Why Should We Work to Learn Contentment?

by Casey Lewis September 1, 2016

Our society breeds discontent. 

Think about it. Every day we are bombarded with messages that tell us if we want to be happy we need more things, fewer wrinkles, better vacations, and fewer troubles. The result of being hit with these messages day in and day out is that we find ourselves discontent in our jobs, marriages, churches, homes, friendships, and with our possessions. Our continual discontentment shouldn’t shock us. Being content isn’t something that comes naturally.

Instead, contentment is a trait that is learned. Paul says in Philippians 4:11, “For I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content” (Phil. 4:11). And according to Hebrews 13:5, being content is a response that all Christians must learn, not just apostles, pastors, or super christians. 

Learning contentment is not an easy process. Since we naturally gravitate towards discontentment, it takes work and we are to be committed to putting in that work. We must do that, primarily, because we are commanded to do so. However, I know commands aren't always the best motivators, so besides the fact that we are commanded to be content, what are some other reasons we should work to learn contentment? 

Why Should We Work to Learn Contentment? 

(1) When we aren’t content with what the Lord has given us, we may find ourselves enslaved.

Think about the person who wants to be the head of the office. In and of itself, the desire is not a bad thing. Yet, this person is seeking that position because of the prestige, power, and the money it affords. What happens to that guy? Inevitably he is going to start working longer hours and taking on a heavier workload in order to try and prove he is the man for the job. 

The downside, however, to taking on more work and longer hours is that he ends up neglecting his family, his church, and his health. Even though his family is constantly after him for more attention, his church consistently tells him they miss him, and his doctor keeps telling him to cut back on his work and get some exercise, he keeps going. 

Why does he keep pushing despite the drawbacks, consequences, and broken relationships? He does it because he is enslaved to the process of getting to the top; he is a slave to the thought of acquiring a certain level of prestige, power, and money he believes will ultimately give him what he desires. His enslavement started because he wasn’t content with what the Lord had given him, nor was he content with waiting on the Lord’s timing. 

So we see that when we aren’t content with what the Lord has given us we may find ourselves enslaved, which has the very real potential of ruining relationships, our health, and even our life. 

(2) When we aren’t content with what the Lord has given us, we may find ourselves destroyed.

Take Bernie Madoff for instance. In 2008, his world of fame and fortune came crashing down when he was arrested for running the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. 

Bernie's scheme all started because he wasn’t content with what he had. Instead of putting in the time and effort like everyone else, he decided to make sure his investments provided the returns necessary to elevate his lifestyle. Through an elaborately calculated and meticulously controlled Ponzi scheme, he was able to create the life he desired. 

Bernie's scheme worked for almost 20 years. During that time, I am sure he thought he would never be caught, but the law finally caught up with him. When it did, the life and empire he had built through his elaborate deception were destroyed. His empire came crashing down so hard that even one of his own kids was driven to suicide because he couldn't handle the shame, pressure, and media attention Bernie brought on his family. 

So we see when we aren’t content with what the Lord has given us, we may find ourselves, like Madoff, with our world destroyed as it all comes crashing down around us. 

(3) When we are content with what the Lord has given us, we are free to worship Him. 

In Genesis 14, after Abraham defeats King Chedorlaomer and his alliance, he brings back his nephew Lot and all that King Chedorlaomer took from Sodom. Before Abraham meets with the King of Sodom, he has an encounter with another king, the King of Salem - Melchizedek. 

When Abraham meets with Melchizedek, Scripture tell us:

“…he [Melchizedek] blessed him and said, 'Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!'” (Ge 14:19-20b) 

Through Melchizedek’s blessing, Abraham is reminded that God is the One who has given him the victory. God is the reason he won the battle and was able to bring Lot, his family, and all the people of Sodom back. 

Realizing God's hand in the matter, Abraham is driven to worship the Lord, which he does by giving a tenth of everything to Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High God (Ge. 14:20). 

"Tithing” is a universal sign of worship. It is a way for us give thanks to God for all He has given us and all He has done for us. It is also a way for us to show our trust and dependence on God. When you tithe, then, you aren’t just giving money to the church, you are actually worshipping God. 

Sadly, however, tithing is a neglected form of worship. The Barna Group, a research firm, estimates that only 5-20 percent of people tithe in a typical congregation. They found that among non-tithing Christians who struggle to give, 38 percent say it's because they can't afford it, 33 percent say they have too much debt. 

Now, it is likely there are a few who are in a season of life where they may want to tithe, but can’t. They are working towards it, but things have happened — maybe they recently lost their job — which has hindered their ability to tithe for a season. The majority of people, however, who don't tithe aren’t in that season. Instead, the majority of people who don’t tithe fit into the categories the Barna group highlighted. They can’t afford it because they are living outside their means, or they have too much debt because they are trying to keep up with the Jones’. Living outside your means or in ever increasing debt is not only unwise, it also reveals something about your heart. You are discontent with what the Lord had given you, and your discontentment has hinder your ability to worship God. 

One of the secrets, then, to being able to consistently worship God by tithing is to be content with what the Lord has given you. Abraham was content, which is why he was able to give a tenth of the spoils of war to Melchizedek as a tithe. He could have kept it back, but he didn’t. Instead, he used it to worship the Lord. 

So, we see that when we are content with what the Lord has given us, we are set free to worship God through giving, not only of our money but ourselves. 

(4) When we are content with what the Lord has given us, we are free to glorify Him. 

In 1924, Eric Liddell entered the Olympic games. He was the favorite to win the 100 meter since he broke the British record in 1923, a record that stood for 35 years. 

Liddell's dream, however, of winning Olympic Gold was shattered when it was revealed that the 100m heats would fall on a Sunday. He was a devout Christian, who observed the Sabbath on Sunday, which meant participating in sports, even the Olympic games, was out of the question. Instead of running in a race he was sure to win, he spent the morning preaching in the Scots Church in Paris. 

Why was he able to preach instead of run? He was able to give up a chance at the Gold because he was content with what the Lord had given him. His contentment freed him to seek God’s glory instead of his own.