1 Timothy 6:6 Commentaries: But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.
1 Timothy 6:6
But godliness with contentment is great gain.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) But godliness with contentment is great gain.—Here the Apostle changes the subject of his letter somewhat abruptly. The monstrous thought that these wordly men dare to trade upon his dear Master’s religion, dare to make out of his holy doctrine a gain—the hateful word suggests to him another danger, to which many in a congregation drawn from the population of a wealthy commercial city like Ephesus were hourly exposed. This is an admirable instance of the sudden change we often notice in the subject matter in the midst of St. Paul’s Epistles, of what has been aptly termed “going off at a word.” The reasoning in the writer’s mind was, probably—“these false men suppose godliness will be turned into gain.” Yes, though they were terribly mistaken, still there is a sense in which their miserable notion is true. True godliness is ever accompanied with perfect contentment. In this sense, godliness does bring along with it great gain to its possessor. “The heart,” says Wiesinger, “amid every outward want, is then only truly rich when it not only wants nothing which it has not, but has that which raises it above what it has not.”

1 Timothy 6:6-10. But godliness — The genuine fear and love of God, and obedience to his will; with contentment — The inseparable companion of vital piety; is great gain — Brings unspeakable profit in time as well as in eternity, and indeed is the only true abiding gain; for all other gain is perishing. For we brought nothing into this world — But were thrown naked upon the indulgent provision which our gracious Creator has been pleased to make for us; and it is certain — Whatever treasures insatiable avarice may amass; we can carry nothing out — But must, in a little time, return to the dust, stripped of all. To what purpose then do we heap together so many things? O let us remember one thing is needful, and let us, above all things, take care to ensure that. And having — While we continue in this transitory and uncertain life; food and raiment — Or food and coverings, rather; the word σκεπασματα comprehending not only clothes, but lodgings; (it signifies indeed coverings of every sort;) let us be therewith content — And not seek, with restless solicitude, the great things of this world, which are often of short continuance, and of a precarious as well as an unsatisfying nature. But they — Who, not content with these; (which are all that a Christian needs, and all that his religion allows him to desire;) will be rich — Who desire to be so, and resolve to use every means in order thereto; fall — Headlong; into temptation — Or trial, frequently great, peculiar, and distressing; and a snare — Which entangles them in sin and misery; and into many foolish and hurtful lusts — Or desires, which have no reason whatever in them, and which not only sink men below the dignity of their nature, but prove the occasion of much further mischief, yea, drown men in destruction here, and eternal perdition hereafter. “In this admirable picture the apostle represents men who are actuated by the desire of riches, and with the lusts excited by the possession of them, as pursuing, to the utmost verge of a precipice, those shadowy phantoms which owe all their semblance of reality to the magic of the passions, which riches, and the desire of them, have excited in their minds; and as falling into a gulf, where they plunge so deep that they are irrecoverably lost.” For the love of money — Commonly called prudent care of what a man has; is the root — Or source; of all — Of every kind of; evil — Of sin and misery consequent thereon, in various respects. “The pernicious influence of this vice hath been taken notice of, and painted in striking colours, by moralists and poets, even among the heathen. But none of them have drawn the picture with such skill and effect as the apostle hath done in this and the preceding verse; where he hath set forth, in the strongest colouring, and with the fewest words, the deformity of the passion, and the evils which it produces, both in the bodies and in the minds of those who indulge it.” — Macknight. Which, while some have coveted after — Greek, ορεγομενοι, reaching out to, or eagerly coveting; have erred Απεπλανηθησαν, have wandered far from the faith, or have wholly missed the mark. Indeed they aimed not at faith, but at something else; and pierced themselves through — Or all round, as περιεπειραν properly signifies; have stabbed themselves, as it were, from head to foot on all sides, so as to be like a person wholly covered with wounds; with many sorrows — Arising from a guilty conscience, tormenting passions, desires contrary to reason, religion, and one another. How cruel are worldly men to themselves!6:6-10 Those that make a trade of Christianity to serve their turn for this world, will be disappointed; but those who mind it as their calling, will find it has the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come. He that is godly, is sure to be happy in another world; and if contented with his condition in this world, he has enough; and all truly godly people are content. When brought into the greatest straits, we cannot be poorer than when we came into this world; a shroud, a coffin, and a grave, are all that the richest man in the world can have from all his wealth. If nature should be content with a little, grace should be content with less. The necessaries of life bound a true Christian's desires, and with these he will endeavour to be content. We see here the evil of covetousness. It is not said, they that are rich, but they will be rich; who place their happiness in wealth, and are eager and determined in the pursuit. Those that are such, give to Satan the opportunity of tempting them, leading them to use dishonest means, and other bad practices, to add to their gains. Also, leading into so many employments, and such a hurry of business, as leave no time or inclination for spiritual religion; leading to connexions that draw into sin and folly. What sins will not men be drawn into by the love of money! People may have money, and yet not love it; but if they love it, this will push them on to all evil. Every sort of wickedness and vice, in one way or another, grows from the love of money. We cannot look around without perceiving many proofs of this, especially in a day of outward prosperity, great expenses, and loose profession.But godliness - Piety; religion. The meaning is, that real religion should be regarded as the greatest and most valuable acquisition. "With contentment." This word, as now used, refers to a state of mind; a calm and satisfied feeling; a freedom from murmuring and complaining. The idea is, that "piety, connected with a contented mind - or a mind acquiescing in the allotments of life - is to be regarded as the real gain." Tyndale gives substantially the same interpretation: "Godliness is great riches, if a man be content with that he hath" Coverdale: "Howbeit, it is of great advantage, who is so godly, and holdeth him content with that he hath." The word which is used here - αὐτάρκεια autarkeia - means, properly, "self-sufficency," and is used here, in a good sense, to denote a mind satisfied with its lot. If there be true religion, united with its proper accompaniment, peace of mind, it is to be regarded as the true riches. The object of the apostle seems to be, to rebuke those who supposed that property constituted everything that was worth living for. He tells them, therefore, that the true gain, the real riches which we ought to seek, is religion, with a contented mind. This does more to promote happiness than wealth can ever do, and this is what should be regarded as the great object of life. 6. But—Though they err in this, there is a sense in which "piety is" not merely gain, but "great means of gain": not the gaining which they pursue, and which makes men to be discontented with their present possessions, and to use religion as "a cloak of covetousness" (1Th 2:5) and means of earthly gain, but the present and eternal gain which piety, whose accompaniment is contentment, secures to the soul. Wiesinger remarks that Paul observed in Timothy a tendency to indolence and shrinking from the conflict, whence he felt (1Ti 6:11) that Timothy needed cautioning against such temptation; compare also the second Epistle. Not merely contentment is great gain (a sentiment of the heathen Cicero [Paradox 6], "the greatest and surest riches"), but "piety with contentment"; for piety not only feels no need of what it has not, but also has that which exalts it above what it has not [Wiesinger]. The Greek for contentment is translated "sufficiency" (2Co 9:8). But the adjective (Php 4:11) "content"; literally, "having a sufficiency in one's self" independent of others. "The Lord always supplies His people with what is necessary for them. True happiness lies in piety, but this sufficiency [supplied by God, with which moreover His people are content] is thrown into the scale as a kind of overweight" [Calvin] (1Ki 17:1-16; Ps 37:19; Isa 33:6, 16; Jer 37:21). Godliness, the exercise of a true faith in Christ, conjoined with a holy life, is a good revenue of itself, having in it autarkeiav, a self-sufficiency. He doth not here suppose that godliness can be separated from a contented frame of spirit with that lot which God hath chosen for us, for that cannot be; but as being always attended with a contentation of mind, in which alone lieth true riches, for such men never want enough.

A good man, Solomon saith, is satisfied from himself, Proverbs 14:14; for which reason alone godliness is porismov megav, a great annual revenue. But godliness with contentment is great gain. By "godliness" is not meant any particular grace, but all the graces of the Spirit of God; as faith, hope, love, fear, &c. the whole of internal religion, as it shows itself in outward worship, and in all acts of holiness of life and conversation; and which the doctrine that is according to godliness teaches and engages to; and this is gain, very great gain indeed. A man possessed of true godliness is a gaining, thriving, man: such as are godly, or truly gracious, they are come into good and happy circumstances, and are possessor of the true, solid, satisfying, durable, and unsearchable riches of grace; all their debts are paid, they are richly clothed, and deliciously fed, and are in a good family, even the household of God, who before were in debt, arrayed in rags, were in a starving condition, and strangers and foreigners; yea, they are heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ, and have both a right and a meetness for the heavenly inheritance; they are now made kings and priests to God, and, in the present state of things, have God to be their portion, and exceeding great reward; they have an interest in Christ, and in all spiritual blessings in him, and have the Spirit as the earnest of their future inheritance; they are rich in faith, and in good works; their souls, which were lost, are gained, and shall be saved with an everlasting salvation; and ere long they will be possessed of all the riches of glory, signified by a house not made with hands, a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God, an incorruptible inheritance, and a kingdom and glory: how great is the gain of godliness! And what adds to this gain, and now goes along with it, is "contentment"; for this is not to be considered as the condition of godliness being great gain, as if it was not so without it; but as the effect of godliness, what that produces, and as a part of its gain. The word here used signifies "sufficiency"; and so it is rendered in the Vulgate Latin version: it designs a competency of the good things of this life; and what that is, is expressed in 1 Timothy 6:8 and such God gives to them that fear him, his godly ones, who shall lack no good thing convenient for them; for godliness has the promise of this life, as well as of that which is to come; and God does give to such all things pertaining to life and godliness, even all things richly to enjoy. The word indeed properly signifies "self-sufficiency", which in its strict sense, only belongs to God, who is "El-Shaddai", God all-sufficient and self-sufficient; but here it intends such a sufficiency as a man himself judges to be so; for this phrase does not so much design the thing itself, which is a sufficiency, as the opinion, the sense which the godly man has of it, who himself judges it, as Jacob did, to be enough; and such a man is content with what he has, and thankful for it, submits quietly to the will of God, and patiently bears every adverse providence: and this is now the fruit and effect of godliness, or true grace, and is a considerable part of that gain which godliness brings with it; and such a man is a happy man indeed, let his circumstances be what they will. The Jews have a saying (n), that

"he is a rich man whose spirit rests in, or is contented with his riches;''

that is, as the gloss explains it.

"who rejoices in his portion, be it little or much: thus, though godliness is not gain, nor gain godliness, in the sense of the false teachers, yet is it true gain in a spiritual sense.''

(n) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 25. 2.

{6} But godliness with contentment is great gain.

(6) He properly dismisses the name of gain and lucre, confessing that godliness is great gain, but in a far different manner, that is, because it brings true sufficiency.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Timothy 6:6. Ἔστι δὲ κ.τ.λ.] Calvin: eleganter et non sine ironica correctione in contrarium sensum eadem verba retorquet. The meaning is: piety is certainly a πορισμός, but in another and higher sense than the heretics suppose; ἔστι is opposed to νομιζόντων (1 Timothy 6:5), Wiesinger.

πορισμὸς μέγας κ.τ.λ.] πορισμός has here the same meaning as before; Luther wrongly says: “it is, however, a great gain, one that is blessed,” etc.

ἡ εὐσέβεια μετὰ αὐταρκείας] “Piety when united with contentment,” which certainly belongs of necessity to true piety. The gain of which the apostle is here thinking is not the heavenly, eternal blessings (Theodoret: τὴν γὰρ αἰώνιον ἡμῖν πορίζει ζωήν; Calvin, Heydenreich, Matthies, and others), but the gain to which we are directed in the next verses, 7–10. Several expositors hold the gain to be the αὐταρκεία itself (so Chrysostom, Bengel: nam affert αὐταρκείαν; de Wette, and others[203]); but this reference is not indicated in the added words: μετὰ αὐταρκείας. On αὐτάρκεια, comp. Php 4:11 : ἐγὼ ἔμαθον ἐν οἷς εἰμι αὐτάρκης εἶναι.

[203] Van Oosterzee: “In one short, compressed sentence, the apostle expresses two chief ideas, that true piety of itself makes content, and that by doing so it brings great gain.”1 Timothy 6:6. The repetition of πορισμός in a fresh idealised sense is parallel to the transfigured sense in which νομίμως is used in 1 Timothy 1:8.

αὐταρκείας: not here sufficientia (Vulg.), though that is an adequate rendering in 2 Corinthians 9:8. St. Paul did not mean to express the sentiment of the A.V. of Ecclesiastes 7:11, “Wisdom is good with an inheritance”. Contentment does not even give his meaning. Contentment is relative to one’s lot; αὐτάρκεια is more profound, and denotes independence of, and indifference to, any lot; a man’s finding not only his resources in himself, but being indifferent to everything else besides. This was St. Paul’s condition when he had learnt to be αὐτάρκης, Php 4:11. “Lord of himself, though not of lands” (Sir. H. Wotston). See chap. 1 Timothy 4:8. The popular as opposed to the philosophical use of αὐτάρκεια, as evidenced by the papyri, is simply enough. See Moulton and Milligan, Expositor, vii., vi. 375.6. So the Pauline paradox comes out strongly; godliness with contentment is a way of gain, a great source of gain. This is spoiled by making the reference to the rewards of heaven. The thought is as in 1 Timothy 4:8, where see the paraphrase quoted of Mark 10:30. St Paul’s ‘way to be wealthy’ is by the limiting of our wants and the limitless realising of Christ’s presence and sufficiency;—this being the inmost meaning of this word ‘godliness’ see 1 Timothy 2:2. The adjective of this word ‘contentment’ occurs in the noble description of his own disciplined life, ‘I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.… I have all competence in Him that empowereth me,’ Php 4:11; Php 4:13.

So good George Herbert:

‘For he that needs five thousand pound to live

Is full as poore as he that needs but five.’—The Church Porch.

And again:

‘Teach me, my God and King,

In all things Thee to see,

And what I do in any thing

To do it as for Thee:

This is the famous stone

That turneth all to gold,

For that which God doth touch and own

Cannot for lesse be told.’—The Elixir.1 Timothy 6:6. Ἔστι δέ, but is) He does not wish altogether to deny that godliness is a gain.—πορισμὸς) a ready and sure (‘expedita’) mode of providing a living.[49]—μέγας, great) for it produces αὐτάρκειαι, a mind contented with its lot, unknown to all others.—μετὰ αὐταρκείας, with contentment) This is the companion of godliness.

[49] Ποριομος is strictly the act of providing a living, means of gain: πόρισμα, the living thus gained, gain.—ED.Verse 6. - Godliness, etc. The apostle lakes up the sentiment which he had just condemned, and shows that in another sense it is most true. The godly man is rich indeed. For he wants nothing in this world but what God has given him, and has acquired riches which, unlike the riches of this world, he can take away with him (comp. Luke 12:33). The enumeration of his acquired treasures follows, after a parenthetical depreciation of those of the covetous man, in ver. 11. The thought, as so often in St. Paul, is a little intricate, and its flow checked by parenthetical side-thoughts. But it seems to be as follows: "But godliness is, in one sense, a source of great gain, and moreover brings contentment with it - contentment, I say, for since we brought nothing into the world, and can carry nothing out, we have good reason to be content with the necessaries of life, food and raiment. Indeed, those who strive for more, and pant after wealth, bring nothing but trouble upon themselves. For the love of money is the root of all evil, etc. Thou, therefore, O man of God, instead of reaching after worldly riches, procure the true wealth, and become rich in righteousness, godliness, faith," etc. (ver. 11). The phrase, Αστι δὲ πορισμὸς μέγας ἡ εὐσεβεία μετὰ αὐταρκείας, should be construed by making the μετα couple πορισμός with αὐταρκείας, so as to express that "godliness" is both "gain" and "contentment" - not as if αὐταρκεία qualified εὐσεβεία - that would have been expressed by the collocation, ἡ μετὰ αὐταρκείας εὐσεβεία. Contentment (αὐταρκεία). The word occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only in 2 Corinthians 9:8, where it is rendered, both in the R.V. and the A.V., "sufficiency." The adjective αὐτάρκης, found in Philippians 4:11 (and common in classical Greek), is rendered "content." It means "sufficient in or of itself" - needing no external aid - and is applied to persons, countries, cities, moral qualities, etc. The substantive αὐταρκεία is the condition of the person, or thing, which is αὐτάρκης. Contentment (αὐταρκείας)

Only here and 2 Corinthians 9:8. The adjective αὐτάρκης self-sufficient, Philippians 4:11. Comp. Sir. 40:18. Αὐτάρκεια is an inward self-sufficiency, as opposed to the lack or the desire of outward things. It was a favorite Stoic word, expressing the doctrine of that sect that a man should be sufficient unto himself for all things, and able, by the power of his own will, to resist the force of circumstances. In Ps. of Sol. 5:18, we read: "Blessed is the man whom God remembereth with a sufficiency convenient for him" (ἐν συμμετρίᾳ αὐταρκεσίας); that is, with a sufficiency proportioned to his needs.

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