What does the Bible mean when it says that "godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Timothy 6:6)? How do I apply this to the way I manage my finances? And why does Paul go on to state that "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil?"
One of the toughest issues we face as Christians living in the affluent western world is knowing when to say enough. For us, the big question about money is, "How much do I really need?" – or, to put it another way, "What would it take for me to be content?"
Paul's answer is clear. Jesus Christ Himself is all-sufficient (Colossians 3:11). If you have Him, you have everything. Any extra blessings He may decide to pour out on you are just icing on the cake. If you can see your life in this light and learn to embrace your lot, whatever it may be, with satisfaction and joy, then the richest man in the world has nothing on you. That's what the apostle means when he says that godliness with contentment is great gain.
This is exactly what the writer to the Hebrews has in mind when he says, "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you'" (Hebrews 13:5).
It's significant that both of these biblical writers choose to contrast contentment with the love of money. There's a good reason for this. Contentment is the ability to say, "Enough is enough," whereas the love of money almost always translates into a quest for more and more. The more you have, the more you crave, and the more insistent becomes your fear that someone or something may be able to take it away from you someday. This is why greed and anxiety are constant companions. Together they create a state of mind which is the exact opposite of contentment, an attitude which has been described as "looking back without regret, looking at the present without envy, and looking to the future without fear."
No financial principle can have a greater impact on you or free you up more effectively than this fundamental truth: money is not the key to contentment. Contentment has everything to do with your relationship with God and nothing to do with your money. Once you are free from the love of money and the relentless pursuit of wealth, you can have a lot or a little and be content at the same time. At that point you will have learned the secret of satisfaction, sufficiency, and inner peace. Remember, it's not just the families struggling to make ends meet who wrestle with this issue. As a matter of fact, it would probably be fair to say that those at the high end of the income scale wrestle with contentment more than anybody else.
There is, of course, a great deal more that could be said on this subject. If you need help applying these concepts to the day-to-day realities of your financial and marital situation, or if you'd like to discuss them at greater length with a member of our staff, give our Counseling department a call. Our counselors would be happy to come alongside you with some practical suggestions. They can also provide you with referrals to advisors and counselors who specialize in helping families with financial issues.
Why the Things of the World Cannot Satisfy: Gary Thomas asserts that true fulfillment in life is experienced only through knowing God and following Christ.
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