Complacency · Content · Identity in Christ · In Christ · Work

Contentment Versus Complacency

Society is really a funny thing. We seem to be  divided on everything. Even our thought processes of how we run our personal lives seems to be at extremes.

For example: you have people who are driven who don’t seem to stop. They are workaholics, or busyness addicts, constantly running their children from here to there, and all those people who do not know how to rest.

On the opposite extreme, some people just seem pure lazy. These are people who do not want to do anything, always looking for someone else to take care of them (despite the fact that they can take care of themselves), and people who are waiting for someone else to do it.

A lot of our struggles have to do with understanding the difference between contentment and complacency. Like many English words, we often interchange the two of them when they have nothing to do with each other. Once we confuse the definitions we end up having real issues.

So let’s start by defining our terms. Contentment is a state of happiness or satisfaction. Contentment is the result of a life despite whether one has or does not have material possessions, position, health, or any other abstract or concrete thing.

Complacency is also an attitude. But unlike contentment it is a negative one. It’s an uncritical satisfaction with who you are or what you have done. Uncritical being that you have not critiqued what you were doing or how you are doing it.

Contentment often gets confused with complacency. People often think contentment is having an attitude where you don’t care about anything – you’re just content with how things are. Therefore you don’t have to do anything because you’re not worried about the outcome of things.

That is not contentment. Contentment should have with it the attitude of working hard and be able to be happy with the outcome no matter what the results of hard work are. This is the opposite of complacency.

The complacent person is the one who doesn’t care about the outcome or the process to get a good outcome. Do you see the difference between the two? It’s a fine line in some aspects but the ideas are worlds apart from each other.

The person who is content can be a hard-working individual who makes goals  and strives to something but is happy regardless of the result. Whereas the complacent person just doesn’t care enough about the result to even work hard toward the potential of having a good result from their work.

For the Christian the idea of contentment is found in Philippians 4:13. It is the famous or infamous verse:  “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” I say infamous because we often see this verse misused by athletes. After a big win  they say, “I can do all things in Christ.“ But is that really the context of the verse?

We see in Philippians chapter 4 in the previous verses of 10–12 that Paul is saying he can do everything in Christ because he knows what contentment really is. Paul says in those verses that whether he has everything or nothing he has been able to have an attitude of happiness and joy in life.

Why is Paul able to do this? In this passage he says that true contentment is in Christ. True joy and happiness is being able to be known by Jesus and that your salvation is in Jesus.

Contentment is not complacency. It is not an excuse to be lazy. In fact if you read the Bible and even Paul specifically there many actions for the Christian to take. Often we read “go“, “be“, “work“, and “do.“

The Christian life is an active one, working to be like Christ and to serve God and others. What Paul says is contentment is working really hard and being satisfied in the results of what the outcome is. He says that we can’t be satisfied and still have joy in those things because we know who we are in Christ.

Are you content or complacent? Are you working hard in life, in a relationship, financially, spiritually, at your job, or in your community? Are you able to be content regardless of the outcome of those things?

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