One of the great mysteries of Christianity is contentment. At least one must presume it is a mystery, because so few people live it. Yet contentment is not something that's found; it is an attitude.
There are many people who seemingly have little or no regard for material possessions. They accept poverty as a normal living condition, and their major concern is where they will sleep that night or eat that day. In contrast are the affluent, who have the best our society has to offer at their disposal. Their houses, summer cottages, winter chalets, and automobiles are the envy of the community. Does either scenario bring contentment? No!
If money can't buy contentment and poverty doesn't provide it, what is contentment and how is it attained? Contentment, contrary to popular opinion, does not mean being satisfied where you are. Rather, it is knowing God's plan for your life, having a conviction to live it, and believing that God's peace is greater than the world's problems.
So often Christians get so involved in the day-to-day activities of earning a living and raising a family that they forget their real purpose in life: to serve God. They discover that their lives are out of balance and don't know how to bring them back into balance. So, they buy more things or get rid of things in order to bring back the balance. However, nothing seems to work.
Christians get trapped into a discontented life by adopting worldly goals: more, bigger, and best. The Bible identifies these as indulgence, greed, and pride. For a while after accepting Christ as Savior, there is a peace and a real willingness and desire to commit everything to God. After a while there is a tendency to fall back into the same old routine of desiring and getting more, rationalizing that somehow it is "serving the Lord." The evidence to the contrary is a lack of peace, a lack of spiritual growth, and a growing doubt about God's ability to provide.
In today's society it's not normal to step down. Once a certain level of income, spending, and lifestyle is attained, most will go into debt in order to maintain that level. Stepping down to an affordable level is considered failure. Yet, contentment can't be achieved without personal discipline and staying within the lifestyle parameters God has established, based on His provision (Luke 12:15; 16:13-14).
In poverty, the issue is usually black and white—you either have it or you don't. In affluence, the deception is much more subtle, because anxieties and worries are not usually related to the lack of things but rather the loss of things. In essence, most affluent Christians fear they might lose the material things they have acquired. Unless they are so detached from the goods that they must be willing to lose them they won't find real contentment. That does not necessarily mean that they have to surrender all of their material possessions. It means being willing to do so.
Although many Scriptures teach about the dangers of material riches, God's Word does not teach that poverty is God's alternative. God wants us to understand that money is a tool to use in accomplishing His plan through us. If we are to find true contentment we must establish some basic guidelines.
Contentment is so far removed from many Christians that it seems that they will never be able to find it or be at peace. However, contentment is not something that must be searched for and found. It is an attitude of the heart. Once the attitude has been modified and all has been transferred to God, contentment will be evident.