Here is the next installment in my trying to understand Biblical contentment. Get ready for a Greek and Hebrew lesson.
The word content is used in the Old Testament 10 times. The Hebrew word is sabea. It is translated as full or satiated. It is mostly used in reference to the end of life with people being described as “full of days”.
Content is used a few times in the New Testament. It is used twice by Paul. Once in Phillipians 4:11 “…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. This is the Greek word autarkes. The second time is in 1 Tim 6:6 “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” This is the Greek word autarkeia. These are obviously from the same root. Autarkes is translated self complacent and autarkeia is translated self satisfaction.
Based on these references it seems that biblical contentment is being satisfied in yourself. Not by any one else’s standard. We are called to be happy with the road we are on. Not necessarily content with our current position or station, but content that we are moving and becoming more like Christ. I believe contentment is in reference to our relationship with Christ, not in our stuff. The NIV translates arkeo as content in Luk 3:14 “…be content with your pay.” This is when John was asked by the soldiers what they should do. This reference is related to stuff. Paul also uses this word in 1 Tim 6:8. This time in reference to food and clothing. The writer of Hebrews uses it in 13:5, “…be content with what you have. This word is translated enough, suffice, or sufficient.
To recap: In the OT contentment is related to a fullness mostly used in relation to being full of days. In the NT there are two different words translated as content or contentment. One relates to stuff and one to our relationship with Christ. We are told in the Ten Commandments to not covet. I believe this goes along with being content with our stuff, but also with our relationship with Christ. 1 Tim 6:6 “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”, tells us that if we attain contentment in our spiritual life that we will have great gain. I’m certain that this “great gain” is heavenly and not here on earth.
The next question is, “How do you become content with your walk with or toward Christ?” What is tape measure? How do you keep score? I believe that it lies in the words Paul used. Self satisfaction. It is internal. No two people will be the same. I think that this drive for contentment will drive one to spend more time with Christ and thereby comes the great gain.