There are many people who seemingly have little or no regard for material possessions. They accept poverty as a normal living condition, and their major concern is where they will sleep that night or eat that day. In contrast are the affluent, who have the best our society has to offer at their disposal. Their houses, summer cottages, winter chalets, and automobiles are the envy of the community. Does either scenario bring contentment? No!
If money can’t buy contentment and poverty doesn’t provide it, what is contentment and how is it attained? Contentment, contrary to popular opinion, does not mean being satisfied where you are. Rather, it is knowing God’s Will and plan for your life, having a conviction to live it, and believing that God’s peace is greater than the world’s problems. “He (Jesus) said to them, ‘Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions’ “ (Luke 12:15)
In poverty, the issue is usually black and white—you either have it or you don’t. In affluence, the deception is much more subtle, because anxieties and worries are not usually related to the lack of things but rather the loss of things. In essence, most affluent Christians fear they might lose the material things they have acquired. Unless they are so detached from the goods that they must be willing to lose them they won’t find real contentment. That does not necessarily mean that they have to surrender all of their material possessions. It means being willing to do so.
Contentment can’t be achieved without personal discipline and staying within the lifestyle parameters God has established, based on His provision (Luke 12:15; 16:13-14). So often Christians get so involved in the day-to-day activities of earning a living and raising a family that they forget their real purpose in life: to serve God. They discover that their lives are out of balance and don’t know how to bring them back into balance. The evidence is a lack of peace, a lack of spiritual growth, and a growing doubt about God’s ability to provide. A person may have a lot of money or a little money and still miss the whole point of contentment.
We can complain whether we have a little or a lot. We can be covetous just as easily with a lot of money as with a little. We can have regret, envy, and fear.
Contentment really is a spiritual issue; it’s not an amount-of-money issue. God is always there and never changes. He is consistent and stable. You can trust Him. But can you say the same about money? Proverbs 23:4-5 speaks to this when it says, “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” How content can I be in something that flies away?
Contentment is – being satisfied with one’s circumstances, not complaining, not craving something else, and having a mind at peace. A further definition of contentment could be – that it has three aspects:
- looking back without regret,
- looking at the present without envy, and
- looking to the future without fear
Wise King Solomon writes, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
Contentment has nothing to do with money. It’s a learned response. The apostle Paul states this very clearly: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:11-12).
The secret to which Paul alludes is the result of learning to think correctly about money and God. Contentment is learning to see money as God sees it, and nothing more. Money is a vehicle for providing for our needs and those of others, and funding can help advance God’s Kingdom. Contentment also results from learning to see God for who He is. He is the bedrock of our contentment.
No financial principle can have a greater impact on you or free you up more than this truth: Money is not the key to contentment! Contentment has everything to do with your relationship with God and nothing to do with your money. Once you are free from the love of money and the pursuit of it, you can have a lot or a little and be content all the same. At that point you have learned the secret to contentment. It’s not just the families struggling to make ends meet who wrestle with this. Many families with high incomes struggle with contentment as well.
What Does Financial Contentment Look Like?
The starting point for financial contentment is simply living within one’s income. How we handle what God has given us will indicate whether we have financial contentment or not. Many families are content to live in modest houses, drive older cars, and enjoy entertainment at home. Perhaps the breadwinner is a teacher, a church staff member, or in the early stages of a career. Many times they’ve chosen a simple lifestyle to stay within their means.
On the other extreme, I met a man who earned in excess of €600,000 a year. Instead of being content and at peace, he was miserable. He had financial pressures because he was spending €100,000 more each year than he was making. The key to contentment in one’s finances is not the amount one makes, but rather a willingness to live within that amount.
Recently when I spoke to a group of men, I asked them how many of them were making twice what they were making 10 years ago. Every hand in the audience went up. I then asked them another question. If 10 years before they had been asked, “Would you be content if you were making twice what you’re making now?” would they have answered yes? Here again they all answered positively.
But when I asked them if they were in fact content now, they said no. The point is, their income had doubled, but they had not learned to live within that income. Therefore, they were not content. I have found in my counseling that living within one’s income is an indicator of contentment.
Financial contentment has less to do with money and more to do with our attitudes, belief systems, and decisions. Financial contentment brings peace of mind. It’s possible to have financial security without financial peace of mind.
God’s plan for contentment
Although many Scriptures teach about the dangers of material riches, God’s Word does not teach that poverty is God’s alternative. God wants us to understand that money is a tool to use in accomplishing His plan through us. If we are to find true contentment we must establish some basic guidelines:
- Establish a reasonable standard of living.It is important to develop a lifestyle based on conviction, not circumstances. God will assign Christians at every economic level. On whatever level He has placed you, live within the economic parameters established and supplied by Him. Just having abundance is not a sign of God’s blessings. Satan can easily duplicate any worldly riches. God’s abundance is without sorrow and is for the purpose of bringing others to Christ.
- Establish a habit of giving.Along with the tithe, God desires that every Christian provide for the needs of others through the giving of offerings, gifts, and personal involvement.
- Establish priorities.Many Christians are discontented—not because they aren’t doing well but because others are doing better. Too often Christians look at what they don’t have and become dissatisfied and discontented, rather than thanking God for what they do have and being content with what He has supplied.
- Develop a thankful attitude.It is remarkable that in western society we could ever think that God has failed us materially. That attitude is possible only when we allow Satan to convince us to compare ourselves to others. The primary defence against this attitude is praise to God. Satan uses lavishness and waste to create discontent and selfish ambition. Thankfulness is a state of mind, not an accumulation of assets. Until Christians can truly thank God for what they have and be willing to accept God’s provision, contentment will never be possible.
- Reject a fearful spirit.One of the most effective tools used by Satan against Christians is the question, “What if?” Dedicated Christians get trapped into hoarding because they fear the “What if?” of retirement, disability, unemployment, economic collapse, and so on. Although God wants us to be concerned about these things, when fears dictate to the point that giving to God is hindered, foolish risks are assumed, and worry seems to control every decision, contentment is impossible.
- Seek God’s will.“More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).
- Stand up to fear.“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
- Trust God’s promise.“The peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
Adapted from an article by Ron Blue , and Crown Financial Ministries