It is interesting to read verses 11 and 12: “Not that I say this because of need, for I have learned, in whatever situation I find myself, to be self-sufficient. I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need.”
Note that in Verse 11 of this example of stewardship in the Bible, St. Paul writes to the church at Philippi that he learned to be content. This is St. Paul, one of the most prolific Scripture authors, a true apostle who worked tirelessly in the Lord’s vineyards, who had a personal encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, and who was martyred for his faith. And this great Christian leader had to learn the virtue of contentment.
Think about it–St. Paul had no advertising, no internet, no TV, no radio, no magazines, and no billboards, yet he had to learn to be content. How much harder is it for modern-day Catholics to learn how to be content? A stream of media urges us to want more, bigger and better. The constant advertising we have thrust at us fosters discontent. It isn’t enough that we have food, clothing and shelter. We need designer clothes, restaurant meals, the newest car and a large house, plus high-speed Internet, a flat screen TV, exotic vacations and anything else our plastic money can buy. The American dream is one of constant achievement and accumulation. Nothing in modern American society encourages us to be content.
In the Bible, contentment is mentioned seven times and six of those times are related to money. Biblical contentment is a deep sense of calm knowing that God is in control of all circumstances.
It is recognizing what God requires of us as stewards and managing our resources according to his requirements, not the world’s standards.
Being content is not laziness, complacency, apathy or a “woe is me” attitude, accepting whatever the world throws at us. True biblical contentment is an inner harmony that accepts our present state and looks for the wisdom, discernment and wherewithal to change our circumstances if and how God wills it.
Contentment is understanding that whether we are on the mountain top or in the valley of our spiritual life, there are pilgrims who share our journey and who can walk beside us. These people share our joy when we are joyful and bear our burdens when we cannot find joy anywhere.
Contentment does not worry about the future or second-guess the past. It allows us to have peace of mind about our current circumstances and realize that in any situation, there are experiences we learn from even though they may not be fun.
Contentment is recognizing that the things of this world are temporary, and the only reality of our faith walk is the journey taking us toward heaven and our savior Jesus Christ.
Like St. Paul, we can also do all things through him who strengthens us. We can even learn to be content.