What we learn here is that true contentment is found in knowing the character of God and His history of faithfulness and in trusting in His sovereign wisdom and goodness to provide. Far from the stoic idea of passive resignation to our fate, godly contentment is positive assurance, joy, and gratitude that God personally watches over us and supplies all our needs. True contentment means being satisfied in Him, trusting His faithfulness, and holding on to the truth that nothing here on earth compares to the inheritance that awaits eternity. True contentment is freely submitting to and delighting in God’s fatherly provision for us, whatever that might be.
The disposition of contentment toward our neighbor is a bit more complicated. It’s ironic that this commandment speaks specifically about our neighbor, and yet it’s the only commandment that our neighbors cannot see. Even if we live simple lives, covetousness can still be present, or our lifestyle can be seen as just a personal preference. After all, there is a certain pride and status nowadays in purposely having less. Minimalism as a means of individual betterment and peace is a common expression of moralism and false religion. In contrast to this, godly contentment consists in genuine joy at the prosperity of our neighbor, an eagerness to give to those in need, and living lives that testify to the presence and lordship of Christ over our situation and possessions. Our call is not simply to be content with less but to be discontent when our neighbor does not have enough—so much so that we’re willing to give from our provisions to meet their needs. This is how contentment consists in much more than just living below our means.
How, then, can we escape the pull depicted in Barnum of “never enough” and live as salt and light in a world that is never satisfied? The answer is found not in a lack of desire but in the fervent desire for the right things. As Augustine famously prayed, “Our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.” Only Christ can satisfy our hunger and quench our thirst (John 6:35). This is because He first humbled Himself under the Father’s will and then conquered through His perfect life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection. Christ obeyed all and won it all, including heaven itself, which He freely gives to us by grace, received by faith alone. Living, then, with the awareness that He gave Himself for us, that He is present and will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5), we learn and model contentment through His continual strengthening of us (Phil. 4:12–13) until that last day when we will inherit it all in Him. Contentment, then, is not simply to desire less but to earnestly desire that which can never be taken away.
At the Lord’s Table, I’ve sometimes found myself wanting a little more than a small piece of bread and a tiny cup. But in such times, I’m reminded that the sacred meal is but a foretaste of the ultimate meal to come. Even though it’s a meager portion, it’s what God has chosen to give us as a gift. And since we have the promise of His presence when we partake, that presence is always more than enough.