“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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” [Philippians 4: 12-13].
“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’” [Hebrews 13:5].
“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” I Timothy 6: 6-7.
There is a lot to say about contentment in the Bible. In the book Holy Discontent, Bill Hybels seems to be trying to stir us all to action, maybe the opposite of contentment. Contentment means happiness and satisfaction. Some synonyms are gratified, fulfilled, pleasure, cheerfulness.
The big question is…is it ok to be content?
Jesus says be content with the money that you have, be content about your circumstances, be content when your basic needs are met (food, water and shelter).
What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with being happy from time to time? We all know that none of us can stay happy all the time.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with contentment.
So what is Hybel’s beef? Here it is: “lived out in isolation, it can be lethal. If you’re not careful, you will become lulled into a state of satisfaction, safety, serenity and you’ll altogether neglect needs in the world that should elicit deep discontent when you see them going unmet.”
The key word is isolation.
Hybel’s gives us a list of serious unmet needs: the plight of the poor, care for the sick and dying, prisoners who need to be visited, clothing for the naked, care for orphans, communication with the hurting, water for the thirsty, food to the hungry and community to the outcast.
These needs are real.
The contented person who does not look past his own situation [living in isolation] is likely not to even pay attention to these needs. Hybels knows that these needs may be met one day but it won’t happen with magic. It will happen with caring concern and hard work from others, hard work from Christians who are called to do such work.
Christian churches have inspirational leaders who encourage members to be involved in this kind of work. Being a Methodist, I can turn to my church’s founder John Wesley who mirrored the “serve others sentiment” in his words “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
Be on guard against self-centeredness. Be on guard against myopia. Be on guard against self- satisfaction.
It certainly is not a sin to be happy but it may be a sin to turn a blind eye to a demonstrated need that you know you can meet.
This world is full of trouble. There is injustice to go around for everyone. People are struggling all over.
Remember God wants to restore his children to a right relationship. Maybe you are the instrument of that restoration.
Be useful, take the skills the Lord has given you and produce some fruit. Remember the fig tree that Jesus saw on his way to Jerusalem? The fig tree was bearing no figs and Jesus cursed it. The next morning the disciples commented on the fig tree, that it had withered. It had produced no fruit so it was useless. It could have produced fruit but it did not .
It was a waste.
Stop for a second and think about that situation for your life. You have the skills, you don’t use them, you are selfishly content with your lot in life, you ignore the needs of others who really need your help.
Are we being useless?
Is our life a waste?
Maybe we need a little dose of Holy Discontent…