Jeremiah Burroughs, in his book The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, defines contentment as “that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.” As we learn to be content, we will grow in grace and be able to overcome the idolatry of greed and the rebellion of covetousness. Considering the promises in this series will help us fine tune our faith for those times when we are worried about how we think life should have gone, worried that God has given someone else what he should have given us. This will prevent the perception that God’s gifts to others are so much more desirable than his gifts to us, and will keep us from desiring to acquire what they have at their expense.
The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh. One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind. Ecclesiastes 4:5–6
Understanding the difference between contentment and complacency is crucial to our joy in Christ. Complacency is presumption masquerading as faith. Contentment is faith remembering the wisdom and power of God. Complacency lacks the passion Jesus commands of his disciples. Contentment is passionately unhurried. Complacency is self-destructive, because the complacent are so pleased with the past that they refuse to move forward. Contentment is self-renewing because the content are so pleased with the present that they eagerly anticipate the future. Contentment is also better than coveting and conquest. God demonstrated his competence by bringing Israel out of Egypt and Jesus out of the grave. Therefore we can trust him for timely grace in our lives as well. When we covet what others have, we imply that God is incompetent. Trying to gain an advantage over our neighbors is surrendering to the lie that God is unwilling and unable to supply all our needs in Christ Jesus. By seeking to accumulate things on earth at the expense of others, the only thing we gain is more to worry about, while we lose our relationship with God and whomever we “defeat.” God has made himself a treasure chest of goodness for us. When we close our hand on God’s goodness, taking hold of Life Eternal, our fist will be full of rest.
Living Lord, keep me from sliding off the mountain of contentment into the valley of complacency or the chasm of covetousness. Close your hand around mine as I hang on to you and your precious promises. Amen.