Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. — 1 Timothy 6:6-12
The man of God is told to flee from the ungodly pursuit of wealth: not that money itself is evil. But generally, the forms of employment that men often get tempted and ensnared by, and the kinds of worldly-wise friendships they get involved in—cause them to lose faith in God’s providence (supernatural provisions,) and instead place their trust in their job skills, beefed up resumes, capitalistic philosophies, and cut throat attitudes. Losing trust in God to provide for their financial needs, and misplacing their trust in “the strength of their own hands” (Deut. 8:17), men tend to stop reading, studying, and living by the Bible. Casting off its restraints, they adopt “many foolish and harmful desires,” just like every other non-Christian. These are they which only arise from greed: foolish desires which are expensive and unnecessary; and they are harmful, because they can lead to destructive outcomes, such as losing lots of money from a gambling addiction. Adam Clarke had this to say about the temptation to get rich in verse 9:
It is in consequence of the temptation of the devil that they have determined to be rich; this temptation once received, others quickly succeed: and when they have swallowed down the temptation to the thing, then they drink in a thousand temptations to the means; and all these lead them, into an unforeseen and concealed trap. This Greek word signifies a net, trap, gin, snare, springe, or pit dug in the ground filled with sharp stakes, and slightly covered over; so that when a man, or any animal, steps upon it, he tumbles in, and is taken or destroyed. Such a snare is that into which those who will be rich must necessarily fall.
These lusts or desires are not only foolish, but they are hurtful; the mind is debased and narrowed by them; benevolent and generous feelings become extinct; charity perishes; and selfishness, the last and lowest principle in mental degradation, absorbs the soul; for these foolish and hurtful lusts drown men in destruction and perdition—the soul is destroyed by them here, and brought through them into a state of perdition hereafter.
Godliness is the first word used in this passage and so it is the priority. Reminiscent of Job 1:21, the thought is that we carry nothing into this world, and we will take no money with us out of it. We enter this world with a body and soul; and leave it only as a soul. This world, under the guidance of the devil, would have you believe that you should max out on possessions; whereas Jesus and the apostles would have us to live as simply as we can: acquiring as little as possible. We are directed to look forward to heavenly rewards much more so than for earthly gains and possessions. Worldly-wise men would have us to enjoy and show off our affluence and possessions. But if we were to follow their counsel, we would have to be worried—living in fear of thefts, burglary, bankruptcy, jealousy, and even murder: since money is usually the primary motivator for that heinous crime. Rich men, provided they follow worldly ideas—as most do—tend to have poor relationships, because by looking down on 75% percent of mankind, most if not all of their energy, like Ebenezer Scrooge, is focused on money, and not upon the glory of God, or on developing Christian friendships. They become like the rich man in Luke 16, called Dives by theologians, perhaps because he dived into Hell fire, for refusing to offer financial help to a poor and homeless saint named Lazarus.
Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matt. 6:24). Either one has to be your lord. If Jesus is your Lord, then all of your decisions will be based on your submission to Christ: seeking to obey what he has taught us in the Bible. But if money is your lord, then all of your decisions will be aimed at what can give you a financial advantage. When money is a man’s lord and master, he can be heartless to people and icy cold about the Word of God. Certainly that is what happens when a man’s opinions and decisions are mainly motivated by financial gain. Proverbs 30:8-9: “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God!” Matthew Henry, commenting on 1 Timothy 6:8, asked, “What will worldlings do when death shall strip them of their happiness and portion, and they must take an everlasting farewell of all these things, on which they have so much doted?” and again on 6:10: “Covetous persons will quit the faith, if that be the way to get money.”
Greed and grief go hand in hand. When a man is greedy for money, and all his decisions are based on gain, then it grieves the Holy Spirit. Grief comes to the man as worry of financial loss enters his mind, through any of the many ways that such losses may come; not having the comforts of the Holy Ghost are a grief to him, as he does not have the Comforter to help him through the hardships of life, because even the rich are discontent, often driven by selfish and materialistic desires, not being grounded in the faith, in orthodox Christian doctrines (see Adam Clarke’s Christian Theology and P. C. Nelson’s Bible Doctrines for starters on that, by the way); and grief will come to the greedy man through the loss of relationships with people who have not yet attained to his high level of financial status—with financial competition and economic judging being his prevailing attitudes towards other human beings. So, if you see yourself making decisions in your life based on money alone, and not on hearing God’s voice, and not on a clean conscience about matters—then run the other way and strive for purity!