Are you content with your bedroom … your house … your apartment … your neighborhood … your school district … your family… your wife … your husband … your kids … your parents … your friends … your car … your health … your clothes … your job … your income? Imagine how different your life would be if you woke up tomorrow morning completely content. I’m sure some of you are thinking your life would be different because you’d have a bigger house or a more understanding spouse. Maybe you’re picturing a newer model car that doesn’t need to go to the shop so often or nicer neighbors or a job promotion. After all, those are required for contentment. But what if none of those things had anything to do with your contentment?
Contentment is all about seeing our possessions as enough. Not to acquire more things, but to see the things that we have as enough. That’s not easy to do when you live in the richest and yet most chronically discontented nation in the entire world.
Consider these statistics from an article in Mother Jones Magazine called “This New House,” which starts off by saying the American Dream just keeps growing.
Since 1970, the size of the average new home has ballooned by 50 percent.
Since 1950, the average new house has increased by 1,247 square feet.
Meanwhile, in the same amount of time, the average household has shrunk by one person.
In 1950, 1 in 100 homes had 2.5 baths or more. Today, 1 in 2 do.
1 in 5 new homes is larger than 3,000 square feet — the size at which it becomes unmanageable to clean without hired help.
The average cost of a luxury kitchen remodel is $57,000. That’s $10,000 more than it costs to build a typical Habitat for Humanity home.
We learn from Ecclesiastes that Solomon had everything, and yet was not content. However, it seems that he recognized contentment in others, and he longed for it. He seemed at times jealous of the simple laborers in his kingdom who enjoyed the contentment that he found so elusive. The theme of contentment, rest, satisfaction, happiness, enjoyment and tranquility is repeated over and over throughout Solomon’s journal.
So if contentment has something to do with coming to terms with our unique life circumstances and being happy with them, and if everything around us in our culture is pushing us to be discontent, how can we find true contentment?
The life of the Apostle Paul is a wonderful example of contentment. In 1 Timothy, he talks about the minimum that we need to be content. 1 Timothy 6:6-8 says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
Being happy with the minimums. But Paul doesn’t limit the possibility of contentment to the minimums. He also says in Philippians 4:11-12, “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.”
Contentment is possible in every situation. But perhaps the secret of contentment is best described by the writer to the Hebrews in Hebrews 13:5: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’.” [Deuteronomy 31:6]
The reason we can be content is that we have a loving Father who has promised to never leave us, never forsake us. In a nation that’s filled with discontent people, we can be content in all situations when we trust God in every circumstance, even when we are left with the minimums.
This Sunday at South Side we will talk further about how we can have a better life when we apply biblical principles that lead us into eternity. Worship starts at 10:45 a.m., and we would love to have you come grow with us.
Barry Pettit is lead minister at South Side Church of Christ in Washington Court House.