Money is the currency of Christian Hedonism. What you do with it—or desire to do with it—can make or break your happiness forever. The Bible makes clear that what you feel about money can destroy you: “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9).
This passage teaches us to use our money in a way that will bring us the greatest and longest gain. That is, it advocates Christian Hedonism. It confirms that it is not only permitted but also commanded by God that we flee from destruction and pursue our full and lasting pleasure. It implies that all the evils in the world come not because our desires for happiness are too strong, but because they are so weak that we settle for fleeting, money-bought pleasures that do not satisfy our deepest longings, but in the end destroy our souls. The root of all evil is that we are the kind of people who settle for the love of money instead of the love of God (1 Timothy 6:10).
1 Timothy 6:5–10 is so crucial that we should meditate on it in more detail. Paul is warning Timothy against those:
… who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
In other words, watch out for slick deceivers who have discovered that they can cash in on an upsurge of godliness. According to verse 5, these folks treat godliness as a means of gain. They are so addicted to money that truth has a very small place in their affections. They don’t “rejoice in the truth.” They rejoice in tax evasion. They are willing to use any new, popular interest to make a few bucks. If the bottom line is big and black, misleading advertising strategies don’t matter. If godliness is in, then sell godliness.
Paul could have responded to this effort to turn godliness into gain by saying, “Christians do what’s right for its own sake. Christians aren’t motivated by profit.” But that’s not what Paul said. He said, “Godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment” (verse 6). Instead of saying Christians don’t live for gain, he says that Christians ought to live for greater gain than the slick money lovers do. Godliness is the way to get this great gain, but only if we are content with simplicity rather than greedy for riches. “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”
If your godliness has freed you from the desire to be rich and has helped you be content with what you have, then your godliness is tremendously profitable. “For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). Godliness that overcomes the craving for material wealth produces great spiritual wealth. The point of verse 6 is that it is very profitable not to pursue wealth.
Piper, John. 2001. The Dangerous Duty of Delight. Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers.