We live in a culture that thrives on discontentment.  We are bombarded with advertising designed to make us discontent with what we own.  We are conditioned to be greedy, envious, and perpetually dissatisfied.  In such a condition, we can never be happy.  Because a person cannot really be happy, unless the person is content.

Of course, should widespread contentment break out, our economy would collapse.  In a society like ours, where all true basic needs are met many times over, only discontent can fuel the continued overconsumption necessary to keep the wheels of the phony economy turning.  But ironically, if that is the right word, while a contentment epidemic would destroy the materialistic consumer economy, the now-content population wouldn’t care.  Because they would be content.

2600 years ago, Lao Tzu wrote, “Be content with what you have.  Rejoice in the way things are.”

600 years later the writer of Hebrews wrote, “Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have.”

Still seems like good advice to me…

Love Wins

5 comments on “Contentment

  1. Jeremy says:

    Bill, awesome post. Rachel and I read an article several months ago by Gordon Fee in a book called “Listening to the Spirit in the text” the fifth chapter is “The New Testament View of Wealth and Possessions” It cemented some things God was already talking to us about. We really liked it. I am a big Gordon Fee fan. Here is the article below from google books, it’s a long cut n paste.


  2. Duc says:


    I’ve always wondered whether “discontentment” (is that a word?) is a cultural or a human trait. There’s no doubt that our consumer culture triggers feelings of discontent to spur over-consumption but discontent also precedes production as well.

    For example, it seems to me that for Haiti to pull itself out of abject poverty, it will need both a helping hand and internal progress in economic development. The latter can only come about with increased domestic production. For better or worse, production is the name of the game in our global economy and discontent with the status quo may be a necessary ingredient to get them there.

    I’m aware that I’m falling into a trap by framing progress and happiness in terms of production and consumption alone but it seems to me that in places like Haiti or much of Africa, survival comes before contentment. There, knowledge and discontent can play a role in building a better future (one in which over-consumption can, hopefully, be a problem).

    That leads us (ok, maybe just me) to the paradox of asking how much discontent is too much? Thanks, as usual, for making me think. Duc


  3. Joeywahoo says:

    Hey Duc:

    Note that I wrote, “In a society like ours, where all true basic needs are met many times over,…”

    There are things with which we should not be content. Certainly Haitians should not be content to suffer and starve.

    The discontent that I find destructive, is not natural. It is conditioned by unnatural desires, such as envy and greed, as opposed to natural desires, such as the desire for safety, food and shelter. Those who promote this kind of discontent, do so to promote the consumer enconomy. Cherie posted recently about Maslow’s theory of the heirarchy of needs and self-actualization. In this society, we should be self-actualizing, rather than inventing new needs, and continually redefining them so that we can never reach the point of self-actualization. Self-actualization in a society like ours will mean that we become content with our own needs, but passionately discontent with injustice, like that in Haiti. At least that’s how I see it (and I may have botched the psychology, since I don’t know much about it.)

    As for the question of whether production is the name of the game, and overconsumption a nice problem to have, check out the short video at

    From a spiritual perspective, I like the notion of seeking our daily bread. Not too little, and not too much.

    Thanks for commenting my friend.


  4. Joeywahoo says:

    That’s a great read. Thanks for sharing it.


  5. Duc says:

    I just wanted to point out the paradox of bad v. good discontent in our produce-consume global economy. Thanks for linking the storyofstuff. At one point, she said that the whole process relies on an unlimited supply of people who don’t have any alternatives (or something to that effect).

    So true that some of us can “opt out” of the whole exploitive, dysfunctional system but the rest of the earth’s population don’t have that luxury. Sad.

    Thanks again for making me think. Enjoy your Sunday, Duc


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