We saw in our former installment on these verses that the man of godly contentment is rich in God. And it alone is true riches, affording satisfaction for the entire man, body, soul and spirit, and that, too, for time and for eternity.
When this is applied to our present existence here on earth it can be summed up as is done by the apostle in verse 8 “But having food and raiment, with these things let us be content.”
It should be observed that the apostle employs the present active participle “having.” This underscores that this is a having in the “present time.” It is a possession which we have “today.” Contentment does not ask any anxious questions about tomorrow. That is a symptom of the life of the world, the nations. They are forever busy with the question of what shall we eat and what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed. They have their prophets of doom and their prophets concerning business and prosperity; they endeavor a “controlled” economy. The “ever normal granery” is their ideal. But such is not the concern of the godly man, who is rich in God, trusting in him, expecting all good things from Him alone, knowing that fruitful years and barren years, riches and poverty, sickness and health come not by chance but from the hand of our heavenly Father, who knoweth that we need all these things. The Christian, the contented Christian, sees faithfulness of God in his slice of bread and in his one suite of clothes. He sees the promise fulfilled: your bread is certain, and your water is sure. And he observes with David: I have been young, and am old, but I have not seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed seeking bread! What he has in the “present moment” is sufficient, for he does not have “faith in the future,” which is idolatry, but in the living God!
However, Paul adds the injunction “let us therewith be content.”
Such contentment is becoming to us, and it is true wisdom. For our God is not an idol to forget us, but he makes our needs his care. The motto written on our American coins “In God We Trust” must be more than a mere motto. I believe that it has been removed from the coins now. It possibly is better so for it is mostly the Mammom itself of idolatrous man. It is an idol which leaves its devotees in the lurch. It is most deceitful. However, the contentment of godliness says, when it uses the coins: “In God do we trust,” and places the filthy lucre in its rightful category.
Now Paul knows very well that underneath the striving of those who would liberate the slaves, or keep them captive, and who did not see all things in relationship to Christ, was the thought of material gain. It meant that these would have this world, the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life.
Hence, Paul will give us a decription of all who “would be rich”. The term in the Greek for “would” isHoi aboulomenoi.” They are here viewed as a class of men and women in distinction from those who are content with food and raiment. Here is the dividing line between these two classes. It is either contentment of godliness or the discontentment of ungodliness. And there is no-no-man’s-land separating these two classes of people. It is either haters or lovers of God, and that concretely manifested in the attitude towards the world’s goods. It is serving God or serving Mammon. It is either-or! Wherefore let it be understood that Paul is speaking of very evil people: they are those who life’s ambition it is to be rich in this world’s good’ That is their plan and strategy. To this class belong the “have not’s” as well as the “haves”; both ends of the class of “men.” Paul is here speaking definitely of “men.” Men “anthropous” are cast into destruction. He is not making the very sinful and erroneous distinction of those who speak of the “majority group” in distinction from the “minority groups.” The poor man who desires to become rich and the rich man who desires to become richer are both in the same class. They are both on the same highway of sin; essentially there is not any difference. Paul is not interested in a social gospel of equality, nor is he interested in the maintenance of the “status quo” of the white man’s supremacy. That is simply outside of the viewpoint of Paul’s admonition. He is speaking of the homo genus, white or black, or red or yellow or brow. And de dividing line is between those who are godly and those who are ungodly, between believers andunbelievers!! Two classes of people. And now he will tell us what happens to and is the lot of those whose ambition and striving is to be rich in earthly possessions and prestige and honor.
On which side do you belong; what are you striving for? By our fruits we shall be known! We cannot serve God and Mammon?!
Let us then notice what Paul says about the class who are walking in ungodly discontent, who hate the ways and judgments of the Most High, and kick against the pricks of the dealings of Divine Majesty, whether they are socialists and communists who say that the Christian religion is the “opium of the people,” or the rank and file which simply want a little bigger piece of this world’s goods.
Paul says of such that they “fall into temptation and snares and many ignorant and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition” I Tim. 6:9b.
We do well to try to understand the implication of this sorry end of those who seek merely earthly riches and are not rich in God, and that, too, for our very life’s sake. That they “fall” is really that they become a victim. They do not really attain the end of contentment, security for which they seek. They buy so much life insurance and social security that they worry how to Pay the premium—unless you are the United States government who seems to have the inalienable right to go into debt without paying it! Life insurance agents forever tell you eat you must make your future sure. And it becomes a wearisome cycle, the vicious circle, a virtual maelstrom of uncertainty, and anxious asking: when will the bottom fall out of my little basket, and all I’ve gathered toward my security slips through my fingers! Foolish man falls head-long into the very thing he thinks to avoid, and that, too, in every dimension of society.
Man who desires to become rich (not being contented in godliness) falls into temptation. The world’s goods allure him. The grass in the neighbor’s pastures looks greener than in his own. And so he “reaches” out, and gets “ensnared” in the web of his own plans and aspirations in the judgment of God. He thinks that another has “taken” him. When a “holiday” is proclaimed on the banks he is ready to shoot the banker, preferably the “International Bankers,” little understanding that he was ensnared by his own “desire to become rich!” It was the “lust” of covetousness, the fundamental “idolatry” of Mammon that deceived him. His own idol causes him to pass through the tie!
The wrath of God is upon all ungodliness of man. God is not mocked. The-earth is still the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; He does with it what he pleases and He sits in judgment. And those who will to be rich find that lust is very “hurtful” and very “unwise.” They did not have the power of proper understanding of God and true riches, and their very seeking has implicit in it something very hurtful to their soul and body. It wears out their body and spirit. For riches has wings and will take off as do the eagles. It is a wearying business this trying to be rich. Competition is the spice of life, but it drives men to the mental institutions, to wreck and ruin and finally to the grave. It is the sentence of God upon Adam: in the sweat of thy brow thou shall eat bread. Gen. 3. And all these things become so weary that no one can utter them. And in the midst of this mad-house of confusion (go to the Board of Trade) all manner of panaceas are concocted by man, and men cry to each other “it’s a great life if you don’t weaken,” and the “art to relax” is preached, and the need of modern man’s vacation is stressed, on some lonely island of Robinson Crusoe.
But they who are not rich in God are very guilty before God. Him they have ignored, the Giver of all things. Him they do not know as a providing Father. And they are cast into destruction from the presence of God, and into eternal perdition. All their riches will be taken from them and will again be sought by those who will follow this same path of all who desire to be rich.
Paul here gives in a capsule form the entire teaching of Scripture on this point. One is here reminded of the vanity of vanities of the bookEcclesiastes. Is the sum of all man’s endeavors not weariness and vexation of spirit? I hear the preacher repeat it: all is sadness, wrong, a vexation of spirit. Who will show us any good in this vicious circle? It drones like the death-knell: “Behold all is vanity and a vexation of spirit.” Here it is true: “in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. And the preacher may look at another facet of human endeavor to gain advantage in this world—without God—this also is vexation and vanity; it is full of travail and vexation of spirit; it is travail of the spirit to no profit! Ecclesiastes 1:14;Ecclesiastes 2:11, 17, 26; Ecclesiastes 4:4, 6; Ecclesiastes 6:9. All is weariness, sadness, a breaking, a destruction!
Small wonder that when “some” of the congregation in the times of the apostles “reached out” for this goal they pierced themselves with many sorrows. All they had was disappointment, torment and anguish in their souls. Yes, they fell from the faith; they were deceived by their own lusts. And their sorrows were many! Everywhere they went, morning, noon and night, it is nothing but bitterness and dissatisfaction. It was poverty in their souls. Joy and peace and contentment they do not have. The continual feast of the righteous they do not enjoy. Their very merriment and laughter is superficial, thin; it is like the crackling of thorns under a pot.
Such is the lot of all who would seek to become rich in this world where the wrath of almighty God is revealed. And no dose of “Common Grace” will possibly alleviate this bitterness of man. For this “love of money” is an evil root. On it grows no good fruit, but it breaks out into all manner of evils. They who love money must need be very cruel. Does not the gangster kill his victim, and does not the entire world of “business” live by the principle that the “bread of one man is the death of the other man.” Does not the avaricious farmer gloat when he hears that the fruit and vegetables are frozen and have dried out in another region. Does not ever the hire of the laborer cry to the LORD Sabbaoth? And is not the love of money revealed in. the evil of “interest rates” which make one pay twice for his property.
The solution? To make this world a perfect social order? God forbid! It is in the contentment of godliness; having food and drink and to be therewith content. A certain artist grasped this point and painted an old woman, bare walls, a bowl of soup, a glass of water, the open Bible and hands folded in prayer and thanksgiving to God. You hasten to assure me that you saw that picture? Did you hear the message, and do you heed it?