A Theology of Contentment

by Matthew L. Halsted

At some point, our theology (i.e., “What we believe about God”) ought to inform our lives. That is, we must learn to take seriously with our feet what we believe in our minds. So, let’s talk about contentment.

We all have things we want, things we desire. This isn’t inherently bad. Not by a long shot. Having desires is an essential characteristic of our human being. However, at times, we find ourselves feeling a level of discontentment over the things we want but don’t currently possess. I’m sure you can think of a few things (money, a better car, the latest iPhone). If left unchecked, these unfulfilled desires will ruin our lives, causing us to forget the great things we do, in fact, already have. We will find ourselves constantly thinking about the absence of these things, all the while neglecting to be thankful for the precious gifts that already fill our lives. How do we fight this? What is the key to finding contentment?

I was reading through the last section of Hebrews, and I came across a little gem. It says, “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.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’ (Hebrews 13:5-6 ESV)

I suppose one of the reasons we want things we can’t have is because, deep down inside, we think these things (whatever they are) will grant us fulfillment, security, or help our lives be more meaningful in some way. Take the passage above, for instance. It says, “Keep your life free from love of money.” Money is one of the many things that can help us feel secure. After all, if a person has plenty of it, they can afford to pay their bills, go on a much-needed vacation, or save for retirement (all of these are good things). There is, we are tempted to think, security in having money. There are also social pressures, too. Money can elevate our status in the community, in our social gatherings, etc. Of course, it’s not always the case that money can bring genuine security (as Dave Ramsey says, having more money doesn’t necessarily bring wealth; it typically only means you will have bigger monthly payments!).

For those who have an unhealthy desire for money–those who “love money”–what is the cure? What is the cure for those who aren’t content with their salary or with their “stuff”? The writer of Hebrews offers the key to contentment: “be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (v.5b)The answer to discontentment is to realize that you have God. Think about that for a moment: The God of heaven and earth, the One who created all things, is Someone who is in relationship with you. Isn’t that crazy? God knows you. He is yours. If that wasn’t enough, the promise is that you will always have God–‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” This means, contrary to how unstable our financial portfolio can be, our relationship with God is forever secure. 

This phrase is a quotation from Joshua 1:5, where God spoke to Joshua, promising that he will go before him and give him all that he needs to lead the people of Israel. “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5 ESV). 

One of the reasons we can be content is because we, as believers in Christ, don’t need anything else to give us security. What does grant security is God himself–specifically, his presence in our lives. I find the logic behind the writer of Hebrews interesting. We don’t have to be lovers of money, nor do we have to be discontent. Why? Because we have the self-existent God, who is over all. For Christians, being discontent about not having enough stuff is illogical. It’s like being jealous of people who are sitting in a children’s blow-up pool while you have been given an ocean to swim in. With God in our lives, we have an ocean of riches. We don’t have to settle for a kiddie pool of earthly stuff that will soon fade away. 

So, what is the key to contentment? The key to contentment is good theology. That is, the key is knowing God. You don’t need anything else when the Lord is your shepherd (Psalm 23:1). You don’t need money to be your security, nor do you need any thing else to give you meaning and fulfillment. As a Christian, your hope and confidence and meaning and significance is in your God. That is why “we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Heb 13:6). 

With God, we have all we ever need. Amen.

 

Copyright © Matthew L. Halsted