3 If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions,5 and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. 7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8 If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 9 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. 10 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. 11 But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.
In most bibles, this passage is broken up at least once, if not twice. In the beginning portion of this message we see Paul talking about false doctrine and teaching and then he moves onto money. It’s easy for us to see these as different topics but in actuality, they are not. Paul is qualifying his example of radical love, which he detailed previously in discussing how slaves should behave now that they are followers of Christ. As he explains in verse 3, these aren’t his words or his doctrine, but that of Christ. Verses 4 and 5 are pretty harsh about those who disagree with what he is saying. He challenges religion at the end of verse 5 and explains that godliness is not about our reward on earth.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us about earthly gain and treasure. In Matthew 6 we read, “19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Paul and Jesus are explaining that worldly gain and godliness does us no good. It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how many things you have and acquire. It is the contentment that Paul describes (and Jesus does elsewhere in His sermon) that is a result of the pure inner joy of the Lord we get when we receive Him.
I had a discussion with someone just the other day about this passage and we talked about, “what if someone does things for the reward in heaven?” From what I have gleaned so far in my study of the bible, if we are doing things for reward, we’re missing the point altogether. Besides, I don’t think that the heavenly storehouses are going to be filled with things like the new PlayStation console or a brand new Shelby Mustang with platinum rims and a kickin’ stereo system. These are still the things of this world. We cannot imagine what is in heaven waiting for us. Jesus is concerned about our heart condition. Are the desires of our hearts ours or His?
Jesus tells us, “seek first the Kingdom of God.” The point in all this is that because our God loves us so much, we don’t have to worry about being provided for. My wife and I learned this firsthand this past week as God sold both of our cars in what we call a whirlwind experience. Paul warns us in verse 10 about the dangers of the pursuit of these things. Not only does it lead to falling away from the presence of God, but it replaces your joy with grief and sorrow. One of JD Rockafeller’s famous quotes is a response to the question, “just how much money is enough?” His reply, “just a little more.” The pursuit of stature, wealth, and all that it entails is a hopeless and helpless path. It is like chasing the first high, you never quite reach it regardless of how much you consume.
There is hope! I’ve always described Christ as the high that gets better every time. If we truly seek out the Kingdom of God and run towards Christ with reckless abandon, we will experience more joy and contentment than ever. This is the joy that we sing about in the Christmas season. It is the joy of the world: free to all and plentiful beyond measure.