Last week, I laid the foundation for how I studied personal finance in the Bible. I gave you a light introduction to what I call God’s Provident Plan and promised we’d look at each aspect in more depth. This is the first part of a series in which I’ll share what I’ve discovered about personal finance in the Bible. Today, we’re going to talk about the importance of contentment in Christ.
Contentment in Christ
Once we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He becomes everything to us. He must become everything to us. We are in a continual struggle against Satan to keep other things (especially money) from taking the place of Christ. The World sends us a message that says more wealth and more stuff will make us happy. But God warns us in Revelation 3:17-18 that worldly wealth cannot offer us true satisfaction and security.
17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Revelation 3:17-18 (NIV)
Only God can provide us with true wealth and open our eyes so we can see the truth. God has a higher purpose for us than riches far beyond our needs and 6,000 square foot homes. God wants more meaning in our lives than a brand new luxury car in the driveway and a shiny yacht next to the dock. God has a higher calling for our retirement years than fruitless day after fruitless day spent on the golf course, beach, or back porch. The World’s message contradicts God’s message so much that we must choose between the two. Luke 16:13-15 says:
13 “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” 14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” Luke 16:13-15 (NIV)
We must choose between serving God or Money. There is no middle ground. Devotion to Money is completely and absolutely opposed to devotion to God. Greed and generosity cannot exist together. Consumerism and contentment demand different paths. Choosing to love and serve Money means that you are choosing to turn your back on God. But if you want to serve God, you must give your heart completely to Him. In Mark 7:21-23, Jesus tells us that greed and envy come from our hearts:
21 “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.'” Mark 7:21-23 (NIV)
Once God has the commitment of our hearts, He can begin to transform our minds – change our thinking. The New Living Translation renders Romans 12:2 this way:
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 (NLT)
The solution to serving God and rejecting the World’s message is not to start trying to do what we think are all the right things. The solution is to give ourselves completely to God – to offer our entire lives as a sacrifice to Him in thankfulness and love for what He’s done for us. Then as we focus on Him we’ll learn what His will is for us and how we can glorify Him.
This step of getting God’s view takes time. It is a gradual transformation in our thinking that God effects as we grow in Him. We have to see that our focus on the things of this world keeps us from seeing the importance of love and relationships. That misplaced focus keeps us from fully serving God. We must focus on storing up treasures in heaven rather than on Earth because that will show whether our hearts belong to God or Money. If we let the concerns of this life take priority over the concerns of eternal life, we will be unfruitful. Jesus warns of this danger in Mark 4:18-19:
18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Mark 4:18-19 (NIV)
We must learn that everything belongs to God and everything comes from God. We must learn to be thankful in all circumstances. We must find satisfaction in our daily bread. We must learn that life is more than pursuing wealth, buying everything our culture tells us to want, and retiring early. And even though these ideas go against our human nature, we must understand that it’s not worth gaining the whole world if we end up losing our souls.
The transformation that happens as we let God renew our minds and thinking has huge repercussions in our lives. We gain understanding of what it means to be content in Christ. We see that our faith in Jesus gives us eternal life. We see the utter worthlessness of everything on earth when compared to our salvation and the riches of eternal life with God. We put our hope in Christ and the life He gives. Christ then gives us true contentment that conquers any circumstance we may face, but we must continue to focus on our hope in Him and weigh everything against the surpassing value of our eternal life with God.
When we find contentment in Christ and Christ alone, the importance of money in our lives diminishes and pales to the value we place on Jesus. We learn the secret to being happy in all situations – whether we’re full or starving, rich or poor, employed or jobless, single or married – nothing in this life matters at all when compared to the glorious gift of Jesus and the fact that no one and no circumstance can take that away from us. As Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13:
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 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. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)
When we see everything in light of eternity, we find that nothing on earth is of more value than our faith in Christ. We learn that while we may never be rich by the world’s standards, we have riches that can’t be measured in dollars, gold, houses, cars, or anything else in this life. We understand that contentment in Christ is true wealth.
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:6-12 (NIV)
Once we have this conviction of always finding our contentment in Christ, the Spirit will teach us to place much less importance on material things. We will no longer be focused solely on our own needs and wants – an early retirement, a bigger house, a nicer car, and so on. Instead, we’ll be consumed with a desire to focus on the needs of others – to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, and show God’s love to the world through our faith and deeds. This is the essence of contentment in Christ. We’ll spend less and less on ourselves and our desires as we seek to give more and more to others and fulfill God’s desires.
Be sure to check in next week when we’ll discuss what the Bible says about diligent work and good stewardship!
Thanks for this post. Much more clear minded than the “tithe and God will bless you” stuff out there, getting to the heart of the issue.
Paul Williams says
Thanks for your comment, Olivia! I’m glad you found it helpful. I think that finding our contentment in Christ is the key to all things as Christians. We must see ourselves through our identity in Christ. Only as we learn to follow Him can we honor God – in our finances or any other area of our lives.
Joyce Presler says
It is refreshing to see a post that points us back to Christ as our contentment. He really is. In the morning, when I read the Word and pray, I feel as if I have no need. If I spend a lot of time watching the Business channels I feel like I never have enough – even though I have all I need materially. Howard Hughes, a multi-billionaire died a miserable, frightened soul – he had billions. I have known Christians who served the Lord all their lives and died blessing others – keep reminding the Body of Christ.
Paul Williams says
Thanks for your comment, Joyce! I feel like any time we fail to point to Christ as our ultimate source of contentment and fulfillment we have failed to give Him the honor He is due.
One of the keys for me in finding contentment is to always keep going back to the viewpoint of eternity and weighing everything against our heavenly rewards. As Paul says in Romans 5:18:
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Nothing can compare to our riches in Christ. This is why it’s so dangerous to become materialistic as a Christian – we start placing earthly possessions above Christ. It’s no wonder that God says He will vomit us out of His mouth in Revelation 3:16. If we find our fulfillment in things, stuff, and wealth instead of Christ, we are severely degrading the worthiness of Jesus Christ.
Great post! I think that in this day and age of mass consumerism the questions of contentment needs to asked to everyone. We need to be teaching this to our children everyday by asking ourselves out loud in a store do I really need this? If we do this in front of our children they will learn a great reasoning tool to help them evaluate do I really need something or is this a contentment issue.
Paul Williams says
I find that’s a good habit to get into, Ryan – asking myself if I really need something. Most things we don’t need at all but choose to spend our money on anyway. Then we say we sure wish we could give to help those poor starving children, but we just don’t have any money. The same goes for other financial decisions as well. We say we can’t afford to save, but we choose to waste money on things we don’t really need and often don’t even use very much.
I like the thought Paul expresses, “I have LEARNED to be content…” It gives great hope to us who still struggle. If Paul could struggle and come out the other side, so can we.
Another aspect brought to the front in a piece by JC Ryle on contentment is the connection between that and the fact Christ will never leave us nor forsake us. It’s not just the past work we are to revel in but the current, ongoing nearness of Christ to us. His intercession on our behalf. His being in our circumstances with us. Working them all together to make us more like Him.
Paul Williams says
It’s certainly a learning process, Olivia. And I’m glad that it is. I find that most things tend to be a matter of gradual transformation in Christ. We have been sanctified in Christ, but yet we are being continually sanctified at the same time.
Thanks for bringing up that other aspect of contentment – looking at our current connection with Christ. I think it’s important to be focused on the future aspects, too. The heavenly riches we have are so much more glorious than anything we can find here on earth. And what does it matter if we have nothing here or if we suffer and die? What awaits us except eternal life with God and the glorious blessing that is?!
Thank you so much for this article. I learned so much, and was reminded yet again what we are here for: To give God the glory! It is not how much we accumulate for ourselves but how much we give to God’s purposes here on earth. I was mightily convicted that I was spending too much time in the world’s economic system and not enough in God’s heavenly kingdom. After repentance and prayer, I realized what was missing was purposeful giving. With the same effort and time I spend on my family’s budget , I am to use those same talents to further God’s mission: To feed the hungry, clothe the naked, help the poor (especially widows and orphans.) I have set up a separate account to save for these needs and am going to give 50% of our “extra ” money. Thank you again for your insight and help to spur me on to glorify God and put him first in my finances. I have bookmarked your website and will be returning for more godly counsel.
Paul Williams says
Thank you for your encouraging words, Cathy. I pray that all I do may bring glory to God and help others do the same!
Purposeful giving is a powerful way to take the focus off of ourselves and our desires and think about how we can share with others and show God’s love to them. Thanks for taking the time to comment, and I look forward to hearing from you again!
Josh Gibson says
Incredible post Paul! Very nicely written and insightful backed with scripture, please continue to writing and I love to follow up with comments, I would re post the same thing I wrote on the previous article “How much is enough”
Keep it up!
Paul Williams says
Thanks for commenting, Josh! I always try to base my writing on Scripture. I may not always quote Bible verses, but I try to base the principles on what I’ve found in the Bible.
Lillie Young says
Thank you so much for enlightening my view of contentment May God richly bless you spiritually and financially