From Covetousness to Content
Are you content with how your life has turned out? Are you happy with the career path, spouse, or home you have chosen? Are you enjoying this stage of your life for the blessings you have? Or do you look to the past, yearning to recapture your youth or wishing you could have prevented your mistakes?
Most everyone experiences discontentment on occasion—that wistful wishing that life was different. Unfortunately discontentment often leads to sin as we begin to crave something that does not belong to us, and we become dominated by covetousness and greed and envy. Covetousness says, "If only I were him or her, and had his or her career, spouse, and lifestyle, then I would finally be happy. If only, if only, if only…" But these desires only lead to self-pity and misery.
Our culture encourages the accumulation of material wealth as the answer to our misery. But Jesus tells us the opposite: "Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions'" (Luke 12:15). If our self-value is based on our title, net worth or zip code, then we never find contentment. There will always be something better than what we have—something newer and nicer. There will always be someone who is more successful and attractive and smarter than us.
Read Psalm 73. The psalmist fell into this danger of comparing himself to others. He succumbed to envy and self-pity. He began to doubt his godly lifestyle. "For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.…This is what the wicked are like—always carefree, they increase in wealth. Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning" (Psalm 73:3, 4, 12-14).
As he began to see his circumstances from the eternal viewpoint of God, his outlook improved. "When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny....Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds" (Psalm 73:16, 17, 27, 28)
Not all discontentment is bad. Sometimes discontentment can motivate positive, godly change in our lives. Discontentment can be the warning sign that we need to make changes in our walk with God—and that can lead to contentment. When we are contented in life, we can face whatever roadblocks and detours we find. Instead of grumbling about our circumstances, we can look for the opportunities to trust God in new ways and bring glory to Him. We can use our valleys to remind us that only God can fill the emptiness in our lives.
Paul discovered this secret and was able to say, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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. I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:11-13).
Only Jesus can move us from covetousness to contentment. If you are finding yourself discontent with your circumstances, spend time in prayer today asking the Spirit to show you the sources of your discontent. Pray for God to show you how He views your circumstances and how He wants you to respond to them.
"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'" -Hebrews 13:5
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