Summary: Being content in work
Contentment at Work - 1 Timothy 6 - 11/9/08
Join me in turning to the book of 1 Timothy, chapter 6. Timothy is towards the end of the New Testament, in the second half of the Bible. We have been going through this book together. Today, we move on to chapter 6. We are going to spend the next two weeks looking at the ideas of this chapter, which are summarized in verse 6:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. We want to look these next two weeks at what it means to be both godly and content.
We saw that this is a letter from the Apostle Paul to Timothy, his young protegé. Paul left Timothy at Ephesus to straighten out the problems in the church there. Ephesus was a city filled with idol worship, sexual immorality, and false teachings. Timothy was a young man and Paul gives him this letter to encourage him to keep on going. Paul has given Timothy practical lessons about godliness -- or “god-like-ness” - what it looks like for us to live like God in day to day life; how we live a life that is pleasing to God.
And God tells us here in verse 6 that we need two things in life: godliness -- a life lived according to God’s plan, and also contentment - to be at peace with what God brings into our life. The sad fact is that many Christians try to live a godly life in the flesh -- trusting in their own strength.
Paul writes in Romans 10 about the Jews - they tried to manufacture godliness in their own strength: Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.
There are many Christians today who try to set up a godly life by using all sorts of rules: I don’t drink and I don’t chew, and I don’t date the girls who do. There are many Christians who don’t watch TV, who don’t go to movies, who don’t go dancing, and any of a number of other “self-imposed” rules. And there is nothing wrong with those rules. But please understand that a whole set of legalistic rules will never make you a godly person.
Godliness starts in the heart. We need a passion for God - we need a heart that loves God and wants to follow Him in every way. That’s why when Jesus was asked, What is the greatest commandment? He gave this answer: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. [Matt 22:37]
Godliness comes from a heart that loves God. That should be our desire, our goal. But here in 1 Timothy 6, we are reminded that there is a second part: not just living for God, but contentment - being content with what God chooses to bring about in our lives. And that sometimes is where we struggle the most! And when we have both godliness and contentment - then we have found success in life - Paul says it is a “great gain.” When you have learned to be godly and be content, then you have acquired much: you are truly a rich person.
We are going to look at a couple areas where we need contentment in life. And we find the first of these here in verses 1 & 2. Let’s look at them together: All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them. These are the things you are to teach and urge on them.
Paul tells Timothy to pass these instructions to all who are slaves - all who are under the yoke of slavery. In the Roman empire as many as half of the citizens in the empire were slaves - possibly around 60 million slaves. This was a major part of the population. But slavery then was very different than it was in the US. Slavery was not as much a racial issue, as much as it was ethnic - making slaves out of people groups who were defeated in battle -- and financial, many became slaves to pay their debts.
Because of the large number of slaves in the Roman empire, slavery became an immediate problem in the early church, as both slaves and their masters were being converted to Christianity. It could be easy to think that this is not very relevant to us today. We don’t have sidespread open slavery in this country, nor do most of the countries of the world practice slavery. Yet this is a very relevant passage.