8And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 

2 Corinthians 9:8

6Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.

1 Timothy 6:6

In the two verses above, the underlined word(s) are translated from the same Greek word – autarkeia. This word is only used twice in the New Testament and it bears digging into just a bit. On one hand, it means the ability to supply the necessities of life without help from others, self-sufficiency, adequacy. In addition, it means a state of mind satisfied with its lot, contentment, satisfaction.

At first blush, it seems the two definitions are not enough alike to be neighbors, let alone nuances of the same word. A closer look is in order.

In the context of Paul’s letter to Corinth, he encourages generosity in giving. He provides some guidelines to help determine how much one ought to give. First, an individual decides in their heart how much to give. It doesn’t need to be discussed or compared with anyone else. Secondly, giving to others is done cheerfully. Finally, it should not be given reluctantly, half-heartedly or under pressure. God loves when we generously open our hands to the needs of others.

What might keep me from giving cheerfully, generously and freely? First and foremost, I am concerned about my own needs. Can I pay my bills? Will I be able to buy groceries? What about the new shoes I wanted? How will I be able to get the latest gadget?

Paul responds to this common concern by pointing to God’s generosity. If we forget ourselves, God provides all we need and then some. It requires one to be content to give generously.

In the letter to Timothy, Paul encourages him to teach the pursuit of godliness paired with contentment rather than the pursuit of godliness to increase wealth. See Out of the Chaos from July 15 for a more detailed look into the letter to Timothy.

I see a great deal of commonality in these two uses. In both, Paul encourages believers to think less of themselves and more of others. It seems these people were not really that different from me. My first thoughts go to my own belly button. Will this be an advantage to me? What will I profit from this? Will it cut into my resources for me?

It seems we do well to switch our perspective. Do you wonder how much have we missed because we don’t trust God to meet our needs with extra to give away? Being consumed with ourselves, we miss the miracle of sharing with others the abundance of what God provides.

Contentment: a quality I do well to develop!

If you don’t have a church to call home, I invite you to join us this weekend at Maple City Chapel – in person or online. I have the privilege of preaching again this Sunday and I will be sharing part of my own story inspired by Psalm 73. See you there!


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