Making Wise Investments (Part 4): The Great Gain of Godliness

Making Wise Investments (Part 4): The Great Gain of Godliness

Why do we serve God? Different people will have different answers to that question. Yet not all of them will have the right motivation. Some are motivated by material gain – a better life now. We sometimes use the term “health and wealth gospel” to refer to the message that is tailored to this group’s desires. Others are motivated by spiritual gain – a better life in eternity. Many are motivated by a combination of the two. In this lesson, we will consider Paul’s words to Timothy in which he warned of the danger of being motivated by material gain and he explained what is the great gain of godliness.

But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment” (1 Timothy 6:6).

The Error of the “Health and Wealth Gospel”

Paul warned Timothy that some would preach a “different doctrine” that “does not agree with sound words” (1 Timothy 6:3). Any message that does not conform to the truth of God’s word is false (cf. Galatians 1:6-9; 1 John 4:6). Truth is not subjective. It does not change to accommodate any culture, region, generation, or any other variable. God’s word is truth (John 17:17) and anything contrary to it is false.

Notice how Paul described the false teacher he was warning Timothy about. First, he said the false teacher was “conceited” (1 Timothy 6:4). This evaluation was not unfair, but was based upon evidence. The fact that he taught a “different doctrine” was proof that he did not approach the word of God in humility as he should have (James 1:21). Second, the false teacher “understands nothing” (1 Timothy 6:4). One without a proper understanding of God’s word will turn “aside to fruitless discussions” because he is not qualified to teach (1 Timothy 1:6-7). Third, the false teacher causes division (cf. Jude 18-19) as his message produces “strife” and “constant friction” (1 Timothy 6:4-5). These characteristics are true of every false teacher, not just the specific ones Paul warned Timothy about.

The specific false doctrine that Paul addressed is the one that said, “Godliness is a means of gain” (1 Timothy 6:5). The context clearly indicates that the gain promised by the false teacher was material. In other words, Paul was warning Timothy about those who would preach what we often call the “health and wealth gospel.” Nowhere in the New Testament are we promised a better life here for being a Christian. In fact, we are promised just the opposite. The life of a Christian is a life of sacrifice (“for [Christ] I have suffered the loss of all things” – Philippians 3:8), suffering (“if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name” – 1 Peter 4:16), and surrender (“Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” – Revelation 2:10).

Of course, we must remember that God is the source of every good blessing (James 1:17). In fact, some Christians will even be prosperous (1 Timothy 6:17). Even still, material prosperity is not the promise or the goal of the gospel.

The Gain of Godliness

Though there is no promise of material wealth as a reward for godliness, there is something to be gained. Paul said, “But godliness actually is a means of great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). So what is the gain of godliness?

Paul gave a clue about the gain of godliness in the next verse: “For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either” (1 Timothy 6:7). The gain of godliness is for something past this life. Paul said elsewhere, “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19). If our hope lies beyond this life, what do we stand to gain?

  • A home in heaven – Jesus told His disciples, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3). As part of Christ’s kingdom, “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). The home we hope to gain for following Christ is not a bigger house in this world, but is a dwelling place in heaven.
  • Eternal life – In speaking of the need for His followers to sacrifice, Jesus said, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29). The home of heaven that we seek is not a place where we will live for a few years – even a thousand years – and then will have to leave. Life in heaven will be eternal. Everything of this life is only temporary.
  • The chance to be in the presence of God – When Paul sought to encourage the brethren in Thessalonica about their fellow Christians who had already passed from this life, he told them of what would happen when the Lord returns: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). Faithful Christians, regardless of whether they are living or dead, will one day be in the presence of God. These words are a source of comfort when a fellow Christian passes away. They are also a source of encouragement at all times as we can look ahead to our eternal home in heaven with the One who loved us enough to save us from our sins.

As we come to understand the great gain of godliness, it is important that we also know what godliness is.

What Is Godliness?

Paul warned Timothy that some would hold a mere “form of godliness” (2 Timothy 3:5). We need to have real godliness instead. So what is godliness?

The most basic definition of godliness is to be like God. To know God the Father, we must know Christ. John wrote, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:18). The “only begotten God” to which John referred was Jesus. If we want to know what it means to be like God, we simply need to look to Jesus. He left us “an example” that we might “follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). That example was one of perfect obedience to the will of the Father (1 Peter 2:22; Hebrews 5:8; Philippians 2:8). To live godly, we must seek to obey God in all things, just as Jesus did while on earth.

Related to the above point, another definition of godliness is living according to God’s standard. Just before he told Timothy that “godliness actually is a means of great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6), Paul said that “sound words” are part of the “doctrine conforming to godliness” (1 Timothy 6:3). Paul told Titus that “truth…is according to godliness” (Titus 1:1). Peter said that God has “granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us” (2 Peter 1:3). To live godly, we must know God’s standard (His word) and conform our lives to it.

The Need of Contentment

It is important to note what Paul said about the role of contentment in this: “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment” (1 Timothy 6:6). The things of this life are only temporary – they are uncertain (1 Timothy 6:17), corruptible (Matthew 6:19), and will be destroyed (2 Peter 3:10). Like Paul, we need to be “content in whatever circumstances” we find ourselves (Philippians 4:11). Regardless of our circumstances, our lives are “just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). We must not allow a lack of contentment to cause us to become distracted by the things of this life that we lose the gain of godliness.

Therefore, Paul went on to warn against the love of money: “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:9-10). This warning is for everyone – rich and poor – to not allow either the desire for or the pursuit of earthly wealth to cloud our vision of the far greater gain of godliness.

Conclusion

The Lord offers us a great reward for living godly lives. Let us not lose sight of His reward by focusing on either the false promises of false teachers, or our own desire for this world’s goods. Let us live godly lives so that we can be with God for eternity.


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