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4 Things Contentment Is and 4 Things Contentment Is Not

Britt Mooney

Contributing Writer
Updated May 03, 2024
4 Things Contentment Is and 4 Things Contentment Is Not
Brought to you by Christianity.com

The Oxford Dictionary defines “content” as being “in a state of peaceful happiness, a state of satisfaction.” 

Most of us can remember a time when we felt peaceful happiness or satisfaction. While these moments may be temporary, we’ve had a taste of it. Interestingly enough, while Oxford uses words like peace, happiness, and satisfaction, contentment isn’t an emotion. It’s a state. 

The word “state” suggests a way of being. Emotions are temporary and fickle by nature. Contentment goes beyond a feeling. However temporary our experience of contentment might be, through Christ, we have access to eternal states of being. In God, we find peace, joy, and other elements of contentment. 

The apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:11, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Contentment doesn’t come naturally to humans. We are often ruled by our wants. However, we also long to feel this satisfaction beyond the moment. In Christ, we can learn, like Paul did, to operate and stay in a state of contentment. 

Here are 4 things contentment is and 4 things contentment is not.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/ChrisHackett

Grateful man with hand on his heart sitting at his desk in front of a computer.

1. Contentment Is Gratitude

At the root, contentment recognizes and appreciates God’s blessings and provision in our lives. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, the apostle Paul tells us, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” God, who alone is good, seeks for us to be thankful for our good and his glory. We must cultivate a spirit of gratitude regardless of circumstances.  

Gratitude isn’t passive; it involves actively acknowledging and expressing thankfulness for the abundance of blessings, both big and small, that God has bestowed upon us. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds, so we focus on what we have rather than what we lack and find joy and fulfillment in God’s provision.

When we cultivate gratitude, we develop a deeper sense of contentment with our lives, recognizing that God is the ultimate source of all good things. Gratitude in contentment leads to a transformation of attitude and perspective, enabling us to find joy and fulfillment in every circumstance. Instead of allowing adversity or challenges to dampen our spirits, gratitude empowers us to see God’s hand at work even in the midst of trials, trusting in his faithfulness and provision. 

Thankfulness draws us closer to God, deepening our relationship with him as we acknowledge His goodness, faithfulness, and love in our lives. It transforms our hearts, minds, and outlook on life, leading to a life characterized by genuine joy, peace, and contentment.

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2. Contentment Is Peace

2. Contentment Is Peace

As the Oxford dictionary states, contentment expresses peace, God’s peace, a profound inner tranquility transcending circumstances, and trusting in God’s provision and sovereignty. In Philippians 4:7, the Apostle Paul writes, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” As the world’s corruption buffets us, we possess peace from the deep relationship with Christ, surpassing our ability to comprehend. 

The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, which goes far beyond a simple lack of conflict or temporary circumstances. Shalom encompasses holistic and complete spiritual, emotional, physical, and relational well-being. This state of completeness and wholeness comes from being in a right and reconciled relationship with God, which we have through Christ. When used as a greeting, shalom conveys wishes for the fullness of God’s peace to others. 

God’s peace exists eternally from his person. He is the Prince of Peace. Therefore, we can enjoy shalom regardless of external challenges or uncertainties. Peace rests in faith, where worries and anxieties are surrendered to God’s will and care, knowing he is good. This peace frees us from the restless pursuit of worldly ambitions and desires, and being free guards our hearts and minds from the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. 

This peace of God provides a sense of security and stability, no matter life’s storms, and allows us to live in the moment, empowering us to let go of the need for control so we can surrender to God’s perfect timing and plans. 

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man outside nature eyes closed smiling happy content

3. Contentment Is Satisfaction

In Psalm 23:1, King David writes, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” This verse encapsulates the essence of contentment in God. The active choice to trust in the guidance and provision of the divine shepherd leads to a profound sense of satisfaction.

Through a relationship with God, we find fulfillment in his promises and presence. Through seeking him, we recognize he alone satisfies the deepest longings of the heart. Just as a shepherd tends to his flock, God cares for his people, ensuring that they lack nothing essential.

As with thankfulness, this satisfaction isn’t passive. It requires an active surrender to his will and a steadfast faith in his goodness. It is a conscious decision to find joy in his presence regardless of circumstances. When we prioritize their relationship with God above all else, they experience a sense of completeness that transcends earthly desires. They find peace in knowing that their needs are met according to His abundant grace.

Finding our satisfaction in God empowers us to live with gratitude and generosity. Instead of constantly striving for more, we are satisfied with what we have and freely share our blessings with others. In this way, satisfaction and contentment become a testament to God’s faithfulness and provision, shining as a beacon of hope in a world filled with discontentment, lack, and unmet desires.

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woman with arms raised with clouds behind, where the spirit of the lord is there is freedom

4. Contentment Is Freedom

Contentment sets us free, a liberation from the bondage of materialism and comparison, found in the sufficiency of God’s grace and provision. In Galatians 5:1, the apostle Paul proclaims, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” We have this freedom in Christ alone, not only from sin but also from the bondage of worldly desires and expectations.

Freedom releases us from the constant pursuit of external validation and the pressure to conform to societal standards of success and happiness. It is a state of being secure in one’s identity and worth in Christ, not our own abilities or achievements, unaffected by the fleeting pleasures and pressures of the world. Contentment liberates us from consumerism, finding true satisfaction in the presence of God. It involves a deliberate choice to live with simplicity and trust in God’s provision rather than seeking wealth or possessions. 

With our contentment in Christ, we live authentically with others, not operating transactionally with people for what we can get out of them or what they can do for us. We simply embrace who God created us to be and give generously to others in every way. Contentment stems from knowing our eternal resources in the Kingdom, so we are free to be charitable in every situation. 

Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Mohamed Nohassi

Lazy woman laying on a sofa

5. Contentment Is Not Complacency

Contentment should not be confused with complacency, as it is not synonymous with stagnation or apathy. Contentment does not mean being idle or indifferent but rather finding peace and satisfaction in God’s provision, regardless of external circumstances. 

God isn’t complacent. The Father is always working (John 5:17); if we follow him, we should also be active. Jesus teaches us to seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. These activities lay at the heart of finding contentment—not in doing nothing but in doing what matters most for the eternal. 

Complacency tempts us with self-satisfaction and stagnation, stifling growth and progress. God desires for us to grow in faith, grace, and love, but our complacency settles for the status quo, resisting change or improvement. This leads to missed opportunities to seek the Kingdom and spiritual growth. 

When complacent, we also become neglectful, lacking preparedness for unexpected obstacles or downturns. Complacency fosters a sense of entitlement rather than recognizing God's blessings, which leads to humility and thankfulness, leading to actual contentment. Entitlement makes us arrogant and judgmental of others. 

Contentment involves a proactive acceptance of our circumstances while still striving for growth and improvement. It is a recognition that true fulfillment and joy come from aligning our desires with God’s will. 

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shrug shrugging sin sins carefree careless

6. Contentment Is Not Passivity

Passivity sits at the heart of complacency, connected to one another. People are naturally lazy. Or, out of fear, we can overwork ourselves for approval or a sense of security. Contentment shouldn’t be misunderstood as passivity. 

In our flesh, our sinful human nature, we work in our own strength and for the wrong reasons. This leads to legalism or hopelessness, both dangerous since our ability can never lead us to security or true peace. Contentment is active, yet in Christ, we act from the right source. Instead of working to get peace, we act from peace and contentment. In Philippians 4:13, the Apostle Paul asserts, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Our activity and strength only come from the person of God. From the foundation of Christ, we actively engage with the world’s challenges and opportunities rather than accepting circumstances. 

Looking at Christ, he didn’t passively allow people to bind him and take him to the cross. He willingly submitted to the Father’s will for the joy set before him. Jesus said no one took his life from him. He laid it down out of active obedience to his Father (John 10:18). In addition, Jesus was content in his Father, but the apostle John also talked about how, if he were to write down everything Jesus did and said, the world couldn’t contain the books (John 21:25). 

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young woman in room by herself in dark looking at phone

7. Contentment Is Not Comparison

Comparison robs us of our contentment, so we shouldn’t confuse the two. Contentment doesn’t derive its strength from measuring ourselves against others or worldly standards. In 2 Corinthians 10:12, Paul admonishes, 

“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” 

In Christ, our source is from heaven, not the earth. We find contentment in our identity and relationship with God. 

Comparison breeds diminishes self-worth. Constantly measuring ourselves against others sets up an unattainable standard, fostering feelings of inadequacy and jealousy. This often distorts reality, as we tend to showcase our best moments while hiding struggles and imperfections. The deception of comparison hampers genuine connections with others and collaboration. Instead of celebrating another’s unique strengths and contributions, we become competitive and condemning, hindering meaningful relationships. Since we reject God’s values and standards, comparison also distances us from intimacy with God, which brings true satisfaction. 

In the Parable of the Talents, the servant with one talent possessed a treasure of wealth, at least tens of thousands of dollars, if not far more. However, since others had more talents, the servant with one hid his and lost the opportunity to receive a reward for investing his resources wisely. 

Ultimately, comparison robs us of joy and fulfillment in our own journey by constantly measuring against external benchmarks. 

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Materialistic

8. Contentment Is Not Materialism

Contentment is not anchored in material possessions or worldly wealth; it transcends external circumstances and finds its foundation in a deeper spiritual reality. In Hebrews 13:5, it is written, “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.’” This verse expresses the futility of seeking contentment in material wealth and emphasizes the enduring presence and provision of God as the true source of satisfaction.

Materialism has us prioritize acquiring possessions over meaningful experiences or relationships. This obsession leads to financial strain and great debt. Consumerism contributes to environmental harm as our demand for goods drives unsustainable production. The pursuit of possessions as a source of fulfillment often leaves us feeling empty and unsatisfied, leading to a never-ending cycle of desire and disappointment. Holding onto our material wealth results in a lack of generosity and charity, ultimately rejecting the Gospel as we saw with the Rich Young Ruler and Jesus. 

Consumerism undermines social cohesion and empathy. People prioritize self-interest and competition over community and cooperation, leading to increased inequality as we focus on status symbols rather than shared humanity and the Gospel. 

Being made in God's image, we are eternal beings, and as such, we can only be satisfied with the Father's eternal person and the Kingdom of God's eternal realm. 

What a gift! Through and in Christ, we’ve been given the peace, the love, the treasures we could never earn. As we are thankful for these eternal gifts that transcend anything the world can provide, we find the contentment and shalom we long for. 

As we live in this state of contentment, others in a hopeless world will be curious and attracted to it, allowing us to express the hope we have within us. Let us first actively rest in the contentment available in God and generously give from God’s wealth to others around us. 

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This article originally appeared on Christianity.com. For more faith-building resources, visit Christianity.com. Christianity.com

Britt MooneyBritt Mooney lives and tells great stories. As an author of fiction and non -iction, he is passionate about teaching ministries and nonprofits the power of storytelling to inspire and spread truth. Mooney has a podcast called Kingdom Over Coffee and is a published author of We Were Reborn for This: The Jesus Model for Living Heaven on Earth as well as Say Yes: How God-Sized Dreams Take Flight.

Originally published Tuesday, 16 April 2024.