Over the past few weeks we have considered the importance of being glad and grateful in the humdrum of every-day life, as well the true happiness that comes in the way of obedience to Christ. We are Christ’s possessions, and it matters very much how we live our lives on a daily basis. Some think that God pays more regard to those works which we by our human standards esteem to be great. However, as Reformed people we understand the biblical truth of vocation, that we as God’s people are called to serve our Lord with every facet of our being, in every aspect of our lives, and with all the resources that God furnishes us. Our lives are by God’s grace holy sacrifices that through Christ are pleasing in God’s sight. We must be glad in this service. And we must also exhibit the virtues that God requires of us and enables us to begin to express through the power of his Spirit. In this regard, another important Christian virtue that ought to characterize our daily lives is contentment. God has instructed his people in this virtue from the very beginning. The tenth commandment of the law that forbids covetousness implies a positive command that God’s people be content with the circumstances and possessions that God is pleased to give them. One who does not covet is one who is content with what he has and one who does not cast an envious eye upon his neighbor. As the writer to the Hebrews exhorted: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5). The word “conversation” refers to one’s daily walk, one’s manner or life and conduct, that is, the whole of one’s every day, workaday, and unremarkably routine life. Our daily life in this world ought to be without covetousness and characterized by contentment. The ground for this contentment is our trust in God, the God who is always with us and sustains us with everything we truly need.
As with nearly every other vice the society in which we live cultivates discontent in the soil of our hearts. Our culture encourages us to be discontented with the “status quo.” It promotes discontent as a good force which produces change and “progress.” Discontent is also a great economic stimulus. The ceaseless assault of the omnipresent advertisement industry has the sole goal of arousing our desires, so that we purchase more and consume more. Contentment is bad business in a society of consumer capitalism. It is nearly impossible to leave the house without absorbing numerous messages telling us that we need this or that new trinket or that we cannot truly be happy until we experience this or that pleasure. If you have watched a few television commercials, then some obnoxious peddler has surely told you that you deserve everything from the latest boiled egg slicer to the newest credit program. Unfortunately, it is very easy to begin believing these messages that our culture bombards us with. Surrounded by material abundance it can often be very difficult to be content. Covetousness and envy are always ready to take hold of our hearts and minds. The rich fall into many snares in this world. Whether we like it or not, most of us qualify as “the rich in this world.” And so we must take all the more care to guard against covetousness and to live in contentment, for contentment glorifies God. This is not to say that we may not enjoy the prosperity which God has given us. For God has given us many good things to enjoy. However, these resources must first be dedicated to the work of God’s kingdom and to the glory of God. As Augustine asked, “what have I which has not been given me?” All things are God’s. We own nothing, for whatever riches we have been given have been entrusted to us. It is foolish for a man to complain if a lender lends more to another man than to him. He has no right to demand anything from the man who graciously lends out his possessions. May the Lord enable us to say with Paul: “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil 4:11-13). All of us who struggle with a lack of contentment must pray earnestly that God would grant to us contentment. God answers the prayers of his children when they genuinely ask for deliverance from sin. It is also important that we see how discontent disrupts our spiritual lives. Without contentment one cannot be thankful to God. A person who is discontent says through his discontentment that the things God has given to him are insufficient. It is a rejection of God’s will. Thankfulness toward God necessarily entails that one is content with what the Lord has given. Such a discontented person will not be happy either. Rather, his days will be vexed with the strivings of his heart. His wants will consume him; cause him to be irritable and to lash out at his neighbor. Discontent, like so many other sins, readily leads into other sins. For the discontented man, daily life will be burdensome rather than gladsome. But the child of God who is content with the ways of the Lord, whose satisfaction is found in Christ alone, and whose happiness is founded upon the grace of God, that child of God will be greatly blessed. “Godliness with contentment” says the Apostle “is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (I Tim. 6:6-7). For such gain let us strive in our daily lives, being glad that in so doing we glorify our beloved Savior and better ourselves thereby.