Godliness with contentment
"Eusebia" (godliness) appears fifteen times in the New
Testament. Ten of these times are in Paul's writings, and only in the Pastoral
Epistles. The word occurs once in 2 Timothy, once in Titus, and eight times in 1
Timothy -- which might almost be called an exhortation to godliness. The theme
of the epistle is this "Godliness with Contentment" which Paul stresses
The Greek word "eusebia" is compounded of two words: "eu"
(which means well or right) and the remainder, which signifies worship. True
godliness is therefore "right worship", the practical expression in our daily
lives of the worship and honor due to God. This is the lesson which Paul
emphasizes in the often misused passage, 1Ti 3:16, concerning the "mystery of
godliness". Paul is not saying that it is the "nature of the Godhead" which is a
mystery. Rather, the "mystery of godliness" is the development of the perfect
and unified body of Christ. It is the awe and wonder we must experience
at the unfathomable depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God
manifested in His plan through Christ for our salvation! The "mystery of
godliness" is the compelling influence of the Word of God acting upon impure men
and women to develop a godly character. This we do by practical application of
God's principles, while we never lose sight of the fact that we are saved by
God's grace alone and not by our own efforts.
All this perhaps seems obvious, but men and women have always
been prone to idolatry and mistaking the false for the true. So it has been with
godliness. At Ephesus, when Paul wrote this first letter to Timothy, there were
those whose lives were taken up in contention and argument, fables and
genealogies (1Ti 1:4), worldly strifes, questions, and surmisings (1Ti 6:4) --
rather than simple godliness which edifies. There were even those who, while
maintaining a profession and appearance of godliness, thought that it could be
made a way of material gain (1Ti 6:5). In opposition to such a thought Paul
counsels that godliness with contentment is the only true gain. The
contentment is not of course self-contentment, but the satisfaction which comes
to those whose minds are stayed upon God, bringing the peace which surpasses
natural man's understanding. This contentment of mind and heart can be nothing
but an incomprehensible mystery to those restless and dissatisfied brethren who
always engage in strife and dispute, or who seek false riches and security
(6:9). Beware, says Paul of any false ideas of "eusebia", whether it be in
contentiousness masquerading as "earnest contending" or in materialism disguised
in the thin veneer of religion.
Discontent and materialism
The warning comes to us today with full force. This is a
discontented age when it is fashionable to be "frustrated". Discontent expresses
itself in various ways, most often in grumbling, irritability, strife and
wrangling. We are never completely free of such weaknesses, but we must fight
against the negative with positive feelings and actions.
This weapon is the true contentment which goes hand in hand
with true godliness and which springs from a recognition of what God has done
for us in Christ. So long as such contentment is lacking in our hearts, its
absence will show itself by a proneness to strife and criticism and
procrastination and self-justification.
This age is also a materialistic one, which has abandoned
faith of every sort and gone in search of false and illusory gain. We brought
nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. We all
recognize the truth of these words, but the busy and anxious lives we lead often
deny their force. In our modern economy, it is difficult not to be caught up in
the search for possessions, comfort, and "security". We need the constant
reminder which Paul gives Timothy regarding that which constitutes true gain,
godliness with contentment.
In contrast to material things, true gain is to be found only
in worship of God, in "eusebia". This only can deliver us from the fretful cares
and anxieties of life, bringing true contentment. Here then is the antidote for
our modern illnesses of frustration and materialism. But it will only grow if it
is fed by constant reflection upon the greatness and goodness of God. Paul tells
us to exercise ourselves toward "Eusebia", not in profane and old wives'
fables (1Ti 4:7,8).
If we are wise, we shall heed the lesson and let the
consciousness of God's love and mercy so dwell with us continuously that in the
godliness of our lives we may truly worship Him. The girl's name "Eusebia" was
once quite common among Christadelphians -- expressive of righteous parents'
desire for their daughters. If we follow Paul's advice here, our sisters will be
"Eusebias", rightly worshipping Yahweh; and our brothers will all be "Timothys",
giving honor to the true Theos only. And there will be no room in our midst for
anything which is an abomination or makes a lie.