But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world (1 Timothy 6:6–8, ESV).
Contentment—it’s a nice word, isn’t it? Take a deep breath, and absorb the crisp, clean air atop Mount Contentment. Ahhhhh.
But what does contentment actually mean, and how do you cultivate it? Contentment is satisfaction with God’s sufficient provision. When you feel satisfied, you don’t need anything else. You’re gratified with what God has entrusted to you. Talk about going against the grain of our culture! This means resting in what you already have and seeking nothing more. To say without fear of the future or the resentment of others, “I have enough.” That settled sense of adequacy is contentment.
It’s like a breath of fresh air to a person suffocating or a cup of cold water to someone in a desert. When you replace covetous thinking with true, biblical contentment, you move from a dry, dead place into a whole, peaceful place.
In 1 Timothy 6:6, we notice this type of satisfaction has a partner. Like salt and pepper, like Dallas and Fort Worth, like a husband and wife are meant to be together—contentment’s partner is godliness. “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” Notice this distinction: We must never be content with who we are, only with what we have. That’s why these two words are such powerful partners. Godliness deals with who you are; contentment deals with what you have. In the pursuit of godliness, you aren’t yet satisfied with your character; through the process of sanctification, God is still forming you into the likeness of His Son. But you can find contentment with what you possess in God. Godliness and contentment add up to great gain.
Paul does not condemn the desire for gain. Deep within each of us is a hunger for improvement. Almighty God has given you this desire to make your life better, and it can be. Isn’t that good news? Your life doesn’t have to be the way it is right now. Though it will never be perfect, it can definitely improve.
But too often that desire for gain causes people to desire wrongly, because our minds are depraved. Face it, we’re bent. We need new, spiritual math: GODLINESS + CONTENTMENT = GREAT GAIN.
That’s an equation as absolute and unalterable as 2 + 2 = 4. It’s a winning formula. Yet in a world that increasingly rejects absolute truth, that formula is not only rejected but also ridiculed. People try their own math, filling in the blank with their own twists on God’s equation. Does this doomed equation look familiar: GODLINESS + prosperity = GREAT GAIN? Or what about GODLINESS + poverty? Or GODLINESS + power, or the perfect family, or ministry success?
The possibilities are endless, but none of those equations works. If you want to be fulfilled in this life, you’d better do the math on the only equation that leads to it: GODLINESS + CONTENTMENT = GREAT GAIN. It’s an unalterable formula, and nothing else comes close to working.
The stakes here are high, and the positive results of embracing this truth are massive. God loves you and wants what’s best for you. Commit yourself to this new math—God’s math. Godliness plus contentment is great gain. Say it out loud, and start to embrace it with your whole heart.
This post originally appeared on Dr. James MacDonald’s daily devotional Our Journey and was republished with permission.
James MacDonald (D. Min. Phoenix Seminary) is the founding senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, leads the church-planting ministry of Harvest Bible Fellowship, teaches the practical application of God’s Word on the Walk in the Word radio and television programs, and is a gifted author and speaker. You can find out more about James and his ministries at WalkintheWord.org.