“Of course, there is great gain in godliness
combined with contentment.”
1 Timothy 1:6
It has been suggested that everyone lives in one of two tents: content and discontent. Which one would you say you are living in today?
It is clear from today’s scripture that the apostle Paul wants his young friend Timothy to live in the tent of contentedness. Paul writes to Timothy, who is on a difficult ministry assignment in very pagan Ephesus, where there was “rioting” against Christians and “no little disturbance that broke out against followers of the Way” (Acts 19:23, 40). The “savage wolves” that Paul had warned about have struck (Acts 20:29-30), threatening the work God had begun there (1 Timothy 1:6, 20; 6:21; 2 Timothy 2:18). It is not surprising that Timothy might have wanted a change in ministry assignment, but Paul urges him to stay at his post and to be content: “Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment.”
In Paul’s Greco-Roman culture the word he used for contentment expressed a virtue highly valued by Greek philosophers. It is the Greek word autarkeia, made up of the word meaning “self” (autos) and the word “suffice” (arkeo). Contentment or autarkei meant a self-sufficiency apart from any outward event or influence. It was sufficiency of self no matter the inflated price of wheat from Egypt or salted fish from Galilee. It was an inner disposition freeing one from obsessing about a crazed Emperor Nero or a mob turning against Christians.
For Timothy and other followers of Jesus, contentment would mean: “The accepting of things as they are and as the wise and loving providence of God who knows what is good for us, who so loves us as always to seek our good.” (Interpreter’s Bible Dictionary) Contentment would be the calm peace of mind that comes from knowing, “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1).
We today, live surrounded by culture at war with contentment. Media and commercials are dedicated to persuading that we actually require a better car, a better house, a better vacation, a better body, and sometimes, even a better spouse or child. Daily we are harangued with the notion that whatever we have is not enough; we are told that we actually deserve better!
It is interesting that Paul can write from a Roman prison to say, “I have learned to be content with whatever I have” (Philippians 4:11) and knowingly urge Timothy and, therefore, us to be content. The words of blind poet and composer Fanny Crosby bear witness to the blessed grace of contentment:
“O what a happy soul am I!
Although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world Contented I will be;
How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don’t!
To weep and sigh because I am blind, I cannot, and I won’t.”
Which “tent” will you choose to live in today? The great apostle knew of what he wrote: “Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment.”
A fellow traveler,