Hebrews 13:5 commands us to be content with our present financial circumstances, so that we don’t act unlovingly. A literal rendering of the Greek is “Be content with the present things.” While the “present things” surely include our possessions and money, they refer also to everything that is a part of our life situation.
Surely every one of us would like to be content right now. But the big objection we raise against this command is that our present circumstances just don’t answer to the deep longings of our hearts. Often our circumstances are bland, bleak, or downright threatening. Even life’s happiest situations are never free from the possibility of their being reversed by some unforeseen future event.
How then can we obey the command to be content with the way things are now, without flying in the face of reality? In the rest of Hebrews 13:5 and 6, God gives us a promise which radically changes our perception of our situation, so that being content becomes entirely appropriate.
What is the promise? “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” This means, “We can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper. I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?’” Now if God is with us to help us, and if we can always have fellowship with him who is the greatest and best of all beings, then we surely have an adequate basis for contentment right now. This promise more than makes up for the fact that our life situation, by itself, does not fully satisfy our hearts, nor calm our fears.
According to Lamentations 3:23, “Yahweh’s extravagant kindnesses are new every morning; great is his faithfulness.” If, instead of being afraid, we bank our hope on the fact that God is both kind and faithful, and on his promise always to be with us to help us, then we will see, from day to day, tangible evidences of his being gracious to us. As we awaken each morning, we can look forward to a number of surprising ways in which God will help us and bring blessing to our souls.
As we exercise our faith in this promise, we will learn contentment. Even the Apostle Paul admitted that he had to learn this skill so he could say, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11–13). We too can train ourselves to be content as we exercise our faith. We do this by refusing to look at our circumstances by themselves, and by viewing them instead in the context of God’s promise always to be with us to help us.
Daniel P. Fuller