1 Timothy 4:8
For bodily exercise profits little: but godliness is profitable to all things, having promise of the life that now is…
That men, by godliness, should reap a fruition and harvest hereafter is not surprising to those who have at all been instructed in religious things; but there are many who have supposed that godliness was in a man's way here. What is godliness? So that godliness means something more than merely religion, in the narrow and technical sense of the term. It means having a wise view of all the laws of our being and condition, and living in conformity to them. Moreover, when it is said that it has in it "the promise of the life that now is," we are not to narrowly interpret it. A man with a clumsy hand, without skill and without inventive thought, is not justified in attempting to be an inventor simply on the general ground of godliness. We are not to suppose that a man who has no commercial training is to plunge into business and make this plea: "I live in conformity to the laws of my being, and shall be prospered in my pursuits." We are to have a larger idea of prosperity than is seen in any of these special things. That which, on the whole, promotes their greatest happiness must be considered. Their prosperity now means their welfare. It does not consist in the development of any one part of their nature, but the whole of it. Godliness has an immediate relation to that which is the foundation of all enjoyment — a good, sound bodily condition. The condition of enjoyment in this life is that one is in a sound state of bodily health. Godliness, or a conformity to the great laws of our condition, includes physical health — works toward it. Moderation of appetite; restraint of undue desires; that quietness of spirit which comes from the belief in an overruling Providence; that undisturbed equilibrium which comes from faith in God — all these are, looking at them in their very lowest relations, elements of health — of a sound physical condition. Next consider how much a man's happiness in this life depends upon his disposition — both with reference to himself and with reference to his social surrounding. It is not what you have about you, but what you are, that determines how happy you shall be. Excessive pride takes away from the power of enjoyment. Godliness, by its very nature, reduces a man to a certain conformity with the laws of his condition, and makes him content therein, and so works upon his disposition that it becomes amenable to the law of happiness. It is made to be more childlike and simple. It is brought into conditions in which happiness may distil upon it from ten thousand little things. A man who wishes to see beauty in nature must not watch for it in gorgeous sunsets always — though they will come once in a while. Let him watch for it in ten million little facets which glisten in the light of the sum by the roadside as well as in the rich man's adorned grounds. We must see it in the motes and bugs, in the minutest insects, everywhere. So, then, we are to reap happiness and satisfaction, not so much from great cataclysms and paroxysms as in little things, that have the power to make us supremely happy. Another thing. Men's happiness depends more upon their relations to society than we are apt to think. Where men have the art of fitting themselves to their circumstances and their companions there is great satisfaction in these also. There is a true sympathy, a true benevolence, which is godly. If you go among men with a mean, selfish spirit, how little happiness will you find in your social intercourse[ But if in the child and in its sports you see something to make you smile; if toward the labouring man you have a kindly good will, and if you find companionship with all who are virtuous in the various walks of life — with those who are high for certain reasons, and those who are low for certain other reasons; if you feel a generous brotherhood and sympathy of men, then there is a vast deal of enjoyment for you in this life, which comes simply from your aptitudes for fellowship and friendship. Now it is the peculiar office of a true godliness to subdue the heart to this universal amnesty and sympathy, so that they who are godly, who live in conformity to the will of God, in all their circumstances, shall reap more or less enjoyment. Godliness, by changing men's condition, prepares them to be happy; and by giving them affinities for things about them produces conditions of happiness. There are also other ways in which godliness works towards happiness. It gives to men a motive in this life without concentrating on their worldly endeavours the utmost of their powers. The outgoing of a man's own self, legitimately and industriously, with the constant expectation of success — there is great enjoyment in this. At the same time, let this enjoyment be coupled with the moderating, restraining feeling that if earthly enterprises fail and come short, this world is not the only refuge, and worldly affairs are not the only things of value — that though the house perish, and the garments be wasted, and the gold and silver take wings and fly away, and all things perish, yet there is a God, there is a providence, there is hope, there is a home, and there is immortality; then the happiness is greatly increased. Then there is the consideration of those qualities which go to make success in business. Men do not believe you are as honest or as faithful and prompt as you believe yourself to be. But where all the parts of a man are morally sound; where he is free from vices of every sort; where he has fidelity, conscientiousness, industry, good judgment, and intelligence; where he is so trustworthy that you can bring the screw to bear upon him, and, though you turn it never so many times, not be able to break him until you crush him to death — he is invaluable. And I say that just in proportion as men approach to that, they are more and more important in a commercial age, and in a great commercial community. Now, it is the tendency of the ethics of Christianity to produce just such men. If religion does not produce them, it is so far spuriously or imperfectly administered. There is a difference between ethical religion and ecclesiastical and doctrinal religion. But where a man has Christian ethics; where a man is truth-speaking and reliable; where a man is founded upon the rock Christ Jesus, and cannot be moved from it, I say that godliness tends to success in commercial affairs. If you take the different classes of religionists, where shall you find more Christian ethics than among the Quakers? Where shall you find more carefulness in daily life? And among what class will you find more worldly prosperity, and more enjoyment in it, than among them? When I lived in the West, a merchant told me that during twenty years he never suffered the loss of a quarter of a dollar from a whole Quaker neighbourhood. You might take whole settlements, and say that they were exemplifications of the fact that " godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." Many a poor man goes along the street whose name would not be worth a snap on a note. He could not get a bank in New York to lend him a hundred dollars for a month. He is of no market value whatever. But if your dear child was dying, and you did not know how to pray, he is the very man that you would send for. You would say to him when you were in distress, "Come to our house." Ah! a man may not have outward prosperity, and yet prosper. He may have that which money cannot buy — peace, happiness, joy. The power of making joy he has; and is he not prospered? Is he not well off? Finally, taking society at large, those who get the furthest from the rules of morality; those who have the most doubt and distrust in regard to the overruling providence of God; those who have s leaning to their own wisdom; those who are proud and selfish, and do what they have a mind to regardless of the welfare of others — they are not pre-eminently prosperous, even in material and commercial things.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.