Is financial contentment really possible in today’s society? A society where we are constantly bombarded with limitless options?A society where we are constantly told we will never be happy unless we have the latest innovation, the newest technology, the biggest-screen TV?
Before we consider those questions, let’s define the term. Contentment is being satisfied with one’s circumstances, not complaining, not craving something else, and having a mind at peace. I was teaching about contentment in a training session of financial advisors. One of the participants quoted to me what he remembered from David Jeremiah’s (pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in San Diego, California) definition of contentment. I like what I heard. He said that it has three aspects: looking back without regret, looking at the present without envy, and looking to the future without fear.
I am convinced that this definition of contentment has nothing to do with money. A person may have a lot of money or a little money and still miss the whole point of contentment. We can complain whether we have a little or a lot. We can be covetous just as easily with a lot of money as with a little. We can have regret, envy, and fear.
Wise King Solomon writes, “Whoever loves money never has money enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 5:10). Contentment has nothing to do with money. It’s a learned response. The apostle Paul states this very clearly: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for 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” (Philippians 4:11-12).
The secret to which Paul alludes is the result of learning to think correctly about money and God. Contentment is learning to see money as God sees it, and nothing more. Money is a vehicle for providing for our needs and those of others, and funding can help advance God’s Kingdom. Contentment also results from learning to see God for who He is. He is the bedrock of our contentment.
I like what Major Ian Thomas, founder and director of the Torchbearers ministry, says: “All you need is what you have; what you have is what He is; you cannot have more; and you do not need to have less.”1
Only when I realize that the Creator God of the universe loves me and has my best interests at heart can I be content. Only when I realize He is sovereign and providentially in control of my earthly lot (my vocation and income) can I truly be content. Only when I learn to trust Him can I have contentment.
Contentment really is a spiritual issue; it’s not an amount-of-money issue. God is always there and never changes. He is consistent and stable. You can trust Him. But can you say the same about money? Proverbs 23:4-5 speaks to this when it says, “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” How content can I be in something that flies away?
No financial principle can have a greater impact on you or free you up more than this truth: Money is not the key to contentment! Contentment has everything to do with your relationship with God and nothing to do with your money. Once you are free from the love of money and the pursuit of it, you can have a lot or a little and be content all the same. At that point you have learned the secret to contentment. It’s not just the families struggling to make ends meet who wrestle with this. Many families with high incomes struggle with contentment as well.