Contentment

In his first letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul talked about the importance of godly living and told his son in the faith to “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12, NKJV). In addition to outlining his pastoral duties, Paul gave Timothy instructions about the use of wealth. Apparently, there were some pastors that were becoming rich as a result of preaching the gospel (1 Timothy 6:9). Paul told Timothy, “Men who are not able to use their minds in the right way because of sin argue all the time. They do not have the truth. They think religion is a way to get much for themselves” (1 Timothy 6:5, NLV).

Paul went on to say that the benefits of godly living outweighed the benefits of wealth. He told Timothy, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:6-8, NKJV). Paul’s opinion of gaining material comfort seemed to be that it was an unnecessary waste of time. His comment that we brought nothing into this world and we will carry nothing out focused on the practical aspect of Christian living. We don’t have to worry about accumulating material possessions on earth because our treasure will be waiting for us when we get to heaven (Luke 12:33).

Paul warned Timothy against the love of money and said, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:9-10, NKJV). Paul seemed to be concerned that Timothy would fall into the same trap that other ministers of the gospel had of taking money unnecessarily from the churches that they were responsible for. Paul wasn’t suggesting that Timothy should work for free (1 Timothy 5:18), but he was saying that Timothy shouldn’t take money unless he needed it for things like food and clothing.

Paul’s final charge and benediction to Timothy pointed out that Christian living isn’t meant to be about getting rich, but about giving away the things that God has blessed us with. He said, “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Timothy 6:17-19, NKJV). Basically, what Paul was saying to Timothy was that Christians need to focus their attention on accumulating treasure in heaven because they will be there for eternity compared to a few years of enjoying material possessions on earth.

Transfer of wealth

King Solomon, who has been credited with being the wealthiest man to ever live, invested millions of dollars in the construction of his palace and the temple of God. Many of the items in God’s temple were overlaid with gold and the exterior covered with brass. When the army of the Chaldees came into Jerusalem, they ransacked the city and took all of its valuable treasures back to Babylon with them.

2 Kings 25:8-9 says:

And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzar-adan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, into Jerusalem: and he burnt the house of the LORD, and the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man’s house burnt he with fire. And all the army of the Chaldees, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down the walls of Jerusalem round about.”

Three of the items that were removed from the temple before it was burned were identified as: 1) two pillars of brass, 2) ten bases of brass, and 3) the brazen sea that was in the house of the LORD (2 Kings 25:13). The dimensions of these items can be found in 1 Kings 7:15, 27, and 23. The two pillars of brass were each eighteen cubits high and twelve cubits around, so approximately 27 feet high and 18 feet around. The weight of just one of these pillars may have been as much as 366,469 lbs.

It says in 2 Kings 25:13 and 16, “And the pillars of brass there were in the house of the LORD, and the bases, and the brazen sea that was in the house of the LORD, did the Chaldees break in pieces, and carried the brass of them to Babylon…the brass of all these vessels was without weight.” In other words, there was too much brass to weigh it. How king Nebuchadnezzar managed to move probably more than a million tons of brass, silver, and gold, more than 500 miles from Jerusalem to Babylon is unknown, but in the process, he became a very wealthy man.

Wasted effort

My dad was an entrepreneur and over the course of his life was involved in at least a dozen business ventures. As a result, he experienced a lot of what Solomon referred to as “sore travail” (Ecclesiastes 4:8). Solomon said, “For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is know by a multitude of words” (Ecclesiastes 5:3). I think my dad believed in the American Dream, the idea that a person can go from rags to riches if he is willing to work hard and pay his dues. At the time of his death, my dad owned properties that he estimated to be worth about $300,000. It was a fortune to him, but insignificant compared to the current value of the first home he and my mom bought 50 years ago. They lost the house in a bankruptcy due to a failed business.

I think there are many people who work more than is really necessary and those who don’t work enough. In my own case, I worked very hard for 14 years and then I retired. I realized toward the end of my career that I didn’t have a life outside of work, and if I didn’t do something about it, I was going to end up like my dad, alone and miserable.

Solomon said, “If a man beget an hundred children and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he” (Ecclesiastes 6:3). What Solomon was implying was that none of the man’s hundred children cared enough about him to give him a decent burial, therefore, his life was a waste.

And

When God answered Solomon’s prayer for wisdom and knowledge, God did not just give him wisdom and knowledge, God gave Solomon wisdom, knowledge, and wealth.

And God said to Solomon, because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life, but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyselft that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king: wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like. (2 Chronicles:11-12)

Typically, God only gives us what we ask for. It says in James 4:2, “ye have not, because ye ask not.” In general, we understand that we need to ask God for what we want, but in Solomon’s case, God gave Solomon something he didn’t ask for… and maybe didn’t want. It is not clear whether Solomon wanted wealth, but didn’t ask for it or God decided to give Solomon wealth even though or because he didn’t want it.

It’s hard to imagine that Solomon, or anyone else for that matter, would not want to be wealthy. It could have been that Solomon was not interested in material possessions, but more than likely, Solomon already had everything he wanted as far as material possessions go. King David was a rich man and probably gave his son everything he asked for. The one thing David couldn’t give his son was wisdom because wisdom only comes from God.

Prior to Solomon, people relied on casting lots to determine the will of God. It may not have occurred to them that they could possess wisdom and be able to discern the will of God without having to ask every time a new situation came up. Knowing the will of God was probably important to Solomon because he didn’t want to make mistakes like his father David had. King David’s affair with Bath-sheba and murder of her husband Uriah caused his family a great deal of pain and suffering. When Nathan the prophet confronted David with his sin, he used a story of greed to depict David’s actions.

In spite of his youth, I believe Solomon was already a wise man when he asked God to give him wisdom and knowledge. Only a wise man would realize that wealth was not the answer to success. I think God gave Solomon wealth because God knew he was wise enough to not abuse it. Solomon was not concerned with impressing other people and was content with what he already had.