Vol. 12 No. 1 January 2010
By Bonnie Rushmore
We live in a society that wants something other than what we have. It is common for women with curly hair to spend time and money to straighten their hair. Individuals with straight hair pay to have their hair curled. Light skinned people use tanning beds or lotions to darken their skin, and creams are available to lighten dark skin. People living in small houses long for larger houses, and those living in large houses frequently moan about the maintenance of larger houses and wish for smaller ones. Newer and better products entice us to discard useful, properly functioning items and replace them with the latest, greatest gadgets available. During the summer months, we complain it is too hot, and during the winter months, we are cold and wish for warmer weather. Humanity is constantly longing for something better. Unfortunately, many Christians are caught up in this mentality, forgetting the words of the apostle Paul, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11).
McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia gives the following definition for contentment:
(autapkeia, 1 Timothy 6:6; “sufficiency,” 2 Corinthians 9:8) is a disposition of mind in which our desires are confined to what we enjoy without murmuring at our lot, or wishing ardently for more. It stands opposed to envy (James 3:16); to avarice (Hebrews 13:5) to pride and ambition (Proverbs 13:10); to anxiety of mind (Matthew 6:25,34); to murmurings and repinings (1 Corinthians 10:10). Contentment does not imply unconcern about our welfare, or that we should not have a sense of anything uneasy or distressing; nor does it give any countenance to idleness, or prevent diligent endeavors to improve our circumstances. It implies, however, that our desires of worldly good be moderate; that we do not indulge unnecessary care, or use unlawful efforts to better ourselves; but that we acquiesce with, and make the best of our condition, whatever it be.
Contentment is being happy and satisfied in whatever circumstance we find ourselves (Hebrews 13:5). We should be satisfied with our wages (Luke 3:14). We should be happy when we have sufficient food and clothing to sustain life (1 Timothy 6:8). A Christian should be content with his or her life. The attitude of contentment is not gained with more and greater possessions, but through reliance on God and understanding that contentment is a state of mind. We choose to be content or to be unsatisfied and long for more.
The wise man Solomon made this request, “Remove falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches—Feed me with the food allotted to me; Lest I be full and deny You, And say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or lest I be poor and steal, And profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8-9). Solomon wanted, and his words encourage us, to desire only what is needed to sustain life. Excess riches or being poor can prohibit one from being content and relying on God.
One who is envious, covetous and prideful will lack contentment in his or her life. Only when these sinful traits are removed from an individual’s life will one learn to be satisfied. The actions of an individual who lacks contentment can have a far-reaching affect on the lives of others. John attributed the actions of Diotrephes to his lack of contentment (3 John 1:9-10). He caused division within the Lord’s Church, and in modern times, Christians who are not content cause division in the church. Children reared in an environment where the adults are focused on greater riches and never satisfied typically carry those traits into their adult lives. An individual who is always complaining (a characteristic of one who is not content) encourages others to complain.
Christians need to learn to be satisfied. Yes, we need to work to provide for our families to the best of our abilities. We should style our hair and dress appropriately so that our looks are becoming to our loved ones. However, our focus should be on God with satisfaction toward all He has given us, not on the desire to pamper our physical bodies.