by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 3 Study # 1 Lincolnton, NC March 12, 2006
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
1901 ASV Translation:
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain:
7 for we brought nothing into the world, for neither can we carry anything out;
8 but having food and covering we shall be therewith content.
I. Paul's Rationale For Contentment.
A. He claims that "godliness" is a great gain when it is accompanied by contentment.
1. In this context, "godliness" is the equivalent of "doing 'ministry'". He is addressing the mindset of those who are getting "paid" to do the work of 'ministry'. He has faulted those who consider 'ministry' a way to make a profit and he has cautioned slaves to not buy into the notion that their labors ought to profit themselves rather than their masters. The greatest problem in this area is that of "blasphemy" -- misrepresenting God's character. All believers who are involved in 'work' are under a heavy obligation to accurately reflect the truth about God, but those who are in the 'work' of attempting to create an awareness of the truth about God are under the heaviest obligation of all.
2. The issue in this kind of 'godliness' is the issue of the identity of the One for whom one labors. "Contentment" is being willing to let the impact of one's labors be determined by Another. The "ministry" is not about "forcing" people into some kind of "conformity to a code" (though there are boundaries as to what will be tolerated in a local assembly), but about "persuading" people to embrace true "T"heology.
3. The "gain" involved in "godliness" has two elements: there is an element of the present experience of contentment; and there is an element of the future experience of approval at the Judgment Seat with its consequent reward.
4. It is also true that there is no "gain" when "godliness" is not accompanied by contentment because that lack reveals a dominating hidden agenda. True motives are revealed by our reactions to our experiences. When our reactions are both good and genuine, our motives are revealed to be legitimate. When our reactions are less than "contented", our motives are revealed to be corrupted by our own lusts.
B. He claims that "contentment" is reasonable because we are going to be leaving this world just like we entered it.
1. The grammar of this verse is difficult. The textual scribes of the Authorized Version attempted to address the difficulty by inserting an extra word and the translators of the ASV gave a fairly rare rendering to a very common conjunction to try to give Paul's meaning.
2. However, if we take the grammatical reality as a hint, we might discover Paul's meaning. It is possible that Paul did not have a "neither this...nor that" thought in mind as the translators seem to think [we brought nothing in, nor can we take anything out]. It may be that Paul was explaining why we brought nothing in: because it is the nature of the case that we are incapable of taking anything out. There is no point to "bringing in" if, in fact, we cannot take anything out, nor is there any point to "accumulating" now if, in fact, we cannot take it with us. There is only one reason for "accumulating": to continue to be able to "give" rather than "receive" once the ability to "earn" is lost. If one is "accumulating" so that one can "retire" from "laboring for the sake of others", his accumulations are evil. If, however, one is accumulating so that he may labor for others without being a burden on them, the motivation is altogether a different thing. Note 2 Corinthians 12:14.
C. He claims that "contentment" means having the present necessities of physical life.
1. Even "not having" the present necessities is not a basis for discontentment: all of us will, at some point, not have what is necessary to sustain our physical lives. When that time comes, we are not to be discontented.
2. But "having" the present necessities is a basis for contentment. As long as our needs are being met, we have no reason to be disgruntled. All disgruntlement is rooted in idolatry...attempting to derive life from a false source.