For twenty-four hours, Thanksgiving Day arouses gratefulness and benevolence in Americans. Then Black Friday hits, and things take a radically different turn.
On Thursday, we open our doors to welcome family and count our blessings. On Friday, we tear down doors to snatch the hottest items at satisfying prices. The twenty-four-hour paradox is almost funny. And it can teach us a significant lesson:
True, lasting thanksgiving and godliness are attached to contentment.
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world (1 Tim. 6:6-7).
I read this verse on Black Friday before setting out to check boxes off my shopping list. Its reminder stalked me all afternoon as I marched past boots and scarves and hoodies and smartphones and sofas and jewelry and toys spilling from every aisle. Black Friday’s abundance prompted a question:
If I brought nothing into the world and can’t carry anything out, why do I crave so many things?
Paul’s words to Timothy are exposing the answer within me: I often try to pursue godliness apart from contentment in Christ.
True Godliness = Contentment
“All truly godly people are content,”[i] wrote Matthew Henry in his commentary on 1 Timothy 6. Why is this so? Because a truly godly person is satisfied by Christ.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied (Matt. 5:6).
The point of contentment isn’t to shun our human cravings, but to redirect them. Because we do hunger and thirst every day. We crave love and comfort and acceptance and the newest, flashiest items. We were created to crave. But not these things.
We were created to crave God. And when we do, only then is our thirst absolutely quenched.
Jesus said to [the Samaritan woman at the well], “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again” (Jn. 4:13-14).
Do we truly hope in Christ? Then our hearts will truly thirst for nothing else.
Only Clutching Things That Last
The paradox of riches is a theme painted broadly throughout historic literature. Authors and readers and poets realize man can’t carry his belongings to the grave. No matter how much wealth we accumulate, it proves worthless the instant we die.
Be not afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases. For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him (Ps. 49:16-17)
The truth that “we cannot take anything out of the world” is painful when ‘things’ are what we’ve placed our hope in. Discontentment inflates when materials pull our affections away from Christ. Because anything less than Jesus won’t quench our hunger.
Anything less than Jesus won’t quench our hunger.
But a Christian whose hope rests in Christ will live satisfied, no matter the circumstance. Contented by Christ, they can join Job in saying, “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, italics added).
A truly godly person is a truly contented person who only clutches eternal treasures.
The Lesson of Black Friday
Black Friday is fun and something I anticipate every November. It’s also a valuable challenge in the lesson of contentment. This year, it’s taught me that godliness and contentment are attached.
In other words, I can’t pursue Christ while aching for the world’s goods.
Paul goes on in his letter to exhort Timothy to “flee these things” and instead “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, [and] gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:11). The opposite of greedy discontentment is godly contentment; contentment that seeks satisfaction in Christ by pursuing what lasts and is ultimately soul-nourishing.
Black Friday deals last for hours. Shirts, sandals, and smartphones last for years. Jesus lasts forever.
[i] Matthew Henry, Parallel Commentary on the New Testament