I used to think that contentment merely meant being satisfied with what God provided. With this definition all I had to do was to avoid grumbling and anxiety (easier said than done), and I passed the contentment test.
But I realized I was cheating, or, at least, that my definition was incomplete. I was only measuring contentment by my attitude towards “stuff” not the “time” I exchanged for that stuff for or the “drive” that fueled the time I traded for stuff.
The harder I worked and the more I did, the more God provided. I could expand my margins of contentment through a good work ethic, sound financial management, and a strong entrepreneurial drive. I don’t think these things are bad, they just allowed me to avoid a key area of my character development.
When I only looked at contentment as a money issue, I could unhealthily pull on “my” reserves of time and energy to equal the ledger for my desire for stuff.
Further, this definition served my flesh well, because I value achievement much more than I value stuff. So not only could I cheat the self-defined system, I could become more self-righteous as I did it. Contentment was a virtue for greedy people not ambitious people – I wasn’t “one of them.”
As I have wrestled with this expanded definition of contentment, I have realized that contentment was not a limit God put on me (be satisfied with less), but a gift of rest God offers and wants me to embrace. God offers contentment to people at every point on the socio-economic spectrum and at every rung on the ladder of success.
Now my definition for contentment goes like this, “Contentment is being satisfied with what God provides when we exercise our God given gifts and abilities within a godly stewardship of our time and relationships for God’s glory.”
This view of contentment is harder to cheat. At least it is new enough that my flesh has not been able to exercise its full creative energies upon it yet.
In my contented (i.e., restfully sane) moments, I don’t want to cheat this definition. When I truly see that contentment is the rest that God wants to inject into everything I do, I run to this virtue not away from it.
This challenges me with a larger question, “What is wrong with me that I do not always see every virtue that God offers me in Christ as a gift? How can my moral vision be so skewed that death looks like life?”
For me, and I suspect for many others, the answer is pride. I resist rest because it insults me. Rest reminds me that God is capable of everything even when I’m doing nothing. Rest shows me how little my effort actually adds to God’s sovereignty.
Rest reminds me that God involves me because He loves me and takes pleasure in my pleasure as I express the gifts He gave me. When I am content enough to see this, it gives me a joy that makes my work and my rest the life-sustaining pleasure they were intended to be.