Recently, while reading out of 1 Timothy, a verse jumped right off the page and hit me squarely between the eyes.
The verse I came across was 1 Timothy 6:6-8:
“ Now 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.”
Verse six went down easily. I like to think of myself as a generally content person. You know, I haven’t always had everything my slightly more upper middle class friends have had, but I’ve always, for the most part, been content with my lot.
I also handled verse seven pretty deftly. In high school, I’d been in the play “You Can’t Take it With You”, so I was quite familiar with the theme. Sure, no material goods get through the death portal.
What I hadn’t banked on was verse 8. Contentment for me has always been a relative thing. In other words, I considered myself content if, when I had less than my wealthier friends, I was still happy. Contentment was about asking the question “am I happy without?” Forget the fact that I still had so much more than millions of people, my contentment focused on whether I could happily live with what I didn’t have.
Paul reverses the equation on me. Contentment becomes about what he does have – food, clothing, and Jesus. For Paul, these are enough. Neither is this Paul making a concession and saying, “I would put up with these things”; he’s content with them because they truly are enough.
The idea’s a simple one but it’s profound. All I need is Jesus, and no riches compare. But then I find myself asking, would I really be willing to do life without the car, the house, the iPad? Can I face life without a significant other, without the comforts of familiar surroundings, without, without, without?
It’s a necessary question to ask, but not the key to contentment. When I start wondering about the “withouts”, I direct my gaze to the things that tie me to this world. As long as I ask the question “would I be okay without?”, I’m in danger of turning the contentment issue, once again, into one that deals with what I do not have.
The stranger to Jesus looks at the “without” question and is baffled. Why would I want to do without?
The disciple of Jesus is different. The stranger looks at the world and sees things he couldn’t possibly live without. The disciple looks at Jesus and recognizes infinite value. The stranger gets caught up in the withouts and cannot fathom contentment. The disciple looks at Jesus and is forced to ask the question of contentment: What more could I possibly want?
May we all become more like disciples and less like strangers.