Philippians 4:10 I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. 11 Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 14 In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress.
Paul had apparently been in a difficult situation (exactly what we are not told) and was grateful for the support provided by the Christians in Philippi. Then, as Paul often did, he took the opportunity to teach. I am particularly drawn to the second half of v.11, “…for I have learned to be content with whatever I have”.
Contentment is a rare thing in our world. We are conditioned by a consumer culture to always need something more/bigger/better. I wish, as a committed Christian, I were immune to this influence but I am not. As was probably the case with many of you reading this, my family of origin often had a sense of lack. It’s not that I was brought up in the context of deep poverty, but we were a family of very modest means. We never went hungry, but there were times when there wasn’t much variety in what we ate. Lots of eggs and white bread. We had clothes, but wore the same things over and over in the same week. We had a roof over our heads, but often in a state of disrepair. It was a bit embarrassing to bring a friend to our house, so we rarely did. I suppose one of the motivators for me and my brothers to get an education and find a career was the promise we made to ourselves things would be different for our families. And so it has been. I’m glad my children, and by brother’s children, have had a different experience than we did. I thank the Lord for that every day.
But I’ve also learned there are limits to the benefits of more/bigger/better. One can appear to have everything and yet be filled with discontent. Genuine contentment is a state of being on the inside that is a gift from God. It’s a sense of peace no matter what one’s external circumstances. I’ll admit some days I am content and some days I’m not. Like Paul I have learned the secret of being content, but unlike Paul there are days when I fail to apply what I know.
Lord thank you for the gift of contentment. It’s such a precious thing. Give me grace to find my contentment in you alone. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.