Contentment: A Richer Pursuit

By Laurel J. Davis
See Laurel's blog at The Reluctant First Lady

Someone once said, "Give me neither poverty nor riches; [just] feed me with food convenient for me."

That sounds so un-ambitious, doesn't it? It flies right in the face of what is most noble about the American way of life and what is even basic to human nature. Namely, the pursuit of happiness. Sure, no one wants to be poor. But we all certainly want more out of life than just mere survival.

So, who would say such an un-ambitious thing?

Here's the whole quote: [G]ive me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me, Lest I be full and deny You and say, "Who is the Lord?" Or lest I be poor and steal, and take the name of my God in vain. These are the words of Agur, whom God inspired to write the 30th Chapter of Proverbs (vv. 8-9).

Clearly, these words are based on the principle of — not lack of ambition, not martyr-like sacrifice of honest personal pleasures in this world, not self-righteous deprivation — but godly contentment.

Consider the Lord's words throughout Matthew Chapter 6. In verse 11, it is daily bread, not filet mignon and Dom Perignon, that is Christ's example when He teaches us to pray. He also teaches us to seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.

What things? Food and clothing (Matthew 6:25-33; cf. Philippians 4:19).

"But wait!" many a church leader or pew-filler might say. "Jesus promised at John 10:10 to give us abundant life, not just life. So, we ought to expect the best in life and not be content with just food and clothing."

But is that really what Jesus meant? What kind of life is He really promising will be abundant?

Well, both the context of John 10:10 and the Greek word for "life" used here tell us what Jesus meant. They both point to eternal life — zoe — and not means of life or lifestyle — bios. Besides that, contentment is a more virtuous and beneficial attitude to strive for.

But even more than that, contentment is also clearly commanded in God's Word, as in Hebrews 13:5 and 1 Timothy 6:4-11. In these two passages, to "be content" in the Greek means to suffice one's self or be satisfied with something. It can also mean to be sufficient within one's self, to be self-adequate, needing no aid. That's what the Apostle Paul meant when he said, for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content (Philippians 4:11-13). All this is not to say that it's wrong to aspire to more than just the bare minimum necessities in life. Indeed, financial security and at least a few so-called "creature comforts" are in some ways essential in American society and can certainly be blessings from God.

But our self-worth, the quality of our relationship with God, and our corresponding happiness in life should not be dependent on such things.

In Philippians 4:11, notice Paul said contentment was something he had to learn. Our nature is to base our whole worth on our present state of affairs. And this is reinforced by the society we live in and, sadly, by a lot of today's post-Christian churches.

But we have to learn that God — not our financial condition nor our social status — sets the standard for what we're worth. And God finds us forever worthy no matter what our earthly condition, and it's for no other reason than because we accept the grace He extends to us in the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Knowing our worth to God won't change even if our condition here on earth changes. Now that's being rich indeed!

Image Credit: Andy Aldridge; "Which would you choose?"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | God-Father

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Published on 11-9-15