The Secret of Being Content

No matter how much you have or how much you need, abundance and lack aren’t matters of the pocketbook. They’re matters of the heart.

In today’s world we can count almost anything, and we love to use numbers to keep score of how we’re doing (and how other people are doing compared to us). All too often, money is our primary point system. But while it’s important for us to keep a good accounting of our finances, accounting is only useful for tracking things that can be, well, counted. And the most important things in life are heart conditions and attitudes that can’t be counted at all.

As Christians living in a highly materialistic world, we must constantly be on our guards to ensure that money does not make slaves of us and rob us of God’s destiny for our lives. There are many things that we can do to guard our hearts, but today we’re going to examine one of the most powerful: The secret of being content.

This secret comes straight out of Scripture, Phil. 4:11-13, to be specific. In this passage, the apostle Paul is thanking the Philippians for sending gifts to help him with the financial needs of his ministry. And though the gifts have been helpful to him, Paul is not dependent on money to make him happy. Let’s look at what he says about need, lack and contentment:

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 all this through him who gives me strength.

It may seem simplistic, but the point that Paul is making here is really profound. As a man who has experienced both wealth and poverty, Paul has discovered a secret that transcends money and circumstances. He has learned the secret of being content.

Let’s break this down a little bit. Compare Paul’s position to circumstances that you have encountered in your own life. Say you get a big bonus at work, or find a wad of $20 bils in the pocket of a coat that you haven’t worn since last winter. You’re most likely going to be happy with your windfall; if the amount is big enough, your happiness may border on jubilation. Now, reverse the situation: You’ve just been hit with a huge, unexpected expense that will wipe out all of your savings. You probably feel angry, frustrated or discouraged, and that’s normal. Wealth and financial gain can give us feelings of euphoria, while poverty and loss make us feel terrible.

If you’re like most people, it’s easy to experience life through the ups and downs of these emotions. In times of plenty, you will feel like you’re doing great; in times of lack, you will despair, feeling that the weight of the world is on your shoulders. But even though this is normal, it’s a pretty rotten way to live. When the quality of your life and the attitude of your heart are determined by the amount of finances that you do or don’t have, you’re a slave to money.

Now, Paul is not all that different from you or me. He’s had a lot of experiences in his life, and at the time he wrote this letter, he had seen more difficulty than most of us will ever experience in a lifetime. And yet unlike us, Paul’s mood and outlook on life aren’t defined by his financial circumstances. Why? Because he’s discovered a secret: Whether you have a lot or a little, contentment does more for your quality of life than money ever could.

How does the secret of being content work? It comes down to this: Money will try to control your heart and mood by controlling your circumstances. But our hearts aren’t meant to be controlled by money — they’re meant to be filled with the joy of the Lord. Those of us who look to wealth to satisfy us have got the equation all wrong. If you count on wealth for satisfaction, then your entire life’s experience will be an unfulfilling series of peaks and valleys. But if you look to the Lord for your satisfaction, there’s nothing that money can do to change your heart.

I’ll admit that contentment is easier to talk about than it is to practice. But Paul also shares the key to practicing a lifestyle of contentment. It’s not something that he could do alone in his own flesh. Rather, he says, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Paul’s contentment didn’t come from his circumstances, but in spite of his circumstances. True contentment can only be found in a heart that is full of God’s love and a will that is relying on God’s strength. Money comes and goes in life, but those things never do. Learn to let God fill your heart, and you’ll begin to walk in contentment too.


Photo by Kaylan Chakravarthy. Used under Creative Commons License.


  1. […] slavery is a problem that starts in your heart, not your pocketbook. And the key to breaking free from that slavery is to change the attitude of […]

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