Many think the 10th commandment is the most difficult to obey. And for those who don’t immediately remember, it says: “You shall not covet.” The antidote to covetousness is contentment.
Don’t misunderstand this word contentment. It is not laziness, the absence of ambition, or the failure to have challenging aspirations and goals. The Apostle Paul gives us some insight into what contentment is when he writes in Philippians 4:11b and 12a: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.” Contentment is to be appropriately satisfied in your situation and with what you have.
Here are five suggestions to cultivate contentment:
Don’t compare yourself with others. Comparing seems to be at root of the 10 commandment. The complete commandment reads “You shall not covet your neighbors’ house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” I think we would be far less likely to covet if we didn’t compare. But we do compare, don’t we?
Enjoy what you have. A vital step for contentment is to enjoy what we have. One observer wisely noted: “There is an obvious problem when our focus is more on what we do not have than on what we have.” And that focus gets in the way of enjoying what we do have. I Timothy 6:17 reminds us that what God has provided us is for our enjoyment.
Treasure what is truly valuable. Some things are more valuable than others and we need to recognize the limitation of money and stuff. What William Barclay wrote years ago is still true today: “If the possession of things brought happiness and contentment, then this would be the happiest and most contented age in history.” But it isn’t, is it? Stuff is important, but what is truly valuable are our relationships. I spent the last few days with my 5 year old and 2 year old grandsons in Texas. They have plenty of nice toys, but what I treasure, and what I think they treasured, was our time together.
Practice generosity. Being generous is both a path to contentment as well as evidence of it. Generous people seem to be content and contentment is enhanced by generosity. And while it does include money, I’m using generosity with a far greater sense than just money. Being generous with our time, our energy, our knowledge, our skills, and our resources will strengthen our state of satisfaction with what we have.
Finally, be grateful and express it. There is something attractive and compelling about gratitude. Being grateful and expressing it is an antidote not only to covetousness, but also to pride and many other attitude shortcomings. First we should be grateful and express gratitude to God. And doing that is a vital part of our worship. But we should also be grateful to others as well—family, friends, and those we do not know personally who enrich our lives by the things they say and do.
What would you add to this list? Comment below; and if you liked this post share it on social media.
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