But 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. (1 Timothy 6:6-8)
Years ago I managed to convince myself that I needed an iPad. When it was first released it looked to me like a big iPod and I couldn't imagine why anyone would need it. However, before long, Apple's advertising had me hooked. (When it comes to the sin of covetousness, I confess that I'm most vulnerable when it comes to technology.)
So I bought myself an iPad 1 - not that anyone called it that. It was simply an iPad,
I was very content with my purchase... for about a year.
The day that iPad 2 was released was the day I lost my contentment. iPad 2 was thinner and faster and had more "features" and the temptation to covet began all over again.
I'm glad I resisted for a few more years until such time as the operating system and updated apps made my iPad obsolete, but there was a lesson there for me about learning to be content with what I had.
Is anyone like me? What are the possessions that rob you of your contentment? Technology, music, clothes? What does advertising convince you that you need in order to feel "content" and how long does that contentment last until you find yourself coveting the next thing?
The name we use for this dynamic is consumerism and it seems from these verses in 1 Timothy 6, that the problem of consumerism is not new. The objects of our consumerist desire may look different but the same dynamic is at work.
We're not satisfied with what we have and we're convinced that if only we had this or that, or could experience this or that, then we'd be content. Of course, it's a lie.
Paul points out that we start life with nothing and we leave life with nothing. True contentment is found in appreciating those things that simply sustain us for the journey, namely food and clothing.
God in his goodness however, gives us so much more and we can be grateful for what we have and enjoy what we have, as long as we avoid the trap of thinking that we need it in order to be content.
This desire for "more" is not just material. You might experience it as you seek to serve God in whatever ministry He has called you to. The temptation is to think, "If only I had more people coming to the ministry!" "If only people were better behaved, more appreciative or more spiritual!" Or "If only people appreciated me more or esteemed me more!"
All of these thoughts rob us of contentment.
So if, in the material sense, I'm to be content with food and clothing, what should make me content in the spiritual realm of ministry?
Only one thing: knowing that I've been faithful in serving God. In other words, I've done my best and sought to bring glory to Him as I've led.
Making this your goal is part of what Paul calls "godliness". It will mean that you're content, even when you don't get the results you'd hoped for or people don't appreciate what you are doing.
When your contentment in leading is found in this alone you'll save yourself a good deal of discontent and disappointment and will not fall into the trap of comparing yourself with other leaders and becoming envious of their success or insecure in your own success.
In what areas of life do you struggle to be content with what you have? What do you think God would say to you?
What makes you feel content when serving God. It is found in being faithful to Him? Or something else?