Fruitful Christians Manifest Godly Contentment
“Having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.”—1 Tim. 6:8.
1. (a) How should one’s being a Christian affect his attitude toward material possessions? (b) What pointed counsel on this matter is recorded at Hebrews 13:5?
TRUE Bible Christians are not persons who simply go to a place of worship once in a while, and then live like the rest of the world. Their entire outlook on life is deeply influenced by the fact that they are followers of Jesus Christ; so they take to heart the things that he and his apostles taught and did. As Jesus said, they are “no part of the world,” and, for that reason, if they are mature Christians, they do not share the outlook of the materialistic world around them. (John 17:16) They do not put material possessions above spiritual values. Is that true of you? If you are one who professes to be a Christian, have you taken to heart the counsel recorded in the Bible at Hebrews 13:5, which says: “Let your manner of life be free of the love of money, while you are content with the present things”?—NW; Yg; Ro; ED.
2. (a) Before the Flood, how did people manifest their indifference toward the message Noah preached, and is the same attitude evident today? (b) Is such apathy what is meant by being “content with the present things”?
2 Being “content with the present things” does not mean that one is indifferent about his situation in life. Certainly it does not mean that he is complacent about spiritual matters. He is not like those people who apathetically “took no note” of the warning that God issued through Noah before the flood and who, as a result, went on ‘eating and drinking and marrying and giving their daughters in marriage’ in a manner that indicated that they did not take seriously what Noah preached. (Matt. 24:38, 39) They showed by their actions that they did not really believe that global destruction was impending. Jesus said that the same attitude would prevail in our day, and it does. Such ungodly apathy about spiritual matters is not to be confused with godly contentment.—Luke 17:26-30.
3. Why could no true Christian be content with the present wicked system of things?
3 Nor does the inspired counsel of the apostle Paul to be “content with the present things” mean that one should be satisfied with the present wicked system of things. This system of things is permeated with sin and is marred by sickness, suffering and death, which are the fruits of sin. It is characterized by men who are “lovers of money” and who indulge in the dishonesty that such love breeds. It is filled with those who are “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Tim. 3:1-5) How could any true Christian be content with such a state of affairs?—Gal. 1:4.
4. (a) So, what is the contentment that the Bible encourages us to have? (b) In this regard, what question should each one ask himself?
4 Then, just what is the contentment that the Bible encourages us to have? It is contentment with the material necessities of life. This does not mean that anyone is being told to be lazy, expecting others to provide for him while he takes it easy. (2 Thess. 3:10, 12; Acts 20:33, 34) But it does mean that we are being urged not to get trapped in the materialistic way of life of the world, constantly endeavoring to add to our material possessions, as if life itself depended on doing so or as if such possessions were the source of true happiness. For this reason Paul said with unmistakable clarity to his fellow Christian Timothy: “We have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things” (1 Tim. 6:7, 8; Eccl. 5:15) Can you, in all honesty, say that that is true of you?
LIFE DOES NOT RESULT FROM MATERIAL POSSESSIONS
5. What situation provided a fine opportunity for Jesus to point out the proper attitude toward material possessions, and what was basically wrong with his inquirer’s outlook on life?
5 On one occasion when Jesus was preaching in the territory of Judea, a situation arose that gave him the opportunity to emphasize the proper attitude toward material possessions. One of the crowd said to him: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus did not agree to mediate that family dispute over inheritance, but he did discern what the difficulty was and so replied: “Keep your eyes open and guard against every sort of covetousness.” Jesus’ warning against covetousness seems to indicate that the man was really seeking to get something that was not due him; apparently the dispute had arisen over failure to respect the Law requirement that two parts of everything go to the eldest son. (Deut. 21:17) But the man’s difficulty was not only that he was covetous; it went deeper than that. What made him think that way in the first place was that he felt that material possessions are the big thing in life, and Jesus made it plain, both for his benefit and ours, that such thinking is not sound, when he said: “Even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:13-15) Life is from God. As the apostle Paul explained to men of Athens, “the God that made the world and all the things in it . . . himself gives to all persons life and breath and all things.”—Acts 17:24, 25.
6. (a) With what illustration did Jesus develop the point he was making on that occasion? (b) Why is a course like that of the man in Jesus’ illustration a vain one?
6 Developing the matter, Jesus used an illustration: “The land of a certain rich man produced well. Consequently he began reasoning within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, now that I have nowhere to gather my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my storehouses and build bigger ones, and there I will gather all my grain and all my good things; and I will say to my soul: “Soul, you have many good things laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, enjoy yourself.”’” But even if he got all his riches stored away, was there any assurance that he would live long enough to enjoy it? Did he really have security? No, as Jesus went on to show. “God said to him, ‘Unreasonable one, this night they are demanding your soul from you. Who, then, is to have the things you stored up?’” (Luke 12:16-20) And is that not just what so often happens in life? A man works hard for many years so that when he retires he will be financially secure, only to die before he even enjoys what he has saved up. What vanity!—Eccl. 2:17-19.
7. How do people today frequently show themselves to be like that man of whom Jesus spoke?
7 Jesus did not charge the man of whom he spoke with dishonesty in business, nor did he say that he had no interest in God. But his big mistake was that he had the wrong viewpoint toward life. He was busy acquiring material possessions and was not “rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21) How well that describes the situation of the majority of people today! They may “believe in God,” as they put it, but they feel that, when all is said and done, money will do more for them than faith. So they devote most of their lives to acquiring and enjoying material possessions, but, for insurance, as it were, they may include a little religion in their lives. They are persons “having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power,” and the Scriptures urge us: “From these turn away.” (2 Tim. 3:5) Do not be like them.
DO SPIRITUAL INTERESTS COME FIRST IN YOUR LIFE?
8. (a) In what way do many persons show that spiritual interests do not come first in their lives? (b) What prevents them from being fruitful Christians?
8 What is your outlook on life? Have you set your heart on acquiring material things, or does the service of God come first? There are countless persons in this world who are like that man of whom Jesus spoke in his illustration. Concern over material wants and needs comes first in their lives. They are busy earning a living, buying a home or redecorating one, entertaining guests or making trips here and there. They may say that they like the message of God’s kingdom, but it is always in second place. It happens to them as Jesus said—“the anxieties of this system of things,” “the deceptive power of riches” and “pleasures of this life” dominate their lives and choke the word about the Kingdom, so it cannot grow and become fruitful. (Mark 4:18, 19; Luke 8:14) Such a course brings no glory to God.
9. Of whom is it true that they “keep bearing much fruit,” and with what results?
9 On the other hand, there are those who have taken to heart the words of the Lord Jesus, who said: “My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit and prove yourselves my disciples.” (John 15:8) They may be men who are secularly employed, providing for their families. They may be mothers caring for their children. They may be students attending school. But they are, first of all, servants of God. They manifest the fruits of God’s spirit in their lives, and they also bear Kingdom fruit, sharing in the proclamation of God’s kingdom. They do not shove spiritual interests into second place but “always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” (Heb. 13:15) Is that true of you? Jesus showed that it is true of those with “a fine and good heart,” because they are the ones who favorably receive the word of God, “retain it and bear fruit with endurance.” (Luke 8:11, 15) Their course glorifies God and leads to everlasting life.—Rom. 6:22.
10. Why do some young folks who have shared in Jehovah’s service seek a college education, and what are the pitfalls in such a course?
10 Some persons who have been bearing godly fruit, however, turn aside from that right course, and this is often because they are no longer “content with the present things.” Young people, for example, are easily influenced by the materialistic outlook of the world around them, and especially is this true if their parents are inclined to value highly the ability to command a big salary in the business world. As a result, they may set their hearts on the education that is offered by the world’s institutions of “higher learning.” Their desire is not simply to learn a trade so that they can work with their hands and not be a burden on others; no, they want to be in an upper-income bracket. (1 Thess. 4:10-12) But what is wrong with that? Jesus frankly said that it would be more difficult for a rich man to get into the Kingdom than for a camel to get through the eye of a sewing needle. (Luke 18:24, 25) Rather than being content with “sustenance and covering,” those who devote themselves to getting a “higher education” usually want to be able to enjoy “the rest of the things” that money can buy. (Mark 4:19) If they are going to succeed in the education they have set out to get, they have to work hard at it. Study of the Bible, association with the Christian congregation and participation in the Christian ministry are curtailed. Worldly associations predominate; worldly philosophy fills their minds. What happens? Perhaps not what they expected, though they would have known if they took seriously what the Bible says. (1 Cor. 15:33; Col. 2:8) It may even come as a shock to their parents. Why, just recently a man who wanted his boy to have a “good education” so that life would be easier for him found that, in just one year at college, the boy had lost his faith—something that no amount of money can buy.
11. How have some others who at one time were active in God’s service lost their spirituality?
11 Others, too, may at one time have prized the truth of God’s Word and set aside time to teach it to others. They applied what the Bible said at Colossians 4:5: “Go on walking in wisdom toward those on the outside, buying out the opportune time for yourselves.” But they did not guard their hearts. They knew the truth in their minds, but in time their hearts began to long for more in the way of material possessions. Time that they had bought out from the world they began to devote again to materialistic pursuits. At first they missed a few meetings of the congregation, then many. Participation in the field ministry became irregular, and finally stopped. In so doing, “some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.” (1 Tim. 6:10) This is not what they planned, but it is what happened. They came to be materially prosperous but spiritually impoverished. (Rev. 3:15-17) It emphasizes the truthfulness of Jesus’ words: “You cannot slave for God and for Riches.”—Matt. 6:24.
12. (a) In what way does the course of some persons demonstrate that they are not truly “rich toward God”? (b) Why is this a matter for serious consideration now?
12 Many are the individuals who, even in their quest for what might be considered just the normal requirements of life, allow their production of fruitage to God’s praise to be stifled. They associate with Jehovah’s people, but they are not really “rich toward God.” Overtime secular work frequently crowds out attendance at the congregation meetings, because fear of displeasing their employer is stronger than their fear of displeasing God. They may have a token share in the field ministry because they know it is a Christian requirement, but their principal efforts are channeled into other interests. What will be their position when Armageddon strikes? Will Jehovah, who examines the heart, really find that they are persons who have loved him with all their heart and mind and soul and strength? (Luke 10:25-28) Will he preserve them into his new system of things? This is a matter for serious consideration. Not just next month or next year, but today, while we are yet alive and able to do things, is the time to prove that we want to be wholehearted praisers of Jehovah “from now on and to time indefinite.”—Ps. 115:17, 18.
CONFIDENCE IN GOD AS PROVIDER
13. What attitude toward obtaining the necessities of life did Jesus urge his disciples to have, and how is this different from that of worldly people?
13 Obviously, when one puts material interests first in life, spirituality suffers. A person cannot produce fruit that is really an honor to God if he does not view things in God’s way. What is the proper view of this matter? Jesus Christ when on earth made it clear that he never spoke of his own originality, but that he expressed the will of his Father in heaven. (John 14:10) So it is with interest that we read his words on the matter. Immediately after Jesus’ illustration emphasizing that one’s life does not result from the things he possesses, Jesus turned to his disciples and showed them how this principle applied in their lives. He spoke, not of piling up great riches, but of obtaining the necessities of life, saying: “On this account I say to you, Quit being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or about your bodies as to what you will wear.” Does not God provide food for the birds? Does he not ‘clothe the vegetation of the field’? Then how much rather will he care for you who are his servants! “So quit seeking what you might eat and what you might drink, and quit being in anxious suspense; for all these are the things the nations of the world are eagerly pursuing.” Christians are not to be like the “nations of the world.” Their whole life is not to be a mere struggle for material necessities. (Eccl. 6:7) It is not that they need these things less than unbelievers. As Jesus went on to say: “Your Father knows you need these things. Nevertheless, seek continually his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”—Luke 12:22-31.
14. For whom did Jesus show that this provision would be made by God, and what would it include?
14 Take note that Jesus did not say that no one on earth would go hungry. As a matter of fact, he foretold “food shortages” for our time. (Mark 13:8) Nor is there any assurance that professed Christians who simply do not like to work or refuse to do work that they consider too lowly would be cared for. (2 Thess. 3:10) Those who may be skeptical about the whole situation are given no reason to believe that they, with their lack of faith, will be thus favored by God. (Jas. 1:6-8; Heb. 11:6) Rather, the provision is made by God for ‘workers,’ those who “seek continually his kingdom,” those who are “seeking first the kingdom.” (Matt. 10:9, 10; 6:33) He did not promise material luxury—just “sustenance and covering.”—1 Tim. 6:8; Luke 12:22, 31.
15. How has the heavenly Father blessed many Christian overseers for ‘seeking first the kingdom,’ and who can benefit from their example of faith?
15 There are many thousands world wide who are keenly aware of the heavenly Father’s blessing on their efforts to obtain life’s necessities while putting Kingdom interests first. For example, a Christian overseer in Brazil who has a wife and four children was invited to the Watch Tower Society’s special training course for overseers. He regularly works to care for his family, but, being of limited means from a material standpoint, he had no way to support them while he would be away. Shortly before he was to leave for school, he prayed about the matter to God. That prayer was answered when several in the congregation volunteered to care for his family materially while he was away becoming better equipped to care for all of them spiritually. In scores of cases the faith of such overseers was put to the test. Request for a leave of absence to attend the school was refused by their employers—but later was granted, and frequently with pay, when it was realized that the employee would quit the job if necessary and look for another one later, because he was a man who was “seeking first the kingdom.” Certainly such overseers have a faith that others who worship Jehovah can beneficially imitate.—Heb. 13:7.
16. What has been the experience of pioneers when they put the ministry ahead of their efforts to satisfy their material needs?
16 Particularly have those who are in the full-time service as pioneers experienced fulfillment of the promise that the material necessities of life would be provided if they put the service of God first. In one instance, a pioneer arrived back in his territory assignment after a Christian convention, with very little money and no lodging. In deciding how to spend his first day back, he called to mind Jesus’ words at Matthew 6:33. All day long he worked in the field ministry, and as he went along he mentioned to householders that he was looking for a room to rent, but nothing was offered. Late in the afternoon, after witnessing to a favorably disposed woman, he again mentioned his need of lodging. A boarder in the home who had been listening from the next room called to the lady of the house and told her: “See that this man has a place to sleep, and invite him to eat with us. If he cannot pay, I will. He is doing God’s work.” The experience is not an isolated one; it is common among those who have left behind homes and possessions, that they might devote their entire lives to the service of God.—Acts 16:14, 15; Mark 10:29, 30.
17. (a) What attitude on the apostle Paul’s part enabled him to be productive under difficult circumstances? (b) What confidence on our part will enable us to continue to produce godly fruitage even in times of economic hardship?
17 This does not mean that one who ‘seeks continually the kingdom’ will always have an abundance of provisions, but he will find contentment. Concerning his experiences the apostle Paul, then in prison in Rome, wrote to the congregation at Philippi in Macedonia: “I have learned, in whatever circumstances I am, to be self-sufficient [content]. I know indeed how to be low on provisions, I know indeed how to have an abundance. . . . For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.” (Phil. 4:11-13) Paul was not one who quit when the going got hard. Even there in prison he kept on seeking the interests of God’s kingdom. He preached to the guards, and to others that he could arrange to have visit him. (Acts 28:16, 30, 31; Phil. 1:13) During the time he was in prison he wrote six letters of marvelous spiritual counsel that have become part of the Bible. Yes, even under adverse conditions, whether due to persecution or economic difficulties, one can continue to produce godly fruitage. As Jeremiah 17:7, 8 says: “Blessed is the able-bodied man who puts his trust in Jehovah, and whose confidence Jehovah has become. And he will certainly become like a tree planted by the waters, that sends out its roots right by the watercourse; and he will not see when heat comes, but his foliage will actually prove to be luxuriant. And in the year of drought he will not become anxious, nor will he leave off from producing fruit.” Having full confidence in Jehovah, he continues to put spiritual interests first.—Heb. 13:5, 6.
REACHING OUT FOR SOMETHING BETTER
18. How can we today show that we have faith like that of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and why should we desire to do so?
18 When they pursue such a course the modern-day Christian witnesses of Jehovah prove that they have faith like that of those men of old times who are named with approval in God’s Word. Abraham moved out of the materially prosperous city of Ur in ancient Chaldea at God’s command and became a temporary resident in the land of Canaan. “By faith he resided as an alien in the land of the promise as in a foreign land, and dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the very same promise. For he was awaiting the city having real foundations, the builder and creator of which city is God.” Away back then, in the twentieth century B.C.E., they were willing to forgo many of the comforts the world offered, because their hearts were set on a permanent city that God would build, a heavenly government under which they could live. If they had kept thinking about the place they had left behind, they could have returned to it. But they did not. “Hence God is not ashamed of them, to be called upon as their God.” (Heb. 11:8-16) Is God just as pleased with the course in life that you have taken?
19. (a) Why is ours a time of great urgency? (b) What may cause some who know these things to lose out on the blessings of God’s new system of things, and what timely warning does Jesus give?
19 We today live in critical times. These are the “last days” of this wicked system of things. Already over fifty-two years have passed since the Kingdom’s establishment in heaven in 1914. The end of six thousand years of human history is very close. The physical facts that mark our time as the “conclusion of the system of things” are unmistakable. (Matt. 24:3) It is a time of great urgency. Do we believe it? The fact is that some who profess to believe it may lose out on the blessings of God’s new system of things because they are not keeping their minds and hearts fixed on the hope ahead. Instead of finding contentment with “sustenance and covering” along with godly devotion, they are being sucked down into the world’s materialistic whirlpool. Their pursuit of the pleasures of the world is more ardent than their service to God. That is why Jesus warns: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth. Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur, and in standing before the Son of man.”—Luke 21:34-36.
20. In what way will we be able to continue to prove ourselves to be fruitful Christians?
20 If our love for God abounds, and we have accurate knowledge of his Word, we will not allow ourselves to be drawn aside to worldly pursuits, but will keep our lives oriented around “the more important things.” In this way we will prove to be fruitful Christians, “filled with righteous fruit, which is through Jesus Christ, to God’s glory and praise.”—Phil. 1:9-11.