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Content but not Complacent

Do you have enough? That question is incomplete and open to interpretation. Before you can answer it, you need to know the answer to another question: Enough of what? You probably think that you have enough of some things and not enough of others. In some ways, you are content, and in others you are not.

The Bible speaks well of contentment in matters of physical possessions and comfort. Consider the outstanding example of the apostle Paul, whose contentment in any situation allowed him to focus on his work for the Lord rather than being beset by concerns about his own wellbeing. Notice Philippians 4:11-13:

11Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Paul viewed contentment as a necessary part of a godly person's sense of prosperity. In 1Timothy 6:6-8, he wrote,

6But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. 7For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.

In another place, he wrote that "godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come" (1Tim. 4:8). Putting this altogether, we understand that contentment with the basic necessities of life enables a Christian to gain the greatest benefit from a life of godliness.

Likewise, the Bible warns us against being greedy and selfishly ambitious. Notice that after Paul advised us to be content in 1Timothy 6:6-8, he gave this warning in verses 9-10:

9But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Few things can ruin a soul faster than the love of money, the love of pleasure, and greed. Christians who are overcome by such things corrupt even their prayers, for they ask God for blessings so that they may spend it on their pleasures (Jas. 4:3). They also harm others, for their selfish ambition leads to "disorder and every evil thing" (Jas. 3:16). Such persons doom themselves to destruction, for the Scripture says that God will give "to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation" (Rom. 2:8).

On the other hand, we must not misapply the Bible's message of contentment to areas where it was not intended. We can never have enough of certain spiritual traits, such as love for God, brotherly love, wisdom, knowledge, service, charity, and fellowship. Ambition in such areas is not selfish, but rather it is noble and godly. Such ambition should be encouraged in all, and every Christian should aspire to the highest level of achievement in these things. For example, Paul says, "It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do" (1Tim. 3:1). In this case, ambition is very good. More generally, Paul says to all Christians in 1Thessalonians 4:10:

9Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, 11and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, 12so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.

Indeed, we should all "have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him" (2Cor. 5:9). No one could aspire to anything better than that.

Therefore, let us be content but not complacent. Specifically, let us be satisfied with our material blessings but not with our own accomplishments. Our attitude should be the same as that of Paul, who said in Philippians 3:12-14:

12Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Until we reach "the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus," let us never be satisfied.

Stacey E. Durham




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