Content

CONTENT (יָאַל, H3283, to be pleased; ἀρκέω, G758, to regard as sufficient). CONTENTMENT (αὐτάρκεια, G894, a sufficiency; hence—subjectively—satisfaction with one’s lot).

Contentment, or the state of being content, is enjoined by the Scriptures upon believers (Luke 3:14; Heb 13:5), is intimately associated with Godliness (1 Tim 6:6), and is a marked feature of Pauline spirituality (Phil 4:11; 1 Tim 6:8).

In Christian perspective, to be content is not to be indifferent to the lot of the neighbor who is oppressed and unjustly treated. It is not to acquiesce in public Evil or to tolerate wrongs committed by men upon their fellows. It is not to rid oneself of discontent with Sin, or to be without a deep and dynamic concern for social righteousness.

Having nothing to do with social insensitivity, complacency, or inertia, Christian contentment has everything to do with Christian self-acceptance. The contentment of which the Bible speaks is essentially inner directed, and is centrally an acceptance of God’s ministrations as these affect one’s station and task in life, and also one’s resources. It is thus a settled disposition to regard God’s gifts as sufficient, and his assignments as appropriate. It is, in short, an acceptance of one’s lot in life.

But this “lot in life” must be dynamically conceived. Because our lot in life is related to the living God who in His dealings with men always is propulsive, and because men energized by God are always on the move toward better things, Christian contentment is not a resting in the status quo. It is not, as is the spurious “contentment” of the Buddhist, the result of suppressing all desire; nor is it a stoic apathy rooted in supine resignation to an impersonal and unalterable fate. It does not exclude aspiration and a concern for improvement.

Christian contentment is neither acquiescence in or collusion with remediable evil nor satisfaction with the second rate. It is rather that state of mind and heart which arises out of the grace-induced awareness that underneath our lives are the everlasting arms of the heavenly Father who cares for us and who, if we but obey, will show us every good. Supporting this contentment is a firm belief in a wise and loving Providence, a deep-seated willingness to be made serviceable in any way that God chooses to the ends of His kingdom, and an unquenchable assurance that God has in store for His own a fullness of life to which the sufferings of this present life are not worthy to be compared.

Contentment is opposed to petulance, self-rejection, despair, and panic on the one hand, and vaulting ambition on the other. It excludes envy (James 3:16), avarice (Heb 13:5; 1 Tim 6:8), and repinings (1 Cor 10:10). It is a glad, trustful, repose in God and a humble participation in His purposes and dealings.

Additional Material

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

kon-tent’, kon-tent’-ment (ya`al; arkeo): To be free from care because of satisfaction with what is already one’s own. The Hebrew means simply "to be pleased." The Greek brings out the full force of the word in 1Ti 6:8; Heb 13:5. Contentment (1Ti 6:6) is more inward than satisfaction; the former is a habit or permanent state of mind, the latter has to do with some particular occurrence or object.