Note: Read Part 1 here: Cultivate Discontentment in Your Home (Part 1).
“But we’re poor!”
The words escaped my mouth just as a guest in our home misused one of our possessions, for which we would now need to buy a replacement. I was 87% joking, but the ease with which those words escaped my mouth was convicting.
Of course, we weren’t—and aren’t—poor. I have valuable (even enjoyable) work, for which I am generously compensated. Good food graces every plate, at every meal. Clothes fill our closets. Our home is a beautiful blend of form and function. We have savings. But one slip of the tongue had revealed just how persistent the seeds of discontentment can be in the heart.
A Positive Command
In Part 1, we dug to the roots of such discontentment and noted habits that inadvertently cultivate that vice in the home. (I recommend you start by reading that article here.) Yet it’s not enough to run from discontentment. What do we run toward? Contentment, of course. This “rare jewel” of a virtue is worth our thought and attention as we craft the cultures of our homes.
After warning us to avoid the vice of covetousness, Hebrews 13:5 continues, “be content with such things as you have.” 1 Timothy 6:6 praises the same virtue: “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.” John the Baptist even encouraged Roman soldiers with a practical fruit of repentance, to “be content with [their] wages” (Luke 3:14). The Scriptures are clear enough. Be content!
The word our English New Testament translates “content” is translated elsewhere as “sufficient” or “enough.” Contentment is believing that what you already have is enough.
“Contentment is believing that what you already have is enough.”
Hebrews 13:5 drills our contentment into bedrock. “Be content with such things as you have.” Why should we be content? “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (emphasis mine). It is not the hope of improved circumstances that lends contentment in the current moment but rather the assurance that even if things take a turn for the worst, God will be there. In that sense, the call to contentment is grounded in the sufficiency of God Himself. If He’s with us, we have all we need. God says He is enough.
But as human beings, we are still flesh-and-blood, even when resting in the sufficiency of God. But 1 Timothy 6:7–8 reminds us just how little “enough” really is, even given our physical needs. “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. [So] having food and [clothing], with these we shall be content.” We started life without stuff, we’ll end it without stuff, and in between all we really need is food and clothes. God says sustenance and shelter are enough.
We all have these three things. So contentment is possible.
Actually, Way More
But let’s be real. We all have 2,037 more things than clothes and shelter to be thankful for, if we’re honest enough to start noticing and naming them. So, practically, the work of contentment is not merely to lower your expectations or settle for current circumstances as “OK, I guess.” It is to open your eyes to the abundance God has lavished on you (and your family) exactly as and where you are. 1 Timothy 6:17 reminds us that the current circumstances we so easily bemoan are actually rich with the provision of God, Who has given us “all things richly to enjoy.”
Enter contentment’s “cousin virtue,” gratitude.
I wish there was a word that combined the passiveness of “contentment” with the action of “gratitude.” (Contentitude? Gratentment? Sorry.) These two virtues are hard to distinguish. Noticing and naming God’s gifts to you (gratitude) fuels your subjective experience of an objective reality: that God has provided, is providing, and will always provide for you abundantly.
The Foundation of All Gratitude
This gratitude is deeper than garden-variety “positivity” (or “choose joy” or “grateful”) trending in our society’s messaging and hash-tags. The source of Christian contentment is not a mood but a Person Who not only has given us every temporal blessing we enjoy but “did not spare His own Son but delivered Him up for us all” (Romans 8:32).
“The source of Christian contentment is not a mood but a Person”
Through Him the Father “freely gives us all things.”
Time is not sufficient here to exhaust the implications of this passage. Suffice it here to say: as God’s redeemed people, we have been granted access to the full enjoyment of good gifts in His created world. “Every good and perfect gift [coming] down from the Father of Lights” (James 1:17) is “good and intended to be enjoyed” when received “with thanksgiving” to the Giver (1 Timothy 4:4). Jesus Christ at once demonstrates the immeasurable love of the Father and establishes the relationship by which we can receive every one of His gifts personally, as a conduit of His love.
In that sense, you as God’s child can exult more completely in that beautiful kitchen table and chairs, good coffee beans, those new closet organizers (half-price but new-in-box), than can your fellow humans who have no communion with the Giver.
Let’s review. We are called to cultivate the virtue of contentment. We agree with God that He Himself, plus sustenance and shelter, are enough. But we also work at spotting His abundant provision all around us through deliberate gratitude. In Jesus Christ, we can know the Giver of all good gifts personally and see the depth of love that drives His gift-giving nature.
…In Your Home
Now for the “dad” part. As a follower of Jesus, you must cultivate contentment in your heart. But you are also responsible to cultivate it in your home. Contentment is contagious. Here are some practical habits that can help put God’s commands and the truth that undergirds them into practice under your roof.
1. Make “I love our…” / “Isn’t it nice that…” statements.
Say things like, “I love our living room,” “Isn’t it nice that we can open the windows tonight,” or “Isn’t it cool we can get authentic street tacos just down the road!?” These statements ensure that you and your family notice the uniquely pleasant aspects of your life together. (Be careful not to gloat over other families.)
2. Say, “I’m thankful for because it does .”
God has many reasons for giving us things, many of which we do not comprehend. But sometimes we can easily spot the ways His gifts are good for us. State those benefits out loud!
3. Make all your “money talks” also “God’s-provision” talks.
Money is not the only currency for contentment or discontentment; but the Scriptures assume it’s a big one. So “money talks” with your wife should always also be contentment talks. Whenever my wife and I do our annual financial and budget review, we also say out loud how amazed we are at the ways God has provided.
4. As you pray with your children, thank God for things they relate to.
I am learning how to pray this way: “Thank you for Charlotte’s room. Thank you for giving Charlotte grandparents who love her. Thank you for giving Charlotte a cool house in the hot summer.” Charlotte can understand those things. And I want her to grow up knowing that the things we enjoy have a Source: God Himself.
5. Ask the “Gratitude Catechism.”
Ask your children (of any age) the “gratitude catechism” question, especially when you and your family are enjoying something together. “Who gives us yummy food? Who sent us the lovely rain? Who puts all the beautiful colors in the sunset? Who gives us friends to play with?” And infinite variety of questions; always one answer. It also helps me, not just them, to remember the Giver of all the good gifts.
6. Delay replacement purchases.
Hear me out. Contentment brings with it a baseline frugality when it comes to what your family buys. (I should say, some of you don’t need to hear this. If you have repaired the cabinet door with duct tape, I am probably not talking to you. But for the rest of us…) When contemplating an upgrade purchase, give yourself a buffer of time between the idea (e.g., Amazon suggesting the product) and the purchase. This extra time often allows me to remember what I already have—and often conclude that it is working just fine for us. That’s a practical demonstration of contentment.
Fathers, let’s savor in meditation the rich blessings of God in His Son. Let’s rejoice in God’s gifts, which far surpass sustenance and shelter. And grateful for His sufficiency and provision, let’s permeate the culture of our homes with Christian contentment.
Growing Fathers Team
Caleb serves as Director of Worship at Northwest Valley Baptist Church in the Phoenix Metro area. He also heads the music department at Arrowhead Christian Academy, where he directs choirs, teaches a Bible class, and coordinates upper school chapel services. He and his wife, Heidi, have two young daughters, Charlotte and Anna.View all posts by Caleb