I find it really difficult to be content. There is always something else that I need or want to buy. I often find myself thinking, “If only I had ... then life would be easier” or “I would be happier if ...”
But would I? What more can I get that would truly satisfy?
My online dictionary defines contentment as a state of happiness and satisfaction. But biblical contentment is more than that, it is happiness and satisfaction, even when we don’t have what we want or even when we are not where we want to be. The Bible encourages us to be content – whatever the circumstances (Phil 4:11-12; 1 Tim 6:8).
The true test of contentment is losing something you love. Whether you lose something trivial, such as a phone, or something valuable, such as a friend, loss tests our capacity for contentment. Likewise, what we are prepared to part with tests our contentment. As Christians, how generous we are shows how content we are. The ultimate example of this is Jesus, who was so content in the knowledge that God was in control and in his relationship with the Father, that he entrusted himself to the Father unto the torture of the crucifixion, generously giving his life for me and you. This is true contentment shown in radical generosity.
So, how can we teach ourselves to be content and generous?
- Thank God for what you have (both in Jesus and materially) – regularly. This reminds us of all that we have, helping to check our complaints, envy and frustration at our perceived lack of something.
- Fear and trust God because he knows best and won’t leave us without what we need. He is our hope and richly provides everything for us.
- Practice giving sacrificially. Start with an amount (freely chosen from your heart) and give that every week. If you already give, increase it. Give up or make do without something each week to make that amount possible (e.g. cut out a muffin/Coke/coffee, eat less take away food, walk somewhere instead of driving to save some money on petrol, talk less on the phone each month to be able to give more). You know the story of the generous widow (Mark 12:41-44), what else can you do to be more like her?
- Look for more opportunities to give time and money. Are you giving locally, nationally and internationally to people and ministries? Do you only give to those you know? Think big! Can you raise money for someone else who needs it?
With these tips come two truths and a warning. The first truth comes from the pen of Paul: “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim 6:10). The second truth is from the lips of Jesus: “you cannot serve both God and money” (Matt 6:24). The warning comes from the pen of James who writes that those who hold onto their wealth and call themselves Christian will face judgement (Jas 5:1-6). Verse 5 is especially direct, “You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.”
Contentment and generosity is a test of our hearts. God has not revolutionised our hearts if we persist in serving only ourselves. We who live in Australia have been given much. If we are truly content with all that God has given us, then we need to start practicing generosity, whether we have a little or a lot. When we hold onto our wealth, we show our lack of contentment and deny Jesus’ generous gift of life.