What is the cure for discontentment? God addresses this in 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19.
The central problem with discontentment is that it is self-centered and involves the sin of coveting. Coveting doesn't start with money or other things; it starts in the heart. The problem is "the love of money" (vs. 10). It's the "desire to be rich" (vs. 9). Coveting starts with a heart that seeks satisfaction in things, rather than in God.
Coveting spawns other sins. "But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare" (vs. 9). It compromises character, breaks down integrity, and gives rise to other sorts of sin. "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils" (vs. 10). Coveting leads "into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction" (vs. 9). "It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs" (vs. 10).
In contrast, contentment marks the God-centered person. "Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment" (vs. 6). The word contentment literally means "soul-sufficiency."
The apostle Paul experienced this soul-sufficiency: "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.... I have learned the secret of facing ... abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:11-13).
Job had the same experience: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21).
When we walk humbly with our God, we become soul-sufficient. Then, even the bare necessities of life can satisfy us. "For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content" (1 Tim. 6:7-8).
How will our contentment look in practice? First we'll be humble. "As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty" (vs. 17). Instead of allowing our possessions to puff us up, we'll recognize that God has entrusted them to us for his glory and for the good of ourselves and others.
Second, then, we'll be generous. "They are to do good, ... to be generous and ready to share" (vs. 18).
Third, we'll be confident. We won't "set [our] hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy" (vs. 17). We are "storing up treasure for [our]selves as a good foundation for the future, so that [we] may take hold of that which is truly life" (vs. 19).
The secret of contentment, then, is our Lord Jesus Christ. As sinners, we seek satisfaction in things rather than in the living God. But we can find true contentment only when we value the living God himself as our all in all: "Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Ps. 73:25-26).
It has rightly been said that everyone has a God-shaped vacuum in his heart. Only God can fill that void.
The true cure for discontentmentand the not-so-secret secret of contentmentis the grace of God in Christ. Confess your discontentment as sinful covetousness and idolatry, and cast yourself upon the Lord Jesus for forgiveness and cleansing. As you cling to and follow him, you will discover that he will turn you from frustrating, destructive self-centeredness to satisfying, productive God-centeredness. May God enable us to rest in Jesus Christ and experience daily growth in dying to sin and walking in godliness with contentment.
The author is pastor of Christ Covenant OPC in Indianapolis, Ind. Reprinted from New Horizons, November 2006.