Godliness with Contentment
Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed. 1 Tim 6:1
Paul is telling Timothy to instruct slaves in the conduct of godliness.
Paul does not teach about slavery being right or wrong, but about what must be the attitude of the person in this position. We live in a fallen world which presents to us every evil condition possible in life. God’s promise to His creation is to make it right, but until then we as believers honor and love God because we know of His love for us. He is not willing that we suffer, but suffer we must until the fullness of time comes.
Paul is addressing the condition of a bondservant --- under the yoke. You would think that these slaves would have every reason to be resentful and dissatisfied toward their circumstance in life and toward their masters.Where there is dissatisfaction, feelings of injustice or inequality, the natural emotion that occurs is resentment.
In other words, life under many and various conditions can be miserable, but doubly so when it causes unrest and resentment. The resulting symptoms is great stress and anxiety. Resentment has the quality of being internalized and it affects every aspect of relationships with man and God.
Are we aware of symptoms of discontent and resentment which breakdown our relationships, that send negative messages to others, especially unbelievers?
The list of symptoms is long:
• communications stops
• growth in faith is hindered
• trust in others weakens
• loss of self-confidence
• sarcastic attitude develops
• complaining becomes habit
Discontent and resentment is what stories are made of --- think of the movies Spartacus or Ben Hur. The underlining element of these stories is injustice and a deep longing to be free. In Spartacus the longing results in drastic measures involving all kinds of violence and ruthlessness.
But you see, the believing slave’s primary concern is not for himself, but for God and His doctrine. The believing slave’s conduct must be such that it does not cause God to be blasphemed among unbelievers. The name of God and God’s doctrine must be first in the life of the believer, even under the poorest conditions.
This teaching of Godliness will test anyone’s faith. This is not the way of the world and to many it seems like foolishness.
Do not think only of the condition of slavery, but all things in your life that can create discontent and how you respond to these conditions. This is vitally important to how others respond to your witness of faith in God and His doctrine. This is vitally important to God being pleased with your conduct!
Jesus said to put the Kingdom of Heaven first. This instruction for slaves gives us an example of just how far our faith must extend in order for us to be effective believers and most of all, pleasing in God’s eyes.
And those who have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather serve them because those who are benefited are believers and beloved. 1 Tim 6:2
We are tempted to dwell on the slavery issue here and miss the teaching of greater importance, love among brethren. It is hard for us to relate to the culture of Paul’s day. We don’t relate well to the much closer history and culture of slavery in our own country. This situation has a believing slave with a believing master. We are inclined to ask how can a believer in Jesus own slaves? Paul is not addressing the cultural aspects of his times. Slavery seems to be a matter of fact in his society. Slavery is not something that Paul can do anything about. His commission is to the non-Jewish people of his day; to teach Christ Jesus and Him crucified. Love and respect between brothers in Christ is his up-most concern, because it has every thing to do with the success of the gospel he preaches.
Godliness in the face of all circumstances is what we must learn today. Thank God that we no longer have slavery, not even indentured servants in the USA. Yet, there are things that are wrong, of which often we seem helpless to correct. How do we continue in the face of wrongs in the world? Godliness with contentment is the strongest power we have for creating a society desired by God. Among believers of today, the foremost problem is convincing the world that we love one another as Jesus loved us. Unfortunately, the church as a whole conveys the wrong message, because of its squabbling and disunity. Paul instructs Timothy to teach godliness and contentment among believers:
...Teach and exhort these things. If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.
1 Tim 6:2-5
This is undoubtedly what much of the unbelieving world is hearing and seeing from our Christian community. Our problems are not as much false teaching as it is in displaying love for one another. This problem comes from discontent and resentment. Many don’t practice what they preach and therefore God and His doctrine is blasphemed among unbelievers. Our message is not weak, but our godliness is! The enemy uses this weakness to defeat our efforts in bringing others to Christ. There are two aspects for ability to convince the world of Jesus the Christ: (1) the message, (2) the witness of Christ in us. It takes both for the power of God to work effectively among unbelievers.
It seems we need to work on, Christ in us. We must work on responding with godliness regardless of our circumstances. It is not about us. It is about glorifying God through Christ our Lord! We can not let discontent ruin our witness. We can not let circumstances create resentment that weakens our effectiveness.
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
1 John 3: 14-16
Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 1 Tim 6:6-11
God has promised us the essentials for life. These are satisfied through brotherly love, our church family who love us, who want to see us have what we need. Let us be content with these essentials , because godliness with contentment is great gain. Let us get our minds on the Lord’s work and off our circumstances. We can not change many things that are wrong in the world, but individually we have power to make a difference in our own small world. It is as simple sometimes as saying; I’ll do it! I choose it and this is the way it will be from now on! I’m after all, pleasing God, not myself.
Read these wonderful words of Paul and let his strength come to you:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phip 4:6-13
Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Remember the prisoners as if chained with them those who are mistreated since you yourselves are in the body also. Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you.
So we may boldly say:
The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me? Heb 13:1-6