If only I had more money. We’ve all thought it. Perhaps your dream vacation is just out of reach. Maybe you wish you could save more for what the future holds. It’s tempting to think our problems would be largely solved if only we had a little more money. In 1 Timothy 6:6–10, the apostle Paul sounds an important warning: desiring to be rich leads to ruin.
Now, lest you think, I don’t want to be rich—I just want a little more, notice what Paul says is the opposite of the desire to be rich: “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Tim. 6:8).
That’s a radical statement! It’s not necessarily wrong to enjoy expensive clothes or invest in your dream home, but the question is about contentment. What do you think will make you happy? Trying to find satisfaction in money has disastrous results.
There’s no shortage of stories that illustrate how the desire to be rich leads to ruin. Take, for example, Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos. When she was just 9, she told her family she was determined to be a billionaire. And 21 years later, her dream became a reality. In 2014, she became the world’s youngest self-made woman billionaire, worth $4.5 billion.
Just one year later, though, it all came crashing down. In an attempt to realize her dream, she had lied about the accuracy of her company’s technology. By 2018 the company had collapsed, and earlier this year she was convicted of four counts of fraud. According to Forbes, Holmes’s net worth is now $0. Her desire to be rich led to moral failure and financial ruin.
The desire to be rich is a slippery slope, progressing downward toward spiritual disaster. Desire sparks temptation; temptation sets a snare. I imagine this is how it worked out for Elizabeth Holmes.
The same thing can happen to us. We may not be famous, but our hearts are just as susceptible to this dangerous desire.
Again, the biblical antidote to the longing for wealth is contentment. But how do we become content? According to 1 Timothy 6:6–10, there are two keys.
Key #1: Reorient your perspective.
Paul writes, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world” (1 Tim. 6:7). This life is not all there is. If we’re thinking only about the here and now, it makes sense to seek wealth. But there’s a life beyond this one, which reorients our perspective. Our focus shifts from temporal wealth to eternal wealth in Christ. Any money we could gain in this life—no matter how much—seems petty compared to what awaits those united to Christ.
And yet virtually everything we consume wants to drag us back to “possession obsession.” When I watch HGTV, do I leave feeling more content? Not usually. Sometimes the explicit goal of what we consume is to provoke discontent: “Buy this, and then you’ll be happy.”
How do we resist the pull? By pursuing the ordinary ways God has given to grow our faith. When we worship together each Sunday or pray and meditate on his Word, he reorients our perspective. The routine rhythms of the Christian life, almost imperceptibly, steel our spine against the allure of “more.”
Key #2: Redefine your goal.
After I started mowing neighbors’ lawns for money in middle school, I suddenly had disposable income. I loved to buy my brother and myself a fun Friday night. I would rent a video game and buy gummy worms to devour while we played. It was a blast! But it quickly became normal. It didn’t feel like a treat anymore. It just felt ordinary.
The routine rhythms of the Christian life, almost imperceptibly, steel our spine against the allure of ‘more.’
That’s the problem with money and what it buys us: the moment we start spending more on luxury and convenience, we get used to it. That meal we had or the vacation we went on felt like a luxury before; now it just feels normal. There’s a name for this phenomenon: “lifestyle creep.” Contentment, it turns out, is a moving target; when we reach the goal, we quickly grow discontent again.
Paul writes, “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Tim. 6:8). Clearly we need a new, sanctified goal. It’s not about how much we make (or don’t make). It’s about redefining our goal. We must be content with food and clothing.
But we have a big problem. Contentment doesn’t come naturally to sinners. We’re easily captivated by the promise of riches. We place our functional trust for salvation and satisfaction in wealth. And for that, we deserve eternal, spiritual ruin.
The good news is that Jesus Christ, who was rich beyond measure, for our sake became poor (2 Cor. 8:9). Content to become a humble servant, he died on a bloody cross for our sins (Phil. 2:5–11). Christ’s death and resurrection mean we can experience forgiveness and receive the power, through the Holy Spirit, to deny the urge to pursue happiness in things. We need only turn away from selfish desire and throw ourselves on God’s abundant grace.
Set your eyes, friend, on Jesus Christ. True contentment is found only in him, as we anticipate our final reward.