Bill Hutchinson, reflecting on Paul’s imprisonment wherein he was chained and without apparent reason for hope, reminds us that Paul, upon receiving gifts of clothing or food, was inspired to recognize the generosity of the Philippian church. He was gracious and understanding. He did not complain, nor did he feel neglected, even in terrible circumstances. Being content, he emerged victorious in trials and abundance. Contentment, a literal command and a state of mind that we are instructed to obtain and possess, is placed by Paul on a similar context to love, refraining from covetousness, and the Ten Commandments. We should have contentment being clothed, fed, and warm. Contentment, with righteousness, is great gain.
What gain is obedience if we are not content? If we are obedient without contentment, then we are obeying for the wrong reasons; we are obedient based on fear (not awe) and for selfish gain (not outgoing love). Such obedience makes us begrudging and resentful toward God and man, and renders our labor of obedience vanity. Conversely, our objective is to reflect the nature of our Father and His Son—the beautiful virtues and high moral standards of their royal Family and “excellency” of which we are part. Contentment comes through either satisfying or limiting our desires, and it indicates freedom from need, independence, and liberty. We are to limit our desires, discern what is truly important, and accept God’s ultimate control. Our needs are finite and can be met, but our wants are endless; it is the wants that cause discontentment.
The environment in which we exist is crafted by Satan to exploit our human nature; there is always something more we need. Marketing is designed to create perception of need and feelings of discontentment. The modern world presents desire as a personal right, to be pursued relentlessly without limitation as the path to finding meaning. We are encouraged to pursue our own happiness above all else, and anything that might restrict that effort is to be destroyed. We exist in a discontented world with unchecked desire, and it affects us all. We confuse needs and wants, and fail to limit the latter. Believe in faith that God knows our true needs and will fulfill them, and that He will work all things together for our ultimate good. Paul mentions food, clothing, and shelter, and says to be content with what we have. However, physical things are not the basis of contentment, but rather contentment stems from a relationship with God, a spiritual focus on the Kingdom of God, and a reliance on God to know and supply our needs. With that established, we must learn to be satisfied with little, and to be willing to suffer.
Developing this character is part of the lifelong conversion process. Strive to be independent of your circumstances by remaining focused on the big picture and not inventing expectations. In so doing, we do not allow ourselves to become victims. Learn to depend on the Holy Spirit. Be preoccupied with the well-being and spiritual abundance of others, rejoicing in their blessings. Contentment is a foundation of the blessings of God’s way of life.
Accepting God’s sovereignty – Avarice – Blessings – Contentment – Conversion – Discerning importance – Discontentment – I Corinthians 6:13 – I Timothy 6:1, 7; 3:6 – Galatians 2:20 – Greed – Hebrews 13:1, 5 – Jude 3, 12 – Kingdom of God – Limiting desire – Longsuffering – Lust – Materialism – Matthew 6:19 – Outgoing concern – Philippians 4:10, 17 – Reliance on God – Romans 8:28 – Satisfaction – Self-gratification – Spiritual blessings – Spiritual richness – Supplying our needs – Trials – Transformation – Unfulfilled desire – Wants vs. needs