Who Defines “Contentment”?

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S (Scripture): Philippians 4:10 [Paul writes] I was very glad in the Lord because now at last you have shown concern for me again. (Of course you were always concerned but had no way to show it.) 11 I’m not saying this because I need anything, for I have learned how to be content in any circumstance. 12 I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor. 13 I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength.

O (Observation): Paul is wrapping up his letter to the church in Philippi. He knows that his fellow Jesus-followers in Philippi have supported him all along, but he must have been able to receive some concrete form of support from them. He mentions "you have shown concern for me again…". He knows they have cared for him all along, but seeing a gift is like icing on the cake.

But in any case, Paul is content. He is happy whether or not he receive tangible evidence of support, because he has discovered something even more powerful and effective: endurance through the power of Jesus.

Paul has had plenty and has had little. In both cases, he was content. This is the Gospel strength: in much or in want, he can be content, with strength to endure though Jesus.

A (Application): When was the last time you were truly content?

Being content is difficult in our consumerist society. You are constantly reminded of what you don't have. For Paul, he had times when he had very little; he had times when he didn't even have his freedom (imprisoned).

Paul was gifted with strength to endure times of want…and to find contentment even with very little in hand. He found his strength in Jesus.

With strength through Jesus to become content, what does this do for us? Being content allows us to focus less on ourselves, and opens us to care for others. Unfortunately, this looks like foolishness to the world. So not only do we have to contend with personal struggles of denying ourselves, the world is also on our back, demanding that we look out for me, myself, and I…first and foremost.

The only thing to counter these struggles (which Jesus has already overcome) is to lean on Jesus' strength.

I suggest we learn about others needs, in the meantime. Especially listening to those who are NOT like us. (For me, "us" means white, male, Protestant.)

I have a lot to learn about those around me. My understanding of contentment may have to be different than the understanding of contentment to the homeless community, the black community, the Hispanic community, the gay and lesbian community, the atheist community.

I wonder if there is a difference.

I won't know…until I listen.

P (Prayer): Lord, help me to listen. Amen.


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