Over the years, it has struck me as strange how many Christians pursue wealth. Jesus warns that riches make it hard for people to get into heaven (Matt. 19:23) and Paul warns that those who desire to be rich plunge into ruin and destruction (1 Tim. 6:9–10). It's as though we either don't believe it, or we think we'll be the exception to the rule, or we just don't think God's Word could mean what it says. But Paul means what he says — desiring to be rich is deadly. And there’s more. The key that unlocks this section of 1 Timothy 6 are these words: "Godliness with contentment is great gain" (v. 6).
What's the protection against these deadly effects of money?
Answer: a heart content in God.
Are you deeply satisfied in God, so that this satisfaction — this contentment — doesn't collapse when God ordains you have much or little? Having little can destroy contentment in God by making us feel he's stingy or uncaring or powerless. And having much can destroy our contentment in God by making us feel he is superfluous, or quite secondary as a helper and treasure.
What's the Secret?
It's no small thing to learn how not to lose our contentment in God. This is what life is for — living to show that he is all-glorious. And this is shown, among other ways, by how he's gloriously sufficient to give us contentment in himself in the best and worst of times. Paul had learned the secret of how to do that:
"I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:11–13)
Paul had learned "to be content." This is the key to the right use of money in 1 Timothy 6:5–10. "I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need" (Phil. 4:12). What was the secret? I think he gives it in the previous chapter: "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil. 3:8).