Being content is one of the main challenges for Christians living in America. We are constantly bombarded by our culture’s message that having just one more thing will bring contentment to our lives. However, we will never find contentment in money, material possessions or experiences. True contentment is found in God alone.
This post focuses on why contentment is so difficult, what the Bible says and practical habits to help you cultivate contentment in your life.
Why Is Contentment So Difficult?
Collins Dictionary defines contentment as a “feeling of quiet happiness and satisfaction.” The two words that often come to my mind about contentment are satisfied and enough.
Marketing experts have figured out that we are naturally not content. Exploiting discontent in our lives is a very powerful tool for businesses to make money, at our expense.
It is estimated that Americans are exposed to 3,000 marketing messages every day. Each of those messages sow discontent. Companies are trying to convince you that their pillow will give you best night’s sleep, or their car will provide unparalleled comfort and status.
On and on it goes every day. It can be hard to tune out this siren’s call. We all know that when you buy whatever product or experience being sold, you may get a brief sense of euphoria and a feeling of contentment. But then the feeling fades and you realize you need to buy something else to truly be content.
Most Americans are trapped in this never-ending cycle, and pursuing material things is the focus of their lives. Because of this, Christians can feel the need to keep up with their co-workers, neighbors etc who look so happy acquiring stuff or experiences. However, many are going deeply in debt to acquire them. Debt doesn’t bring contentment, only stress.
What Does The Bible Say?
The Bible has a much different perspective on what contentment is. Biblical contentment is not about acquiring things, but about having a relationship with God.
In Philippians 4:11-13 Paul writes “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.”
When Paul wrote this he was in prison. In those days, prisoners relied on family or friends to provide for their physical needs. His circumstances were not ideal.
There are three principles about contentment we see in this passage:
1. Contentment is not found in our circumstances – Paul lived in plenty and want at various times in his life and could be content in both
2. Learn to be content – Contentment does not happen naturally, it takes time and effort to learn
3. God is more than enough – The key to Biblical contentment is found in our relationship with God
Pursuing money, possessions, experiences etc will leave you empty and searching for the next thing to try and fill that hole. When we focus on our relationship with God, we find that the things of Earth fade away and we become content with what God has given us.
The Joy of Contentment
When we learn to be content with whatever situation we find ourselves in, our lives become very freeing. We are no longer defined by how much stuff we have or other’s expectations.
As our priorities change from seeking the next possession or experience to honoring God, we have a different perspective on money and possessions. They are now seen as a tool to be used to provide for our family, bless others and support the Lord’s work.
Ways To Cultivate Contentment
Being content is a daily struggle, and something we need to actively cultivate in our lives. Here are a few ways:
Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.””
Our hearts regularly deceive us. We may feel content, but our motivations may be wrong. It is important to bring this before the Lord in prayer on a daily basis because He will expose our true motivations and reshape them. Ask the Lord for wisdom to discern our motivations around financial decisions.
2. Spend More Time with God
Hebrews 13:5 “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.”
The old expression “you are what you eat” applies to more than just food. If we consume more TV/Internet, we are more exposed to the marketing messages that brings discontent. Social media is particularly effective at creating discontent. People tend to only post the positive things in their lives, never the negative. This gives everyone the impression that their life is perfect, thereby sowing discontent in our own lives.
If we focus more on what God has to say, by spending time reading His Word, being involved with other Christians at church – we are reminded that our contentment is truly found in Him.
3. Don’t Compare With Others
1 Timothy 6:8-10 “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
We naturally compare ourselves against others. Whether it be the size of house we live in, the car we drive, clothes we wear or the success of our children.
We are surrounded by people who are rich or desiring to be rich. They may appear to be happy on the outside, but as Timothy points out, this path leads to ruin. Christians are called to walk a different path – being content with what God has provided and living for the age to come.
4. Stay Humble
Deuteronomy 6:10-12 “And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
The nation of Israel was blessed by God with a new land and didn’t have to build homes, cisterns etc. The blessings didn’t come because of what the people of Israel had done, but because of God’s grace.
If you are blessed with material possessions, it was not because of your work ethic, obedience to God or anything else. God owns everything and has chosen to bless you.
5. Give More
Ecclesiastes 5:10 “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.”
When we give, material possessions and money lose their hold on us. If we hold loosely to them, they are less important. It may sound counterintuitive, but when we give, we can focus more on what truly matters.
6. God Has Provided What You Need
Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
God provides what birds need every day. He promises to do the same for us. Whatever He has given us is enough to meet our needs. Our job is to be thankful for His provision and accept it as enough.
Being content is very difficult in our culture, but still possible. It is a daily struggle to keep our perspective focused on the Lord and not on material possessions. This requires us to be humble and recognize that our hard work did not produce the blessings we have in our life. It is all by the grace of God.
Points To Consider
- Do you believe God has provided all you need? How does that show in your life?
- When our heart’s desire is to pursue money, it can lead to sin. God has given you what you need, be satisfied with that
- The material blessings in your life are not because of what you have done, but because God has chosen to bless you. How are you using them to honor God?
- Rejoice in the blessings God gives to others
- Be satisfied with what you have, not what you don’t have