I am persuaded that it is better, all things being considered, to do the right thing for the wrong reason, or from a less than pure motive, than not to do the right thing at all. I’d rather have you hate me than kill me.
I am speaking about an external conformity to standards of right and wrong. I’m talking about a moral godliness, the type that allows fallen creatures to live peacefully together. Civility, manners, respect for the property of others. I’d rather have you lust after my shiny shoes than have you steal them.
This does not cut it with God though. God sees past the façade, through the smoke and mirrors, and right smack dab into the middle of the heart. He sees past the what to the why. And he’s the perfect judge of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Paul advises Timothy this way in 1 Timothy 6:6 (ESV) – But godliness with contentment is great gain. It’s as if he is saying that godliness without contentment doesn’t really gain you all that much. Your godliness may gain me something, even if it is bereft of contentment. It may keep you from defrauding me or encourage you to treat me with some semblance of respect. It may benefit you too. It quite certainly will. But the only gain you receive is temporary, in this life. And really, there’s no great gain in this life; it’s all going to melt.
I see it in this way. I see godliness as an external conformity to God’s standards or righteousness. I see contentment as an internal conformity to God’s standards of motivation. It is content with nothing more than the love and God and content with nothing less than the glory of God. It is not just doing the right thing; it is doing the right thing for the right reason. It’s not just acting as if you’re OK with how God is working in your life; it’s actually being OK with it, and embracing it, as God’s best for you.
I’m no savvy businessman. But I do understand the need to live in the black. And the blacker the better, for that matter. Godliness is good, but not great in isolation. Add contentment and godliness is worth more than anything this world has to offer. It’s very strange how simply something could go from being valuable to being infinitely valuable.
God places a monstrous premium on contentment. So, while I will still work on doing the right thing regardless, I should work even harder at doing the right thing for the right reason. I should learn to say, as the apostle said, in whatever state I find myself, I’ve learned to be content. The value of such godliness is out of this world!