The Gain of Godliness

Rich people are materialistic. We all know it. All they care about is their money and things. Or so I thought. My background consists of a blue-collar neighborhood and an inner-city high school in Southern California. My quick judgment of wealthy people, when first I encountered them, was that they were superficial, worldly, and materialistic. They were caught up in things and appearances. They lacked the simplicity of the virtuous poor, the salt of the earth, among whom I numbered myself.

“The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil,” says the apostle (1 Tim. 6:10, NASB). He warns not of money per se, but the “love of money,” and “longing for it.” He addresses not the rich so much as “those who want to get rich” (v. 9), among whom we could add those desperate to hang on to their money or multiply their money and become richer yet.

The money problem that the apostle Paul is addressing is a human problem, not the exclusive hang-up of the upper classes. Often the rich, having grown accustomed to wealth, pay little attention to it. Old money is notorious for modest housing, old cars, and shabby clothing. The acquisitive impulse often is more evident in the poor, the middle class, and the newly wealthy. These classes of people both envy and idolize the rich and famous. They dream of limitless wealth and conspicuous consumption. They become obsessed with getting wealth and long for the opportunity to ostentatiously display it. The reverse snobbery of people of modest means, who loathe people of substance while they pretend virtue, cannot mask the reality that we ordinary folks are not exempt from the apostle’s warnings. We all struggle with the “love of money,” rich and poor alike.

Both then and now there are preachers who will justify materialism and even preach a “health and wealth” gospel, at the heart of which is the promise that “godliness (usually a warped form of godliness) is a means of gain.” The apostle complained of such preachers then, and we still hear of such preachers today (1 Tim. 6:5).

Genuine Christianity offers a different perspective and a better alternative: “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment” (v. 6).

The gain of godliness is spiritual, not material. True godliness is accompanied not by wealth but by contentment with one’s lot. Contentment is found in becoming indifferent towards wealth. Money is fine. Use it if you’ve got it. But don’t be consumed with its pursuit. Don’t long for it. Don’t love it. Why not? Because we can’t take it with us, the apostle reminds us.