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  • Writer's pictureDwight Smith

Godliness Is Gain!

Godliness is gain! (1 Timothy 6:2-10) This statement is another example of just how upside down Christianity is to the world around it.

Wealth is a funny thing. Very few people in the world understand that they did not really earn or deserve what they have. Those who do have learned how to use wealth to help and serve others, but most people are dominated by it.

One does not actually have to be wealthy to be dominated by wealth. This is why Paul reminds Timothy of the oft-repeated truth, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Tim. 6:10). Money is not the root of evil; but the love of money, with all the things it brings, is a root of all kinds of evil.

Jesus unveils for us how insidious money can be, not in possessing it with the right attitude, but in its pursuit. He shocked His disciples when he said in Matthew 19:23–25, in response to his dialogue with a rich young man, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?”

male hand holding money

The pursuit of money is a defined and well-oiled process sold to us by the world. It is filled with all kinds of anti-God presuppositions and processes.

In short, winning by gaining wealth, and thereby a degree of power and importance, is ultimately all that counts according to the world’s standard. It is usually only in the most self-serving that we can see this clearly, but ultimately, the pursuit of wealth by some creates a culture in which everyone else in society operates. Most are not obviously crass in this pursuit, but they follow the standards set by the system and in their own small ways seek to accumulate for the purpose of self-serving.

God recognizes that we need enough wealth to live. But He never gave humans the right to step on others in acquiring it, to hoard it for personal gain, or to live simply to possess. All wealth, both potential and actual, belongs to God. He created all the stuff with which wealth can be made when He created the world. He also created men and women in His image and therefore gave them the ability to so use all the stuff of this world as to multiply it into new and helpful things.

But God created us to manage and steward all that belongs to Him. He gives all this to us that we might sustain life but also, more importantly, to serve others.

The world’s self-serving attitude to wealth, so easily corruptible, can be found in those who teach God’s message for a distorted reason: personal gain. Because their motivations are wrong, ultimately their message will also be wrong. Today we can see this in the many health-and-wealth teachers who distort the serving-others orientation of God’s intention for wealth to the serving of oneself. It looks good on the surface: God wants to bless you! Show your faith by planting a seed—God will multiply it! Indeed, it sounds from them as if God is obligated to multiply it. But below the surface of this twisting and distorting of Scripture lie corrupted motivations, strained biblical interpretations, and ultimately heresy! All this results in a strange gospel, one that will not take anybody to heaven.

In the larger Christian environment, the whole of the church community is impacted by such misplaced motivation. Too many churches follow the “worship” pattern of these “successful” churches and their often unseen motivations and conform their own programs to this supposed success, subtly teaching their own people that the church is all about attracting people to the gospel at any cost! In this Satan sets an active seed of nominalism in the church that over time grows until the plain teachings of Scripture are unrecognizable in God’s people and a majority of the church is in fact nominalized.

In the particular case that Paul was addressing here with Timothy, Old Testament teaching was being twisted with myths and taught as a higher degree of godliness than that presented by the simple gospel. As one became more adept at spinning the myths and twisting the plain teaching into new secret ideas, an increasing degree of godliness was supposedly achieved. Paul challenged Timothy to attack this situation head on by teaching about these things in public and urging them on people in more private gatherings:

Teach and urge these things. 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, 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, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. (1 Tim. 6:2–5)

All the motives of false teachers are corrupt, and they need to be countered in the minds and lives of God’s people. The words of God in His Scripture are not twisted myths, nor are they secrets available only to the initiated.

They are clear and understandable to all who will receive them. Further, where they are taught, understood, embraced, and obeyed, they create an environment totally opposite to that which these false teachers create, which, by cooperating with the seditious hand of Satan, is one of confusion and chaos.

Further, their teaching finds receptive hearts in those who are not truly followers of Jesus and moves them easily into controversy and quarrels about words, both of which create envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicion, and constant friction.

People who teach “a different doctrine” have depraved minds and are deprived of the truth because they have mistakenly imagined that godliness is a means of gain. These kinds of people, both the teachers and their followers, put the body at risk. Timothy needed to be aware of the true danger of such people. He had to be proactive in asserting the truth, reminding the church of all the truth of the Bible and about true godliness on a regular basis. He had to remind them that “there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 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” (1 Tim. 6:6–10).

True godliness comes with contentment. The child of God has realized and embraced the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:31–33: “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” He knows that God understands his needs and that the Lord will care for His children. Such a believer’s contentment is in God, His sovereignty, and the image of His Son that He wants to mature in His people.

Even where God supplies some of His children with abundance, they must remember that the abundance will not accompany them out of this life. Moreover, they must constantly steward that which He has put into their care (and truly belongs to Him) by serving others. All around us are those who have been seduced by the lies and motivations of the world. These people desire to possess and use things for their own service. They hunger to possess and so are easily swayed and manipulated by the god of this world. Even when they end up possessing more than those around them, they will discover that they have been deceived in this life and left with only eternal ruin and destruction.

When people sell their souls to the devil through the culture of acquisition as a primary motive in their lives, they will discover that the enemy is a taskmaster without compassion.

Those who follow him will inherit the same eternal separation from God to which he is destined. We either believe God and His message, or we are children of destruction.

Excerpt from Church as God designed it.


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