Vol. 8, No. 12
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From time to time, elders, preachers, teachers and parents need to emphasize that our material priorities ought to be modest, especially contrasted with our pursuit of godliness. "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these [material] things [of the preceding verses] shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).
The word in 1 Timothy 6:8 translated "raiment" in the KJV, "covering" in the ASV and "clothing" in the NKJV "means house or lodging, as well as clothing" (Clarke; see also Bauer, Gingrich and Danker). "Food, clothing and shelter are the three basic needs of mankind; and all three are included here" (Coffman). According to divine inspiration, human contentment ought to manifest itself when one's needs are met, as opposed to his mere wants and desires that exceed need.
First Timothy 6:8 would have Christians to be content with the basic necessities of life (cf. Hebrews 13:5 NKJV). Contentment means to "be satisfied" (Bauer, Gingrich and Danker). "[I]f we have food and clothes, that should be enough for us" (Louw and Nida). "What we eat and what we wear is all the material good we get out of riches. (What else may be granted should be received with thanksgiving. Still it is not absolutely necessary, and the earnest and devout Christian will be satisfied when his actual needs are supplied.)" (Lipscomb and Shepherd).
Determining to set as one's chief goal in life the acquisition of much more than one's needs invites soul-injuring greed (1 Timothy 6:9-10). The apostle Paul simply restated a principle that Jesus Christ already established during his earthly ministry (Matthew 16:26). The physical blessings in this life over which mankind often frets do not deserve man's acute attention (Matthew 6:25-34).
Paul by inspiration did not write to Timothy: "Having the best or the most food and the most expensive or the most clothing therewith be content." Can a person have too much food or too much rich food? Everyone must eat to stay alive and healthy, but contentment respecting food ought to correspond to need (Proverbs 30:8-9 ASV). The child of God should control his appetite, especially respecting "delicacies" (Proverbs 23:1-3 NKJV). Of course, one is not limited to only the food needed to fuel the body, but contentment ought to derive from food needed for the body rather than whatever is beyond need.
Can a person have too many pairs of shoes or too many clothes? Imelda Marcos, wife of the 10th president of the Philippines, purportedly had about 3,000 pairs of shoes, though she claimed that she really owned 1,060 pairs of shoes ("Imelda"). The servant of Elisha coveted changes of clothes and was rewarded with leprosy (2 Kings 5:21-27). Certainly, especially in an affluent society such as ours, we may have several changes of clothes, but contentment ought to correspond to when our need for clothing has been met, and any more that we have should be counted as an added blessing.
Paul by inspiration did not write to Timothy: "Having the most lavish house therewith be content." Over the years, I have imagined a dream house for my family and me, especially for Bonnie and me. Once, I imagined a little white house with a white picket fence edging a green lawn. For many years, I have admired log homes and think I would like to live in one, especially if it were in a wooded, country setting. More recently, I have favored a ranch style, one level living due to the pains stairs sometimes cause in my knees. However, I am embarrassed when I think that I may not have fully appreciated the abundance I enjoy and have enjoyed through the years in blessed America, wherever my family and I have lived.
The American Dream includes home ownership. The Fannie Mae company, responsible for many people achieving the American dream of home ownership, has as its motto: "Our business is the American Dream." The American Dream respecting home ownership is icing on the cake, extra and beyond simply having a place to reside. Jesus Christ once remarked that he did not have a home (Luke 9:58).
Many wealthy people (e.g., sports figures, movie stars, extremely successful business people, etc.) have mansions that tower in grandeur far beyond the richest palaces of the ancient world. For instance, one of the most lavish houses in this country is owned by Bill Gates, billionaire founder of Microsoft. Whereas the average American home is about 2,000 square feet, the Gates home is 40,000 square feet, took seven years to build and appraises at $113,000,000 (property tax is $1,000,000 annually) (Agarwal). We ought to be content when our need for a place to live is met, and thank God for the added blessing if we have more than that.
Paul by inspiration did not write to Timothy: "Having a shiny, new car (or truck) therewith be content." There is nothing necessarily wrong with having a car or at truck. However, cars and trucks are in a different class than the necessities of life--food, clothes and shelter. Cars and trucks can serve useful purposes and we ought to be thankful if we have either. However, new vehicles or even old vehicles on which we may spend inordinate amounts of time and money have to do with the gravy in life, not the essentials, and ought to be regarded as such.
Paul by inspiration did not write to Timothy: "Having a nice boat therewith be content." The only God-authorized and specified boat was Noah's ark! Jesus Christ also used boats on occasion at the Sea of Galilee. Luxury possessions such as boats have to do with the gravy or extras in life, not essentials, and ought to be regarded as such.
Paul by inspiration did not write to Timothy: "Having the latest audio or video technology and computer equipment therewith be content." Of course, some of the latest techno gadgets can be used in the work of the Lord's church (e.g., sermon preparation, radio and TV sermons, etc.). Luxury possessions, though, such as the latest audio or video technology and computer equipment have to do with the gravy in life, not essentials, and ought to be regarded as such.
Paul by inspiration did not write to Timothy: "Having the newest gaming station or ATV therewith be content." Agreed, toys of all sizes for boys and girls of all ages may contribute to much needed recreation. Jesus Christ himself sometimes sought a holiday from the toil of his ministry (John 6:15). However, recreation (even my model trains or computer games) have to do with the gravy of life and ought to be regarded as such.
Of course, one could go on endlessly simply specifying any of a number of things on which even Christians spend an inordinate amount of time and money, which may displace seeking spiritual things first in our lives (Matthew 6:33). These suffice, however, to illustrate the contrast between need and the extras in life. Unless we satisfactorily distinguish between need and want, we cannot know contentment, because we will always be adding more stuff to our collection. With that mindset, whatever we amass is never enough; contentment is ever elusive.
Moderate prosperity usually serves the child of God much better than either poverty or riches (Proverbs 30:8-9). Most of the things to which we devote the most attention and money simply do not deserve the investment of time or money we spend on them. We will never have enough when our life's goal is the acquisition of more and more stuff. After we acquire the basic necessities for our families and ourselves, most of our attention needs to be spent respecting spiritual matters (Matthew 6:33).
There is a contentment in being saved from one's sins that exceeds any contentment available to an unsaved person. Experience the contentment of salvation by obeying the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 5:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). In addition, erring Christians cannot really find contentment in this life while estranged from our Lord (1 John 1:9).
"About Fannie Mae." Fannie Mae. 15 Dec. 2006 <http://www.fanniemae.com/index.jhtml>.
Agarwal, Amit. "Inside Bill Gates House." Digital Inspiration. 16 Dec. 2006 <http://labnol.blogspot.com/2005/05/inside-bill-gates-home.html>.
Clarke, Adam. Adam Clarke's Commentary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1996.
Bauer, Walter, F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. CD-ROM. Chicago: U. of Chicago P., 1979.
Coffman, James Burton. James Burton Coffman Bible Study Library. CD-ROM. Abilene: ACU P., 1989.
"Imelda Marcos." Wikipedia. 15 Dec. 2006 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imelda_Marcos>.
Lipscomb, David and J.W. Shepherd. A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles: I, II Thessalonians, I, II Timothy, Titus and Philemon. Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1989. CD-ROM. Austin: Wordsearch, 2005.
Louw, Johannes P. and Eugene A. Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains. CD-ROM. New York: United Bible Societies, 1989.