#3 – what it really means


I’ve claimed this newsletter will help you understand and live out Biblical contentment – so we should see what the Bible actually means when it uses the word.

The English word content shows up 16 times in the NIV translation, 12 in the ESV. There are only five passages (one in the Old Testament and four in the New) where they both use the word. Between these five passages are only three words in the original languages:

1) YAAL is the Hebrew word in:
Joshua 7:7 “If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan!”
It shows up 18 more times in the Old Testament – yet is rarely translated as ‘content’ but instead as ‘being willing to’ or ‘pleased to do’ or even ‘persisted.’

2)ARKEO is the Greek word in:
Luke 3:14 “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” 
1Tim 6:8 “But godliness with contentment is great gain…” 
Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have…”
It shows up five other times where it’s translated as ‘sufficient’ or ‘enough’ and often refers to everyday items like oil (Matthew 25:9) or bread, John 6:7 “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough...” 
It’s also used for ‘spiritual’ things such as faith, grace, or power:
John 14:8 “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 
2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you…”

3) AUTARKES is the Greek word used in:
1 Timothy 6:6 “But godliness with contentment is great gain,” 
Philippians 4:11 “… for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” 
It means you yourself (’auto’) is finding sufficiency. That is: there is sufficiency with whatever, independent of circumstances, without the need for external support. (Clearly, this doesn’t mean we can find/create our own contentment, but a renewed heart can find contentment regardless of what’s happening on the outside.)
This Greek word appears only one other time, in 2 Cor 9:8 “God is able to make all grace abound to you so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”

This is obviously not an exhaustive study (I can only pretend to know two ancient languages via Google for so long) but we can get a good base understanding.

Taken together these words show contentment is:

  • being willing/pleased to do something
  • finding whatever is there is sufficient
  • not needing to have anything added from the outside.

For me the overwhelming theme is sufficient. There is enough.

It’s honestly looking at what we currently have, what we are experiencing, and saying, “I would not be happier with more.” There is not “just-one-more-thing” I need to be satisfied. 
This newsletter is titled “Never Enough” because that’s what we are lead to believe, what we are told to feel. But the overwhelming message found in the Bible is that contentment is a deep sense of enough.

Let’s take that core idea forward with us as we continue this journey. Whatever contentment is, I think we will know it when we feel authentic willingness, believing what we have is sufficient, and not needing something outside us to change.


Complete this phrase:
If I only had ____________.

What is that ‘one more thing’ you feel you need to be happy?
What do you believe you lack in order to be satisfied?

Think through what it might actually be like if you gained it (the promotion, marriage, child’s behavior, car, raise, house, etc).

How would it honestly change all the other areas of your life? Would the new car make your marriage more fulfilling? Would your kid’s behavior really make work easier? Would the house really make it easier to leave work on time?

Are you putting unreasonable and unrealistic expectations on the happiness/security/joy/fulfillment of this one-more-thing?


Father of rest. 
God of the Sabbath. 
Lord of all sufficiency,
You are the source of goodness, mercy, love – freely given.
Yet my heart longs for so much more. Things, experiences, relationships. 
You have given me enough – but my desires cry out for still more.
Give me eyes to see what you have given me.
Give me a heart to love where I am.
Give me ears to hear your goodness all around me.
Give me the courage to disagree – when I’m told I don’t have enough.