CONTENT, BUT NOT CONTENT
The word “content” is defined as, “to be sufficient or adequate for a particular purpose, with the implication of leading to satisfaction.” (L&N, 59.46) Vine’s translates the word “enough” as “sufficient.” Thus the idea of contentment is being satisfied with what we have or our station in life. The word “content” is found 5 times in the New Testament (NKJV) and once we find the word “contentment”. However, the various words translated “content” are also found in texts as “sufficient” (Jn. 6:7, 14:8, 2 Cor. 12:9) or “enough” (Matt. 25:9).
As Christians, it is absolutely necessary that we be content! Paul said, “I have learned in whatever state I am in to be content.” (Phil. 4:11). This is in a context where Paul describes various circumstances he had faced as a Christian, some good and some bad (hunger & fullness, to abound and to suffer need). In 1 Timothy 6:6 Paul said to Timothy, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.” He would then elaborate on this noting that we brought nothing into this world and we will leave the same way. In 6:8 we read, “And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” The idea being to be satisfied with whatever we have, even if it is only minimal sustenance. The antithesis of this is described in vs. 9 & 10 which say, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
In Hebrews 13:5 we read, “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.’” John the Baptist instructed soldiers to not intimidate anyone and to “be content with your wages.” (Luke 3:14).
We understand the importance of contentment and our need to be content as Christians. Yet, I suspect for many of us, if we were to honestly examine ourselves, we would find it as something we could work on more in our lives – materially, socially and in other matters.
But what is interesting is that while contentment is imperative to our lives, there are matters where we should NOT be content. I am speaking of spiritual matters which lead to complacency. We should NEVER think that we have attained our salvation and therefore we can “retire from service to the Lord.” Paul himself said in Philippians 3:12-14, “Not that I have already attained (to the resurrection of the dead-11), or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are a head, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
To the Corinthian brethren, Paul said, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (1 Cor. 9:27) Notice in these verses that even Paul saw that where he was, was not the stopping place in his life. In fact, it was only at the conclusion of his life when he knew, “the time of my departure is at hand” (1 Tim. 4:6) that he expressed in confident faith that he was done. Notice it is after this that he says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that day, and no to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (1 Tim. 4:7-8)
The Hebrew writer warned us, “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.” (Heb. 4:1) We also read, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.” (Gal. 6:9).
Even the seven churches of Asia give warnings to this degree. We read in Rev. 2:10, to the church at Smyrna, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” And the lukewarm church at Laodicea was told that because it was lukewarm, God would vomit (spew) it out of His mouth (Rev. 3:16). The church at Sardis was rebuked because thought it had a name that it was alive, it was dead. (Rev. 3:1) And Ephesus was rebuked because it had left its first love (Eph. 2:4). All these examples show us churches in which the wrong type of contentment had crept in.
Friends, as Christians let us continually strive to move forward. We should never be content with the amount of knowledge we have of God’s word (There is always more to learn – Ac. 17:11, 2 Tim. 2:15); we should never be content with our present spiritual condition; we should never be content the work we have done thus far, for there is always more to do (John 9:4 says, “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work”).
So we can see there is a sense in which we must be content and another sense in which we must never be content in this life. And the two go together. Faithful service to God will include contentment of our worldly possessions. And on the contrary, if we are NOT content with this world’s goods, we will NOT be fully devoted to putting first the kingdom of God. As Jesus Himself said, “You CANNOT serve God and mammon.” (Matt. 6:24)
And so I ask, are you content? When it comes to the things of this world, the ONLY acceptable answer is yes! But when it comes to preparing for eternity, let us never be content until we stand before our God and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joys of your Lord.” (Matt. 25:21) Think about it!