness of sin be enough? Would his sovereign disposal of all things be enough? Could your heart rest in him?
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
- The Lord gives jobs and the Lord takes them away: blessed be the name of the Lord.
- The Lord gives marriages and the Lord takes them away: blessed be the name of the Lord.
- The Lord gives nations and the Lord takes them away: blessed be the name of the Lord.
When you are resting in Christ as your contentment—you have taken the first step that leads to more obedience, more faithfulness.
THE GOOD CONFESSION
But I can’t do this… I can’t beat bitterness. No. You can’t.
I can’t beat fear. No. You can’t. I can’t beat my sinful anger. No. You can’t. In and of yourself, you can’t. Paul gave Timothy an impossible task:
14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,
There’s no way that Timothy, in his own strength could keep the commandment unstained. The strength of man could never keep all the Apostles instructions in this single letter, let alone the entire testimony of the Scriptures…
No one can keep the 10 Commandments. No one can love the Lord their God with heart soul mind and strength. No one can love their neighbor as they love themselves.
There is none righteous, no not one. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And that’s why Paul reminds Timothy of the testimony of Christ:
13 I charge you 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,
In one sense, there’s no possible way that Timothy could succeed. And yet, in another, there’s no way he could possibly fail.
How can you say to God, in the midst of a difficult marriage, a painful work environment, a nation gone crazy, how can you say in the moment of the trial, “Thy will be done Father. I rest in your disposal of every circumstance”?
Because when Christ was faced with a far more severe trial, the trial of gathering up all your sins, all your bitterness, all your envy, all your fear, and he said “Thy will be done,” and nailed your sin to the cross.