Being content in our finances honors God when combined with a mission-driven life.
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have… – Hebrews 13:5
…godliness with contentment is great gain… – 1 Timothy 6:6
Being content in this society is almost impossible. In fact, it’s often seen as a negative attribute or weakness. And there’s big money to be made if we can be convinced that we need a new car or the latest gadget.
The biblical idea of being content is being satisfied with God’s reign and plan. It means that we don’t have anxiety or fear because God is sovereign, his promises are firm, and he will always be with us. Contentment is resting in God’s purpose and care.
Sin means we’re not satisfied with God’s design. The first sin (Genesis 3) was a sin of discontent – wanting more. Rather than trusting in God’s provision or wisdom or love, we want independence and self-determination. Sin is the story of being discontent.
When we think about being content with what we have (Hebrews 13:5), we’re often thinking about money or the things that money can buy. As Christians it’s easy to think that we should simply strive to be happy in our current standard of living and not complain about it, right? But if being content is not qualified, we can easily move down the wrong path. There’s another critical element that is needed if we’re to be biblical in our thinking.
Being content is not enough
Even being content can be a “straw man” that helps us live for ourselves. Let me illustrate: Let’s say that a high-income couple has been living for their own pleasure. They relish a massive home, expensive cars, extravagant vacations, and only the best colleges. And then, one day, God saves them. And through a sermon on being content, they recognize their materialistic longings, and they make an effort to be satisfied with what they have. They stop growing their expenses and even start giving money to their church. Are they now an example of biblical contentment? No, they are still far away. They are still using most of their money for personal satisfaction and not ministry.
Both the Apostle Paul (1 Timothy 6:6) and the author of Hebrews (Hebrews 13:5) found it important to include an additional element to contentment. Paul thought that we also need godliness. And the author of Hebrews wrote that we must be free from the love of money.
But godliness with contentment is great gain… – 1 Timothy 6:6
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. – Hebrews 13:5
In these two verses being content doesn’t simply stand on its own. Godliness means we adopt God’s perspective on life and find purpose in living for the Kingdom. We embrace God’s values as our values and God’s mission is our mission. In other words, when we can live a life that focuses on bringing God glory in everything, and we’re content in that, we have it right.
In the Hebrews example (Hebrews 13:5), the author becomes very specific. Before contentment is what it should be, we need to get rid of our love for money. When we view money as belonging to God for the benefit of the Kingdom, and we’re happy with that, we have the right type of contentment. Another way of saying this is, we’ll be thinking like stewards.
Pursuing wrong financial priorities is being discontent
If we are chasing wrong money priorities, we’re not content with God’s design and mission. Godly financial contentment is connected to being captured by the gospel and all that Jesus is for us.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:33
Being content with our financial situation is important. But for this contentment to be God-honoring, it must come along with a godly disposition that longs to use all we have for the glory of God. It needs to connect to living out the gospel in every aspect of life.
Being content and being lazy
It’s easy to think that being content has an element of laziness in it. Or maybe a lack of determination or effort. But that’s not the way it is for the Christian. In fact, when we align our heart with God’s heart, we have an eternal purpose to pursue with all the energy we have. The Bible encourages us to live focused and energetic lives that pursue Jesus’ mission until the end.
…I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. – Acts 20:24
Never be lacking in zeal. Keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. – Romans 12:11 (NIV)
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:58
So, the biblical idea of being content means we’re satisfied with God’s promises while working, with zeal, for the glory of Christ. Contentment, then, is the product of a heart resting in God. It is the soul’s enjoyment of that peace that passes all understanding. It is the outcome of my will being brought into subjection to the Divine will. It is the blessed assurance that God does all things well, and is, even now, making all things work together for my ultimate good. – A. W. Pink