The Bible says that “there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Tim. 6:6-8).
The simplicity of these needs contrasts sharply with the extensive list of “essentials” that most Americans can’t seem to do without. In the United States, we must have personal vehicles, cell phones, TV’s, computers and tablets, microwaves, refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, washing machines and dryers, blow-dryers, makeup mirrors, and who knows what else? But Paul says that “if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” Food and clothing? How could anyone be content with such basic things?
Paul is probably thinking of the short list of true essentials that food and clothing represent. We need a roof over our head, too. Without a home, we are endangered by the elements and by predatory people. A measure of good health is also extremely important. It’s rather difficult to be content with our food when it refuses to stay down.
But we must distinguish carefully between necessity and want. Clean water is a need. Indoor plumbing is a convenience. Transportation to work is a need. A new truck is a luxury. Protein is a must. Steak is a treat.
Besides, we will leave all our material things behind: “We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” Paul is remembering Job’s experience. On one day, the man lost all his material possessions, but his trust in God never wavered. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
This word of praise is important to remember as we watch our economy crumbling apart. We may be attached to our smartphones, jewelry, SUV’s, or homes, but every attachment to material things is broken when we leave this world. So let’s be content with food and clothing. Our stuff stays behind.