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  • Paul Reich

The Profit of Godliness: Part 1

Updated: May 6, 2021

Godliness is profitable both for this present life and also for the life to come.

 

Image (without text) is by Tumisu from Pixabay

 
Two fellows decided to go into the produce business. They had a pickup truck, and drove 100 miles into the country, brought watermelons for fifty-cents each, and then drove back to town and sold them two for a dollar. At the end of the day they had just as much money as when they started. One hollered, "I told you we wouldn't make a profit unless we got a bigger truck!" [1]

Jokes like this catch us by surprise and we find ourselves laughing at the logical absurdity of these two fellows. Even more absurd, if we were to calculate the labor of these two men and their fuel costs for a 200-mile roundtrip, they actually lost significant money. And these expenses don’t include other business costs such as wear and tear on their pickup or renting a booth at a local farmer’s market. Imagine adding the capital costs of an even bigger truck! LOL!


Sadly, many exhibit this same foolishness regarding spiritual matters by expending the bulk of their lives on temporal things that offer no eternal profit. Jesus warned against greed and storing up treasures on earth that can be corroded, destroyed, or stolen (Matthew 6:19-21). He also told the story of a rich man who continued to amass his wealth into bigger barns, planning to then sit back and enjoy life because of his financial security. Yet, much to his surprise, he heard these words from God, “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?” Jesus then drove His lesson home, “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20–21 NASB).


Much like the two men losing money on their watermelon business, when we only invest in this life and not in eternity, we are shortsighted and foolish. Certainly, the breadth of Scripture teaches us to be good stewards of God’s material provision, including investing and saving responsibly (Genesis 31:24-26; Matthew 25:14-30; Proverbs 6:6-8). Yet the Bible equally warns us to never love money or place our trust in the uncertainty of riches (1 Timothy 6:9-10, 17). Further, it encourages contentment with provision for basic needs (Proverbs 30:8-9; 1 Timothy 6:8), teaches storing up treasures in heaven by giving to others in need (Luke 12:33; 1 Timothy 6:18-19), and places a higher priority and value on spiritual matters than on earthly riches. For example, God’s word (Psalm 19:7-11), wisdom (Proverbs 8:11), a good reputation (Proverbs 22:1), and seeking God’s kingdom (Matthew 6:31-34) are all given higher value and priority than material wealth.


Godliness is another spiritual value that is given priority over financial gain. If we are looking for a guaranteed ROI (return on investment) both for this life and the life to come, then we need to invest our energies into seeking first God’s kingdom (His rulership over our lives) and pursuing godliness. In fact, the apostle Paul instructs us that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6 NIV) and he further enjoins,


1 Timothy 4:7–8 NASB

7 "discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness;

8 for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

9 It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance."


While some focus their priorities on financial gain, others expend their energies to stay fit. There is nothing inherently wrong with physical exercise. In fact, just as we should be good stewards of God’s material provision, we should also be good stewards of our bodies. Though the profits of bodily discipline are small compared to discipline for the purpose of godliness, they are nonetheless valuable for health, vitality, and (Lord permitting) longevity in this life. Yet stewarding our bodies is more than health and fitness. It also includes the godly practice of moral purity (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5) and not surrendering the members of our body to sin in its various forms (Romans 6:12-13), including sins of gluttony, slothfulness, thievery, and any other sins that would require the participation of mind and body to carry them out.


The word translated “discipline” comes from the Greek verb “gymnazō” and noun “gymnasia.” It is obvious that we derive our words “gymnasium,” “gymnastics,” and the shortened form “gym” from these words. The Greek verb means “to exercise” and “to train.” Paul is using it metaphorically to illustrate that the same commitment, discipline, consistency, and energy that people give to physical exercise should be applied to developing godliness because godliness is of higher value, having the promise of profitability for both the present life and the life to come.


The Greek word translated profit” is “ōphelimos” and means “beneficial” in the sense of “promoting or enhancing wellbeing.” [2] Just like physical exercise enhances personal wellbeing in this life, exercising for the purpose of godliness promotes wellbeing both now and for eternity. In the other words, the ROI that comes from training for godliness is much higher than the ROI from physical training. Paul describes this claim as a "a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance." So, what are some of the benefits of godliness?


The Profit of Godliness


In my previous two posts on 2 Peter1:3-11, we looked at “The Power for Godliness” and “The Progression of Godliness.” In this post and the next, we will look at “The Profit of Godliness.” In verses 8-11, Peter identifies four benefits of godliness.


2 Peter 1:8–11 (NASB)

8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.

10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;

11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.


Image by Nasah Rwafa from Pixabay


As covered in my previous blog, “these qualities” refers to the seven traits of godliness that are to be added to faith, making eight in total. If we possess these qualities and they are “increasing” in our lives, they will result in four incredible benefits both for this life and for the life to come. Peter states the first two benefits in the negative showing us what we will avoid, and the last two in the positive showing what we will experience. For our purposes, I am rendering them all in the positive. Godliness will result in the following four benefits:

  1. Usefulness and Fruitfulness for Christ

  2. Spiritual Sight

  3. Assurance and Moral Victory

  4. Abundant Welcome into God’s Eternal Kingdom

We will look at the first two in this post and the final two in next week’s post.


1. Usefulness and Fruitfulness for Christ


“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”


Stated in the positive, the first benefit of developing these qualities is, "They enable us to be useful and fruitful for Christ." This usefulness and fruitfulness are directly connected to our knowledge of Christ. In previous blogs, we saw that Christs divine power is accessed through our ongoing, personal, and experiential relationship with Him – the “true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” As we maintain and grow in our intimacy with Christ, we allow the life and power of His Spirit to flow in our lives. By diligently adding and increasing in godly virtues, we strengthen our faith and demonstrate Christ’s power working in us and through us. As a result of our ongoing intimacy with Christ, cooperation with His Spirit, and development in godliness, we will become effective and fruitful for Christ.


The word “useless” here means to be “idle” or “ineffective,” and the word “unfruitful” means to be “unproductive.” Those who are not growing in Peter’s traits of godliness will be ineffective and unproductive for Christ. Deceptively, people can be very busy in work and life, but not useful and productive in their spiritual lives. Busyness does not necessarily mean effectiveness or fruitfulness.


As the vinedresser, the Father’s goal is that all the branches abiding in the vine would bear much fruit. To facilitate this, He faithfully tends to the needs of the branches, including pruning them of anything that would redirect or rob the life of the vine from flowing into the branches and producing fruit. Even with all the Father’s work, bearing fruit still requires us to draw on the life-giving power of the vine through intentionally abiding and diligently applying ourselves to growth in godliness. In cooperation with the Spirit's life in us we bear fruit. By bearing spiritual fruit we glorify God, prove we are Christ’s disciples, and impact our world (John 15:8, 16). Peter informs us that the virtues of godliness will ensure that we are useful and fruitful for Christ.


2. Spiritual Sight


“For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.”


Those who lack these godly virtues have "forgotten" their personal experience of Christ’s forgiveness and have lost sight of the very reason Christ came. Since Christ came to redeem us from sin and to cleanse us from the defilement of our sins, it was not His intention that we continue in the very sins for which He died to free us. Those who fail to develop godliness demonstrates that they are not only forgetful of their salvation, but they are also "shortsighted" and "blind" to the purpose of Christ’s redemption and His plan of transformation for their lives. To not grow in Christian graces and to not pursue a life that pleases God shows neglect of the resources God has made available for growth in godliness and ignorance of God’s sanctifying purpose to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.


When we possess and grow in these qualities, we demonstrate that we have not forgotten our personal experience of salvation. Do you remember the incredible joy, peace, and feeling of cleanness that you experienced when you came to Christ? Do you remember experiencing God’s boundless love and amazing grace? Do you remember the new freedom you felt as the burden of sin was lifted from your mind and conscience? Do you remember the new hope you had for life and for eternity? Remembering this helps you to keep your first love and reignites your passion to please God. Your love for Christ will motivate you to obey Him and pursue a life of godliness.


In the book of Revelation, Jesus told the church of Ephesus that they had left their first love. His solution for them was that they remember from where they had fallen, repent, and do their first deeds. Remembering would include recalling the joy of their salvation and the incredible peace that comes from being cleansed from sin and freed from condemnation. Remembering God’s love demonstrated in Christ, keeps fresh our gratefulness and renews our first love as we are overwhelmed again and again by His incredible goodness and grace on our behalf. To forget our “purification from former sins” is to grow cold and indifferent. To remember will lead us to repent of coldness and move us to passionate service once again.


Furthermore, by growing in these qualities, we show that we understand the redemptive purpose of Christ’s coming, so we cooperate with Him to see His full plan of redemption and sanctification take place in our lives. It demonstrates that we have spiritual insight and understanding in basic spiritual matters. I believe this elementary understanding lays a foundation for discerning and recognizing other spiritual truths from God’s word regarding His divine purposes for our lives and for this world. To be blind at this basic level, will blind us from seeing other spiritual realities as well.


Closing and Looking Ahead


Growing in godliness and Christian maturity doesn’t happen automatically. It requires that we draw from Christ’s divine power and divine nature through our ongoing relationship with Him, then diligently working out the qualities that He is working in us by His Spirit. As we faithfully abide and diligently apply godly virtues to our lives, we will experience some incredible benefits. The first of these is that we will be useful and fruitful for Christ. The second is that we will demonstrate spiritual sight, not being forgetful of our own experience of salvation nor shortsighted and blind to God’s sanctifying purpose for our lives.


Next week, we will look at Peter's final two benefits of godliness: the benefit of assurance and moral victory in this life as well as the benefit of receiving a lavish welcome into Christ’s kingdom in the next life. Together with the first two benefits, we can clearly see that training in godliness will pay off with a massive ROI both now and in eternity.



REFERENCES

[2] Faithlife Corporation. “Logos Bible Software Bible Sense Lexicon.” Logos Bible Software, Computer software. Bellingham, WA: Faithlife Corporation, April 28, 2021.

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2 Comments


sharon
May 03, 2021

I agree Greg, and I am feeling very convicted once again reading this blog! But it's healthy conviction and reading it today is good encouragement to continue pressing in to know Him better and drawing on His power this week. Thank you, Paul, for these wonderful messages!

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Gregory Reich
Gregory Reich
Apr 29, 2021

We may be saved by grace, but to mature and grow in Godliness is hard work. Especially in an age of skepticism and anti-authoritarianism.

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