Working through Burrough’s Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment has been a great exercise. I’m not quite finished with it, but so far I’ve been making many little notes based on Burrough’s wisdom. There are some aspects of it I probably wouldn’t capitalize on, but others I am trying to etch in my memory and on my heart. One thing I’m committing to memory is that Christian contentment is indeed a precious jewel – and that it is also an art. Here are a few quotable quotes, ones that are worth getting onto your “hard drive,” so to speak.
“So this is the art of contentment: not to seek to add to our circumstances, but to subtract from our desires. …The best way to be rich is not by increasing wealth, but by diminishing our desires” (p. 47).
“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” (p. 43).
[The contented man says] “The Lord knows how to order things better than I” (p. 36).
Burroughs also says the reason that things in this world do not give us contentment is “because they are not things proportionable to that immortal soul of yours that is capable of God himself” (p. 91). What does that mean? It means that trying to find contentment in the things of this world is like trying to get a full stomach by opening your mouth on a windy day (Ibid.). It means that finding contentment in the things of this age is vanity – foolishness akin to saying more wind will fill my stomach while staying open-mouthed in the wind longer. Sounds like Ecclesiastes 5.10-16!
3 Replies to “The Art and Jewel of Contentment”
This is very appropriate for today. A lot of folks are realizing that all those toys they got for Christmas didn’t bring contentment. This book is on my must-read list for 2010!
I’ve been kicking these comments around since you posted them a few days ago, and it also got me to take up my semi-annual reading of the book of Ecclesiastes again. It appears that this author has the right overall perspective, but I’ve been struggling with the first quote you reference (pg 47).
On the surface, this seems to make perfect sense: contentment = wanting less, not getting more. But at the end of the day this formula for contentment fails because wanting less is just as materialistic as wanting more. Only the quantity of our desires changes, not the quality. Wanting less materials may not be as bad as chasing the wind, but you’re still pursuing a breeze!
Eccl. 2:24-25 says “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” A Christians work is not just labor, it is wanting – desiring – to be more like Christ (Rom 8:5, 12:1, 1 Cor 12:31, just to name a few). In this sense, contentment will result from wanting more, not less.
I’m making this comment not because I think the author is off base- the other quotes you provide confirm he’s not – but because that first quote is so easily memorized, yet can also be so easily misunderstood.
I get what you mean; you’re discussing it from a different point of view. You have to read the above quote from the PoV of 1 Tim 6.8, Heb 13.5, etc. I guess it depends how you define contentment – narrowly or broadly. Desire is not sinful, but desiring the wrong thing is.
God gives me x (house, small family, etc.), so I’m content with that, though I desire to be more like Christ. Get the book – Burroughs does talk about what you noted.
Thanks for the comment. I trust you’re content flying through the snow in a 4×4!
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