Articles by James Macdonald – October, 2014
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. 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 (1 Timothy 6:6–10, ESV).
Contentment—it’s a nice word, isn’t it? But what does contentment actually mean, and how do you cultivate it? Contentment is satisfaction with God’s sufficient provision. When you feel satisfied, you don’t need anything else. You’re gratified with what God has entrusted to you.
In the passage above, we notice that contentment has a partner, godliness. Notice this distinction: We must never be content with who we are, only with what we have. That’s why these two words are such powerful partners. Godliness deals with who you are; contentment deals with what you have. In the pursuit of godliness, you aren’t yet satisfied with your character; through the process of sanctification, God is still forming you into the likeness of His Son. But you can find contentment with what you possess in God. Godliness + contentment add up to great gain.
Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them (Psalm 62:10, esv).
There are three choices that lead to genuine, biblical, lasting contentment.
1. Seek it. Seek contentment as a lifestyle. Choose it. Acknowledge that you would not be happier if you had more.
2. Say it. Let the words, “I have enough,” ring through your home. When you handle money—a surprise bonus from work, an inheritance from your great-aunt, even just an extra bill in your pocket—resist the cravings for more. Follow the words “I have enough” with a prayer: “Lord, how can I use this for You?”
3. Settle it. Here’s the challenge: choose a lifestyle; don’t let your income dictate your lifestyle. If you don’t choose a lifestyle, this culture will choose one for you, and by default it will be the lifestyle of living beyond your means. Be counter-cultural! Be radical! Choose a lifestyle that’s biblically based. Eternally focused. Others-oriented.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content (Philippians 4:11, esv).
Paul knew how to be content in highs and in lows, in abundance and in need, in plenty and in hunger. Contentment is something Paul learned—and it’s something you can learn too. You can practice it. In fact, God wants us to improve at this over the course of our lives, day by day.
Contentment is a choice. When you choose it repeatedly, you create a lifestyle. Don’t expect to replace covetousness with contentment in a moment. You won’t wake up one morning and say, “Wow, I think I got contentment last night. It just happened. This is so cool.” No, it begins with a choice. Then another choice. And another. It happens moment by moment, as you put off covetousness and put on contentment.