Hope Reflected

Encouragement and Hope from God's Word

what does the Bible say about contentment Archive



August 2023

Careful cultivation

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

We learn how to be content through careful cultivation

Careful cultivation produces contentment. Read more about learning how to be content on hopereflected.com

“Much food is in the tillage of the poor: but there is that is destroyed for want of judgment.” (Proverbs 13:23)

There’s an old saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” A rebuttal to this common phrase is that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, it’s greenest where you water it. We neglect to care for our own lawn when we are focused on someone else’s. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and I would suggest that comparison is also the thief of contentment.

Tillage requires hard work

In Proverbs 13:23, we read that “Much food is in the tillage of the poor: but there is that is destroyed for want of judgment.” Tillage, earth that’s cultivated for the first time, requires hard work if it’s done by hand (and at the time this Proverb was written, tilling ground would have been a manual process). To gather “much food” from the garden requires equal parts diligence and hard work.

While hard work is, well, hard, it produces contentment and as a result, the returns are often great. To work hard requires as much strength of character as strength of body. Like the poor described in Proverbs 13:23, you may not have much, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make the best of what you do have. On the other hand, you may have everything but end up in ruin because you don’t make the best of what you have. Rather than be content, conceit often destroys our judgment and we end up living beyond our means.

Do the best with what you have

Don’t be deceived into thinking that just because you don’t have a lot that it doesn’t matter. On the contrary, the smallest gifts can be of great value when stewarded properly! Alexander MacLaren wrote in Expositions of Holy Scripture that “responsibility does not diminish with the size of the gifts, but that there is as great responsibility for the use of the smallest as for the use of the largest…”.

“…responsibility does not diminish with the size of gifts,
but that there is as great responsibility
for the use of the smallest as for the use of the largest…”

Alexander MacLaren

The stay-at-home mom who gives of herself in raising a household of children and not getting paid at all can be just as content and have just as much impact—if not more—than the person running a large organization and earning millions. Careful cultivation produces contentment, while carelessness in any capacity produces discontentment. The difference between contentment and discontentment is stewardship of what one has been given. Many a great man has been destroyed for want of judgment.

Being a good steward of what God has given us

How are we tilling the ground that we’ve been given? Whether we start with a little or a lot, Jesus said that “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away that which he hath.” (Matthew 25:29). Whether our plot of land is small or great, the faithfulness with which we steward it today will determine the impact tomorrow.

“Much may be made of slender gifts, small resources, and limited opportunities if carefully cultivated, as they should be, and as their very slenderness should stimulate their being.” (Alexander MacLaren)

Originally published as “Careful cultivation.” Independent Plus. June 9, 2022: 5. Print. Web.



February 2016

Hope Reflected: 3 Building Blocks – The Blessings of Contentment

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

Comparison is the thief of joy.

As a young girl, I was an avid Barbie collector. With each allowance, birthday, or celebratory holiday (or even sometimes just because), my Barbie collection grew to include upwards of thirty to forty dolls, complete with all the accessories – Barbie convertible, Barbie funhouse, Barbie dog – but I can remember specifically visiting my cousin’s house and seeing her collection – which included the enviable Barbie mansion – and thinking, “I really, really want the Barbie mansion. Like, really!” I’m pretty sure every one of us has a similar story from our childhood.

So what does Barbie have to do with contentment? It’s not the Barbie doll per se, it’s the principle of the story. Too often I think we look at our friends and neighbours and – whether consciously or not – start thinking the grass is greener on the other side. But the fact is, the grass is greenest where we choose to water it! It’s important to be satisfied with what God has given us. Not to say that we shouldn’t have drams and goals that we work towards, all I mean is that we need to place value on the blessings that we already have.

So what does the Bible say about contentment?

  1. Contentment builds reassurance. Jesus says in Matthew 6:25 (NKJV), “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” It’s a huge exercise in faith to learn to be content with what we have and not worry about what we could have or how we’ll get what we want or think we need.
  2. Contentment builds trust. When we’re content (read: Satisfied, but not lazy), we’re demonstrating trust that God’s got everything under control. That’s not to say you shouldn’t use common sense or intelligence, just that you’re trusting God to provide for your needs. David said in Psalm 23:1 (KJV), “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Think of what a shepherd does for his flock: He provides and he protects.
  3. Contentment builds joy. There’s an old saying that says “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And how true it is! When we start comparing ourselves or our circumstances to others, we lose our sense of self and quite often are left feeling deflated and inferior. Because guess what? There’s always going to be someone who’s smarter than you, someone who’s prettier, someone who has more money, or a bigger house, or a better car. Fact. Of. Life. So why waste time fretting about it? The apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians (4:11-13, NKJV), “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things, I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Content people are not always happy people, but content people are consistent, thankful, and more likely to be loving and grateful for the people around them. There’s the old saying that goes, “When we pursue happiness, we flee contentment.” Stop, take a look around, and purposefully count your blessings. Choose something today – or someone – for which you’ll practice an attitude of gratitude.

Originally published as “3 Building Blocks: The Blessings of Contentment”. Minto Express. August 12, 2015: 5. Print.