The difference between contentment, complacency, and complaining

I was talking with a friend the other day, and the notion of contentment entered the conversation. As he was saying, "I want to be content with what I have," I was thinking, "Me too, although 'contentment' can be a cover for complacency."

Gathering manna and liking it
Let me explain. Someone might decide not to work too hard at bettering themselves physically, vocationally, spiritually, and so on. It's like the guy who finally lands a spouse and then lets himself go. He thinks, "I am good now. I will just be content with this. I don't have to work on myself anymore." Or like the person who starts a relationship with God and then essentially does the same thing. "Me and Jesus are good. I am content with my spiritual life. I don't need to work on this too much." That is false contentment. It is another word for complacency. And Jesus was absolutely opposed to complacency.

It occurred to me today that true contentment is an act of worship. It is saying to God, "I am thankful for what you have provided me." This job. This house. This spouse (or lack thereof). This car. These friends. This city. This body. And so on.

I thought about this as I was reading the story of the Israelites in the wilderness in Numbers 11. God miraculously gives them manna, and they soon start complaining because they have no meat to eat. How I can relate to that! So God sends them quail to eat. But he's very upset. They are discontent with food, but really they are discontent with God. They don't believe he is good enough. This leads to God disciplining them.

Contentment is receiving all things from God as gift and being grateful that we have anything at all.
Contentment is telling him that what he provides is enough.


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