But godliness with contentment is great gain, 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 Ti 6:6–8, ESV)
This passage has been part of my Scripture memory efforts this week. Something I have found helpful to memorization is I make it a habit to listen to great theologians of the past to help me meditate on what I am memorizing; because, I am not memorizing for its own sake, but for transformation. Here are the meditations of a great dead guy on this passage...
The very notion that godliness could be a means to gain sounds preposterous. Yet Paul’s way of undermining it is not to contradict it, but to confirm it. ‘In an elegant manner and with an ironical turn he quickly throws back at his opponents the same words with the opposite meaning.’
‘Godliness’ is ‘gain’, even great gain, providing you mean spiritual gain, not financial, and providing you add contentment. Paul is echoing his earlier statement that ‘godliness has value for all things’, bringing blessing for both this life and the next (4:8). The REB expresses well his play on words: ‘They think religion should yield dividends; and of course religion does yield high dividends, but only to those who are content with what they have.’
Paul’s word for contentment is the regular term used by the Stoics for self-sufficiency which is altogether independent of circumstances. Christian contentment also does not depend on external things. Thus ‘I have learned the secret’, Paul wrote, ‘of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.’ This Christian ‘secret’ is not to be found within ourselves, however, as Stoics taught and New Agers teach, but in Christ. ‘I can do everything’, Paul went on, ‘through him who gives me strength.’ Thus genuine contentment is ‘not self-sufficiency but Christ-sufficiency’.
This is why godliness plus contentment equals great spiritual gain.
(The Message of 1 Timothy and Titus, by John Stott; paragraphing and some emphasis mine)