Over the years, it has struck me—in view of Paul’s warning that those who desire to be rich plunge into ruin and destruction—how strange it is how many Christian people still pursue wealth.
But Paul means what he says—desiring to be rich is deadly. And there is more. The key that unlocks this text is in verse 6: “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” What is the protection against these deadly effects of money? Answer: a heart that is content in God. Are you deeply satisfied in God, so that this satisfaction, this contentment, doesn’t collapse when God ordains that you have much or little?
Having little can destroy contentment in God by making us feel he is stingy or uncaring or powerless. And having much can destroy our contentment in God by making us feel that God is superfluous, or quite secondary as a helper and treasure.
It is no small thing to learn in life how not to lose our contentment in God. This is what life is for—living to show that God is all-glorious. And this is shown, among other ways, by how he is gloriously sufficient to give us contentment in himself in the best and worst of times. Paul said he had learned the secret of this contentment. “I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Philippians 4 v 12).
What was the secret? I think he gives the secret in the previous chapter of Philippians: “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (3 v 8).
In other words, to put it in modern terms, when the stock market goes up or he gets a bonus, he says, I find Jesus more precious and valuable and satisfying than my increasing money. And when the stock market goes down or he faces a pay cut, he says, I find Jesus more precious and valuable and satisfying than all that I have lost. The glory and beauty and worth and preciousness of Christ is the secret of contentment that keeps money from controlling him.
Is that a sentiment that you can echo? In what situations would that be most put to the test?
The secret of contentment is “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”—so how could you seek to grow in contentment?
And that’s the memo.
By John Piper
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