The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: G

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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 throughout.

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.

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