Paul tells us that the Christian's goal with respect to material things is godliness with contentment. Godliness in Paul's vocabulary means the genuine Christian life, a faith-relationship with God and a new way of life. Contentment is a Pauline word in the New Testament (2 Cor 9:8; compare Phil 4:11). It had a prominent place in Stoic philosophy, where it defined an attitude of "self-sufficiency," meaning detachment or independence from things or possessions. Contentment came from within. Paul approved of this idea but naturally supplied a Christian basis for it: "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. . . . I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Phil 4:11, 13). Thus for Paul the Christian goal is a genuine relationship with God, our source of contentment, and a healthy detachment from material things. This combination is great gain. In contrast to 6:5, gain here is measured according to spiritual rather than material value. Eternal benefits are surely promised, but the focus is on how the believer with this healthy perspective can avoid the many pitfalls of greed in the present life.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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