One dictionary defines contentment as “the state of being mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as they are.” Today it is rare that we find anyone who is truly content with his or her condition in life.
The Bible has a great deal to say about contentment—being satisfied with what we have, who we are, and where we’re going. Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25).
The question in this text is not about some distinct trial that we are going through. It’s about our tendency to worry about these things. There has never been a time that you or I worried about not having food to eat. We just worry about what type of food we want to eat next. Neither do we lack clothing or shelter, but we do put a lot of energy into having the right clothing for our fashion.
Jesus knows and cares about what you eat and you wear but he is not moved by your need to eat just your favorite food or wear the right kind of clothing. He is concerned that you know what is important in this life and what is not. Worry over such things is a trap that we set for ourselves.
In essence, Jesus is telling us to be content with what we have. Moreover, He has given us a direct command not to covet the things of this world.
Then He adds, “For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:32–33). From Jesus’ words, we are shocked that lack of contentment is a sin and it puts us in the same category as those who do not know God.
That is not a compliment.
2 Corinthians 11:23-28
23 Are they ministers of Christ?–I speak as a fool–I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness– 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.
Yet he knew the secret of contentment: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12–13).
The writer to the Hebrews adds, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5–6).
Yet people continue to seek after more of the things of this world, never contented with their lot in life. The bumper sticker that reads “He with the most toys wins!” epitomizes the world’s cravings for more and more.
Solomon, the wisest and richest man who ever lived, said, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
“Be content with such things as you have” means that believers should put their trust and confidence in God, knowing that He is the Giver of all good things (James 1:17) and that He uses even the hard times to show that our faith is genuine, “being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (1 Peter 1:7, NLT).
We know assuredly that God will cause all things to work together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
To worry means we do not trust God sufficiently. The key to overcoming our discontentment which is a result of lack of faith is to find out who God really is and how He has been faithful to supply the needs of His people in the past.
Such study will grow one’s confidence and trust for the future. The apostle Peter said it succinctly: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6–7).
“Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). First Timothy is a letter from the apostle Paul to his young protégé, Timothy, to encourage him in his new role as a church leader.
He warns Timothy about those who “think that godliness is a means to financial gain” (verse 5). He describes corrupt teachers who will divert believers from true faith in Christ by arguing over words, creating trivial controversies, and pursuing get-rich schemes. Paul clarifies the meaning of godliness and emphasizes that it is the opposite of what these trouble-makers portray it to be.
The heretical teaching that infiltrated the church in Timothy’s day is still prevalent in modern Christianity. We commonly hear of preachers and Christian figureheads using their positions of influence to amass unimaginable wealth so that they can live opulent lifestyles. They then teach that their success is the norm and a worthy goal that every believer in Christ should seek.
They take God’s promises of blessing (Deuteronomy 28:2; Psalm 21:6; 128:2) and create a religion out of them. In some instances, Jesus is portrayed as a means to achieve all our hopes and dreams. Yet this is the very mindset we are warned against in 1 Timothy 6:9–10: “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. . . . Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
Rather than consider amassing wealth as great gain, Paul states that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” Christ-followers should focus their effort on pursuing holiness in conduct, attitude, and thought. They should choose to be content in whatever circumstances God has given them, just as Paul himself had done while in prison (Philippians 4:11–12).
We are told to “flee from all this [eagerness to get rich], and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11).
Contrary to what many popular health-and-wealth proponents would have us believe, the Bible warns us against pursuing riches (Proverbs 23:4; Matthew 6:19). It is impossible to be content when our hearts are set on gaining more. We will not remain godly for long if we are not content with what God has given us.
The Bible never says that it is a sin to be rich. There are examples in Scripture of God blessing His servants with tremendous material wealth (Genesis 39:2; 1 Samuel 18:14; 2 Chronicles 1:11–12).
But 1 Timothy 6:17 instructs the wealthy this way: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” The difference is in the heart.
Both greed and contentment are states of the heart. When we choose to be content with the riches of Christ (Colossians 1:27; Ephesians 3:8) rather than pursue material riches, our lives will be more in line with God’s desire for us, because “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).