by J.C. Ryle
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,“Never will I leave you;never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
Let us first examine the precept which Paul gives us, “Be content with what you have.”
These words are very simple. A little child might easily understand them. They contain no high doctrine; they involve no deep metaphysical question; and yet, as simple as they are–the duty which these words enjoin on us, is one of the highest practical importance to all Christians.
Contentment is one of the rarest graces. Like all precious things, it is most uncommon. The old Puritan divine, who wrote a book about it, did well to call his book “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.” An Athenian philosopher is said to have gone into the market-place at midday with a lantern, in order to find out an honest man. I think he would have found it equally difficult to find one quite contented.
The fallen angels had heaven itself to dwell in, before they fell, and the immediate presence and favor of God–but they were not content. Adam and Eve had the garden of Eden to live in, with a free grant of everything in it excepting one tree–but they were not content. Ahab had his throne and kingdom–but so long as Naboth’s vineyard was not his–he was not content. Haman was the chief favorite of the Persian king–but so long as Mordecai sat at the gate, he was not content.
It is just the same everywhere in the present day. Murmuring, dissatisfaction, discontent with what we have, meet us at every turn. To say, with Jacob, “I have enough,” seems flatly contrary to the grain of human nature. To say, “I want more,” seems the mother tongue of every child of Adam. Our little ones around our family hearths are daily illustrations of the truth of what I am saying. They learn to ask for “more” much sooner than they learn to be satisfied. They are far more ready to cry for what they want, than to say “thank you” when they have got it.
There are few readers of this very paper, I will venture to say, who do not want something or other, different from what they have–something more or something less. What you have–does not seem so good as what you have not. If you only had this or that thing granted–you imagine that you would be quite happy.
Hear now with what power Paul’s direction ought to come to all our consciences: “Be content,” he says, “with such things as you have,” not with such things as you once used to have–not with such things as you hope to have–but with such things as you have now. With such things, whatever they may be, we are to be content–with such a dwelling, such a position, such health, such income, such work, such circumstances as we have, we are to be content.
by J.C. Ryle