Learn to Be Content

In this age of commercialism and marketing, we are constantly bombarded with messages that provoke us to get more stuff. The messages teach us that the stuff we already have is not enough, not good enough, too old, too inefficient, too dangerous, etc., and so we must go out and get more, better, newer stuff. These messages are not new, for marketing and salesmanship have been a part of economics for as long as men have traded goods and services. The difference today is that there are many more avenues by which these messages are communicated to us. Also, these messages are not necessarily wrong or evil, for sometimes our stuff is worn out, broken, defective, etc. However, marketing does often convince us to go overboard and buy and consume many things that we simply to do not need.
This unrelenting commercialism and marketing has fostered an insatiable appetite for more and more stuff in many people. Such people simply cannot get enough, for they are virtually addicted to buying and obtaining. Greed, avarice, covetousness, materialism, and the love of money become the defining characteristics of people addicted to getting stuff. These traits consume a person and remove him far from any spiritual concerns for the things of God.
This is why every Christian (really every person) needs to learn to be content. The New Testament contains several passages that explain exactly what contentment is and why we must learn it. Let us give close attention to these passages so that we may understand exactly what is said about contentment.
The first passage to consider is Philippians 4:11-13. In this passage, the apostle Paul was commenting upon the Philippian church's willingness to share with him in his affliction. Notice his words:
"Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I 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. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
A vital point to take from these words is that contentment is something to be learned. Contentment does not come naturally, but rather it is an acquired trait somewhat like patience or temperance. It is also important to understand that contentment has nothing to do with circumstances. Poverty is not the secret of contentment, and neither is prosperity. It is not poverty or prosperity that matter, but rather it is a person's attitude toward his circumstances that matters. Paul said, "I have learned to be content,” and "I have learned the secret.” In other words, contentment is the secret to a right attitude toward one's possessions in any circumstances. Most importantly, this sense of contentment comes from a complete dependence upon the Lord. We are all dependent upon the Lord, but the one who is keenly aware of it can be truly content.
The next passage to consider is 1Timothy 6:6-10. Paul spoke of those who pursue godliness as a means of gain, and then he wrote the following:
"But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But 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. For 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.”
Paul showed how contentment is the key if one intends to profit from godliness, only the profit in this context is spiritual. A godly person will be content with food and covering, and this will free his mind from the love of money and its trappings so that he may profit in every way spiritually. This passage shows us that contentment is not getting everything we want, but rather it is being satisfied with everything we have.
A third passage to consider is Hebrews 13:5-6:
"Let your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,' so that we confidently say, ‘The LORD is my helper, I will not be afraid. what will man do to me?'”
This passage echoes the same messages of the other passages, but notice especially the common theme of dependence on God. A person who realizes that what he has came from God will surely realize that God will continue to provide, and so he will be content.
In closing, let us understand the balance between contentment and prosperity. These two qualities are not incompatible as is evident by Philippians 4:11-13. Prosperity is a blessing that comes from God and is worthy of our petitions before Him (3John 2). However, material prosperity poses a great danger that has consumed many souls. That danger is offset by the presence of contentment in the heart of a godly person. Therefore, let us be as Paul and learn to be content in any circumstances by trusting in God to provide all that we need.
Stacey E. Durham


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