A LIFE OF DISCONTENT
Proverbs 5:15-18 [CSB] Drink water from your own cistern, water flowing from your own well. Should your springs flow in the streets, streams in the public squares? They should be for you alone and not for you to share with strangers. Let your fountain be blessed, and take pleasure in the wife of your youth.
These scriptures are clearly focused on fidelity in marriage. But it speaks to us about contentment – an important piece of advice for all of God’s blessings, including a happy marriage.
1 Timothy 6:6-8 expands on contentment: But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out. If we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. [CSB]
We believers are not meant to be folks always striving for more things, but people able to appreciate, enjoy, take care of and give thanks for what we already have.
Contentment is defined as “a state of happiness and satisfaction.” We believers are to learn to be happy and satisfied with our goods and God’s blessing. We are called to be content.
However, today, I want to encourage us to be just the opposite. Today, I’m going to see if I can inspire you to some discontent with your walk in life. I’ll make a case for the idea that being discontent in one area of our lives is beneficial to that same Christian walk.
J. Matthew Sleeth MD, in his book titled Serve God, Save the Planet (A Christian Call to Action), * says “The content mind is one of the greatest obstacles to a rich spiritual life.” (Page 62) He goes on to explain that “To move from thought to action, we must feel some discomfort with who we are. We will not develop any discontent if we compare ourselves to people who behave more selfishly than ourselves.” For example, he says, “We may think ourselves philanthropic and generous until we see a widow giving away her last two pennies.”
Sleeth proposes that if we are happy with who we are, we have no motivation to change and that discontentment with who we are leads us to better ourselves and the world around us.
I believe that the Bible supports the idea that being content with ourselves, our Christian maturity, is not good. We are called to path of continual growth. If I come to the point of being content with myself, my understanding of the Bible, my level of wisdom, or patience, or love, then I stop growing in that area. And that is not good.
We find an example of contentment verses discontentment in Luke 18:10-12 [ESV]: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' This Pharisee was content with himself, his character, his deeds. That contentment was hampering his worship and, presumably, his growth as a believer.
On the other hand, we have the example of the tax collector, who was quite discontent with himself. Luke 18:13-14 [ESV] But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
We are not called to beat ourselves up. That isn’t what I’m advocating at all. We are not called to look back in shame. Past sins are gone. But neither are we called to look at ourselves now and say, “good enough.”
We are called to strive forward – to keep working at it – as is advocated in Philippians 3:12-14 [NIV] - Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
What we need is a healthy focus on always striving to do better – a little discontentment with where we currently stand. We are called to strive to do better tomorrow than we did today. That is what Christianity is all about.
Contentment with our Christian character or service to others has the power to stunt our growth. The parable of the sower in Matthew 13:3-9 ends with this: Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop--a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear." What I hear is that, even among those who grow and produce, not everyone will produce at the same level. Could the ones who produce a hundred times what was sown be just a little more discontent with themselves than those who produce thirty times? Maybe the thirty times folks just got to a point where they said “I’m happy with that.” And their contentment caused them to stop growing.
I think we are all capable of producing a hundred times what was sown, if we remain discontent enough to never stop trying to do better, learn more and grow.
Jesus tells us to love as He loved. Are you content with your progress on that? I confess that I am not content with mine. Jesus tells us to take care of the poor – the physically poor and the spiritually poor. Is there more you could do? Wes and I ask ourselves that quite frequently. Also, I confess that I am decidedly discontent with my level of patience.
Sisters, we are called to both contentment and discontent. We are called to be content with what we have, but not with where we are in our walk with Christ.
I welcome your thoughts, comments and questions. You can write me at Nancy@DynamicChristianMinistries.org.
*Zondervan, Copyright 2006 by J Matthew Sleeth MD