Most of us can remember when we were first married or perhaps when we were young and had little more than the clothes on our backs. Surprisingly, even through we had little, most of us have fond memories of those days; in fact we would describe them as carefree. But is being carefree the same as being content?
Being content is not synonymous with carefree. Being content is being satisfied or fulfilled with where you are and what you have, but does not imply a lack of responsibility or obligation. Philippians 4:11 and Hebrews 13:5 teaches that we are to be content, however, we often misapply the apostles teaching here by seeking to apply it to our relationship with God and others. Whether we are going through difficult times or prospering, the desired mind-set is contentment. But it does not relieve us of the responsibility to look for opportunities to advance our relationship with God or with those around us. The whole idea of being content is based on being selfless rather than selfish. We are to be satisfied with where we are and with what we have, but to desire more for others. By doing so, we advance our relationship with God.
We needn’t concern ourselves with self interests for God will take care of them according to his plan for us. This of course requires faith in His promises, combined with a reliance on His authority and power. This is Paul’s point when he writes to his friends in Thessalonica, “Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus (1Thessalonians 4:1-2).”
So what were these “instructions” that Paul is speaking of here? It wasn’t simply about avoiding the sin he mentions just a few verses earlier; sexual immorality, lust and unholy passions. No, the real bottom line comes in verses nine and ten, “Now about brotherly love we do not need to write you, yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.” This is one of those rare instances where the English translation of the Greek, doesn’t necessarily reflect the nuance or import of the text. Paul uses two different Greek words for love in this passage; the first is brotherly love which means having an intense affection for another, like brothers may have for each other, a sister and brother or a husband and wife. But the love that Paul wants exhibited involves not only feelings but a willingness to support and defend one another, regardless of the personal cost. This is the love that Paul wants them “to do more and more.” It’s a love that is characterized by self-sacrifice and never self-interest. If we focus on selfless love, then contentment will follow because the more we give of ourselves, the more peace, satisfaction and contentment is showered on us by God. However, the motive for giving is not receive, either from men or God, but out of appreciation for what Christ did for us. Giving of ourselves is how we demonstrate to God that we are truly thankful.
“Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Jesus Christ, Matthew 6:1