But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6
We’re continuing our look at some underrated traits that are no less necessary in the body of Christ than some of these other fruits. We’ve covered encouragement, maturity, and equity. We finish up this week with contentment. (Which is particularly appropriate as we look forward to Thanksgiving in the U.S.)
What is contentment?
The dictionary defines it as having our desires limited to what we have. The second definition is not disposed to complain or grumble.
Contentment is a sign of maturity. It is evidence that we trust God and His care for us. We have faith in His goodness and His provision for us. We understand that what we have is exactly what we need. We don’t have to be validated by our possessions, by our position, by who we know or even by our circumstances.
Since it’s a sign of maturity, contentment is something we learn. Consider what Paul says:
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)
Catch that? Paul, the great apostle, learned to be content. Paul had been through enough, had seen God’s hand at work and was at peace no matter what state he was in.
Contentment is a sign of having an eternal, Christ-focused perspective.
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)
Paul faced more hardships than most of us, especially in our cushy, modern culture. But in each one, he saw the greater purpose – getting the gospel to as many people as possible. Because that was his ultimate goal and not his own comfort, he accepted each circumstance.
Contentment keeps our possessions in their proper place.
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. (1 Timothy 6:6-8)
Our things aren’t supposed to control us … but they often do. We have to store them, repair them, clean them, and then dispose of them when we grow tired of them. And to be honest, in many cases, we are still making payments on them when the boredom hits. Then there’s the bigger house, the better neighborhood. Additionally, we are constantly pressed to get ahead, to be more, to do more, to experience more.
It’s no wonder we are stressed, exhausted and constantly feel inadequate. Contentment removes that pressure.
Let’s stop right here and make some important clarifications. Contentment is NOT:
Laziness – No one should be “content” with a dead-end job while his or her family struggles to meet their basics needs.
Disobedience – No one should be “content” with filling a pew when God is clearly calling them to deeper commitment or ministry.
Asceticism – No one should disavow everything just to prove a point.
How does discontent show up among God’s people?
Envy/ jealousy/ covetousness – At their root, each of these feelings reveals our belief that God is NOT fair, just, or good. If that weren’t sinful and presumptuous enough, over time, they lead to…
Bitterness – Bitterness will eat up and individual and infect the whole body. The writer of Hebrews admonishes, Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness—without it no one will see the Lord. Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and defiling many. (Hebrews 12:14-15)
Grumbling – And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, (Exodus 16:2). The Israelites wandering in the desert displayed the opposite of contentment at every turn. Not only did it result in a failure to embrace the promises God had made, it cost their leaders as well. Moses, Aaron and Miriam died in the desert with them. Each of the leaders’ sins — anger, idolatry, jealousy — can be directly traced to discontent, either their own or the pressures from a grumbling people.
How do we achieve contentment?
Realize you are cared for by a good God. We are all familiar with Psalm 23, but take some time to consider the tender care God has for us. For a new Testament perspective, ponder Paul’s words in Romans 8:31-32:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
Focus on what is more important. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5). Money, position, and stuff are all temporal. Christ is eternal and His promise to never leave us or forsake is greater than anything we could have in this life. As you do this, it may prompt you to…
Reorder your priorities. Follow Paul’s lead.
Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
Becoming more like Christ is our singular goal as believers. Hopefully these last few weeks we’ve been challenged to work toward that as we strive to be encouraging, to be mature, to treat others with equity and to be content.
No post next week. See you in December as we look toward the celebration of Christ’s birth!
For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, (1 Thessalonians 3:9).
Read all of the Underappreciated Virtues series