The following is a selection from my second book, Christ-Centered Contentment. If you like what you read, you can order a copy from me or off of amazon (links at end of post).
What is God’s definition of contentment?
Often I find it much easier to say what something is not, long before clarifying what it actually is. In a sense, we clear the air to define contentment correctly. Therefore, I will begin here: Explaining what contentment is not. It is well worth a few moments to dispel the myths.
Contentment is NOT…
A Cure for Ambition. The most common misconception of contentment is seeing it as some strange disposal of desire, a cure for the abominable sin called ambition. This is a lie. In Genesis, God called Adam and Eve to “fill the earth, and subdue it.” (Gen. 1:28) Under the new covenant, “we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” (Rom. 8:37) Ephesians tells us: “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might…For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness.” (Eph. 6:12,12) None of these point towards apathy. Christ calls us to live with passion, vision, and purpose. I am told: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13) All things? This is intense. This is far from a loss of hopes and dreams. Is it true that many Christians have worldly ambitions? Yes, but that is disconnect on a separate level. We cheapen, if not destroy, the importance of contentment in our lives if we believe it lessens the fervor of our desires.
A War Against Success and Gain. Similar to its attack on ambition, misinformation makes an enemy out of success and gain. The Bible makes it clear how a Christian is to work: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” (Col. 3:23) Solomon tells us that: “In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” (Prov. 14:23) Believing that success or gain is evil is not part of understanding contentment correctly. It is an impossible assignment to argue that the Bible claims success is sinful. This is not to say the Bible doesn’t warn us about the dangers unique to affluence, but Paul told us he knew how to be content in poverty and prosperity (Phil. 4:11-12). As you will see later on, contentment is something above and beyond the physical realm. To call gain an enemy of contentment brings living contently down to a material level. It is true that success can often make contentment more difficult, but this does not point to prosperity as the evil culprit. Moving forward, you must understand that a view of contentment that speaks ill of success is unfounded and unbiblical.
A Disconnection from Reality. For some, a call to live contently brings to mind a sort of self-denying, non-reality existence. A total disconnect from real life: a monk, off in the snow covered mountains boiling grass and eating caterpillars, passing the days with meditation and mildly hallucinogenic herbal remedies. This, while it sounds pious and even a bit comical, is actually the opposite of Biblical contentment. The truth of the Bible provides us with a way to live contently in the midst of reality. It teaches us how to be content while up to our neck in adversity. True contentment is not found in disconnecting from reality. This is a mere façade. Instead, it teaches us how to live with inner peace despite the harsh realities that may surround us. Paul said he was “well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10) There is great hope in this. We do not have to abandon reality to live contently. Quite the opposite in fact, we have an anchor to hold in even the greatest of storms.
An Abandonment of Emotion. Somewhat similar to the notion of disconnecting from reality is a belief that contentment disengages the emotions. Perhaps this is a downgraded version of the previous point. We don’t want to live in the mountains with the caterpillars so we compromise. We decide that living contently must mean we extract all emotional interaction from our life. This is unbiblical. “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) It’s the shortest verse in the Bible but full of meaning. The previous verses set up the scene: “When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled.” (John 11:33) In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul instructed: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Rom. 12:15) It is unbiblical and just plain ludicrous to think that we can live our lives detached from our emotions. Contentment is living, breathing, and runs the gamut of our emotional stocks. Certainly we can be tempted to let our emotions shape our convictions, but this does not mean we throw the baby out with the bath water. Biblical contentment allows us to live in reality with emotion.
Slavery to the Status Quo. The final myth to dispel for the time being is a sense of slavery to the status quo. This belief can stretch all the way from the person who thinks they are a victim of their inescapable life scenario to the tie-dyed shirt 1960’s stoner that rolls with whatever mother nature has destined. This is just another form of escapism. Most often, a person who believes this theory does so not out of conviction, but laziness, bitterness, or a refusal to accept responsibility. We are instructed: “Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time.” (Eph. 5:15-16) The very process of sanctification shows that our life is to be in motion—moving towards Christ-likeness. I do understand people confusing this belief with contentment because at times contentment might mean staying put or accepting your circumstances; however, it does not mean we are enslaved to everything that happens to us.
The world’s versions of contentment are false. Only the Bible’s definition allows us to live in a mixed up world with purpose and peace. To discover the richness of God’s promises for the Christians, pick up a copy of Christ-Centered Contentment today!