A reader recently inquired of me:
“I am a Christian businessman who enjoys working hard. At times I struggle with the idea of contentment because it seems like laziness. What’s the difference between contentment and laziness?”
Contentment & Work Ethic
A clear distinction can be made between genuine contentment, as prescribed in the Bible, and laziness which is denounced in God’s Word. We can be content and not be lazy.
The Amish are a great modern day example of content people who have a diligent work ethic. It would be hard to accuse the Amish of being discontented from a materialistic standpoint and just as difficult to label them as lazy. In fact, quite the opposite seems true!
Now I am not trying to persuade you to go Amish, my friend! What I am saying is that learning to be content in life does not mean you have to become a lazy bumpkin.To be #content in life does not mean you have to become a #lazy bumpkin. Click To Tweet
In fact, the Apostle Paul who penned the words, “I have learned to be content” (Philippians 4:11) also said, “I work harder than any of them”. (1 Corinthians 15:10) Paul did not find being content in conflict with a hard work ethic.
Contentment & Forward Progress
Being content does not preclude a person from seeking to advance and to work hard to get there. Contentment is not resignation to a life of mediocrity or abject poverty. Contentment also does not mean we need to give up on a bigger dream or vision. Herein lies a great tension between contentment and desire. How can you learn to be content, even when your heart longs for something more, bigger or better in life?
I believe the answer is found in one word – gratitude. A truly content person knows how to give thanks for what they have in spite of what they lack. (1 Thessalonians 5:18) A person who is content has learned to live by the grace of God in their current status in life and to walk in peace even if he or she desires better circumstances. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
It should be noted that at times, the wrong type of contentment can lead to spiritual or moral passivity. If we become content or cold to the injustices of this world, we have chosen the wrong type of contentment! Martin Luther King Jr. said in his “I Have A Dream” speech:
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
Too often we become content with the wrong things in life – like the fact that children go to bed hungry and millions of people die each year from water related diseases. Yet, we are discontent because we do not have the material status or possessions of our neighbors.
Paul told Timothy, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6) In other words, learning to be content with our material possessions should never stop us from pursuing spiritual excellence (godliness). Being diligent and hard working are sound Bible supported values that constitute godliness just as much as any other spiritual virtue. So continue to work hard at whatever work the Lord has put before you. (Colossians 3:23-24) At the end of the day and week, learn to sit back, rest and give thanks for what you have and what the Lord has provided. (Hebrews 4:9)
I think the deeper question we all need to ask ourselves when it comes to balancing work and learning contentment is this, “What is motivating me?” At times, we are driven to work hard to provide for a better living for our family or just to meet their basic needs. “The appetite of laborers works for them; their hunger drives them on.” (Proverbs 16:26)
Other times, we are driven to work hard just to get rich. “Do not overwork to be rich; Because of your own understanding, cease! Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; They fly away like an eagle toward heaven.” (Proverbs 23:4-5)
The former motive is honorable, the latter is ungodly. Bring your heart before the Lord and ask him to show you the deeper motives behind your work and to make your heart pure before him. Here is a Scripture that you can pray:
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
How about you? Do you ever struggle with contentment in life?
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Have a question about life and faith? Ask Pierre!