But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6
“The men of the world seek after wealth, and think if they had thus much, and thus much, they would be content. They do not aim at great things; but if I had, perhaps some man thinks, only two or three hundred a year, then I should be well enough; if I had but a hundred a year, or a thousand a year, says another, then I should be satisfied.
But a gracious heart says that if he had ten hundred thousand times so much a year, it would not satisfy him; if he had the quintessence of all the excellences of all the creatures in the world, it could not satisfy him; and yet this man can sing, and be merry and joyful when he has only a crust of bread and a little water in the world. Surely religion is a great mystery! Great is the mystery of godliness, not only in the doctrinal part of it, but in the practical part of it also.
Godliness teaches us this mystery, Not to be satisfied with all the world for our portion, and yet to be content with the meanest condition in which we are… A little in the world will content a Christian for his passage… A carnal heart will be content with these things of the world for his portion; and that is the difference between a carnal heart and a gracious heart.
But a gracious heart says, ‘Lord, do with me what you will for my passage through this world; I will be content with that, but I cannot be content with all the world for my portion.’ So there is the mystery of true contentment. A contented man, though he is most contented with the least things in the world, yet he is the most dissatisfied man that lives in the world.
A soul that is capable of God can be filled with nothing else but God; nothing but God can fill a soul that is capable of God. Though a gracious heart knows that it is capable of God, and was made for God, carnal hearts think without reference to God. But a gracious heart, being enlarged to be capable of God, and enjoying somewhat of him, can be filled by nothing in the world; it must only be God himself.”
Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) in The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust) 24.
Do you have a gracious or a carnal heart? How can you tell? Figure out what satisfies you and you will find your answer. If you are satisfied with some portion of wealth from the world, then you are aiming far too low. Especially if your aim then is to be generous from that supply.
Someone asked me this question recently. What inspires you to ask God for nations? Of course my reply was that Psalm 2:8. Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. God invites us to ask Him for much more than the carnal heart desires.
The paradox of the gracious heart and the contented life is not to be satisfied with anything the world can offer, but only to be satisfied with God as his or her portion. That makes us, in view of those around us the most dissatisfied people on the planet. I perceive this may puzzle you.
The contented person appears dissatisfied because he or she has tasted the only thing that satisfies. All the world is rubbish next to that one thing. It’s God Himself. Discover this and the generosity of your gracious heart will know no limits. Miss it and your carnal heart will know perpetual emptiness and dissatisfaction.
I am teaching in Auckland, New Zealand, today at the Governance and Accountability Forum. Pray that God works in the carnal hearts to make them receptive and that the truth takes root and bears fruit in gracious hearts. Afterwards, it’s onward to Sydney, Australia. It’s a stunning city, but the people are even more amazing.