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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Proving Ground | Envy and Contentment

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

Timothy 6:6-8



I have an old book at home, written by Jeremiah Burroughs in the 17th century, called The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. The title paints a picture in itself – contentment is a rare and precious thing.  

Would you say you are content, or do you have a gnawing anxiety that others are getting a better deal, achieving more, or having more fun than you? We can easily find ourselves gripped by envy and a fear that others are succeeding when we are not.  

Jenny posts news of her job promotion and announces she has just bought a new apartment while you are stuck with part-time casual jobs and struggling to pay the rent. Andy blogs regularly with news of his backpacking adventures through South America, which you read while sandwiched on the morning commuter train. You find yourself envious and irritated at the same time.  

Why do we find it so hard to be content? It seems to be how we are wired, part of our human nature. Back in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had just about everything. But, when presented with the opportunity, they seemed to want more. 

So how do we deal with envy and find contentment? Being thankful to God for every good gift and learning to trust him to provide is a good start. 

Being clear on what is important to us also helps us overcome envy and that awful fear of missing out on life’s best. The psalmist made his priorities clear like this: ‘I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked’ (Psalm 84:10). He had settled his priorities and knows that contentment comes from living and working in close relationship with God.  

What is your ideal picture of contentment? Maybe relaxing with a cool drink? A quiet evening at home with Netflix? But such feelings of ‘contentment’ can quickly pass. One phone call from a troubled friend or family member quickly breaks the spell. 

The Bible offers us a deeper kind of contentment, an inner ‘shalom’ which comes from knowing that God loves and accepts us, no matter what pressures we experience. It grows when we make a habit of being thankful for what God has provided, and when we keep clear in our minds who and what is truly important to us. 

Graham Hooper
Graham is a Company Director and former Senior Executive with a global infrastructure company. His latest book Proving Ground – 40 Reflections on Growing Faith at Work is published by Christian Focus. 

In what ways are you envious of others? How can you turn that into thankfulness and find greater contentment? Join in the conversation in the comments below.


  1. It seems there is a typo, the correct scripture should be 1 Timothy 6: 6-8.

    By Sharon Bennett-Thomas  -  23 Jan 2023
  2. as important as the message has been I feel there is a missing element. I ask in a world so full of injustice to vast numbers of society, can I ever be content?

    By David Woodcock  -  23 Jan 2023
  3. Godly contentment may also come from a conviction that you are opposing oppression & injustice within the systems you work & live in, in line with God’s revealed call on your life. That’s a dimension that seems to be missing from many of the reflections I read in my LICC emails. Perhaps it reflects a lack of breadth in the socio-economic context of your panel of contributors?

    By Robert  -  23 Jan 2023
    • Hi Robert – opposing injustice as you mention as indeed vital. If you’d like to dig further into what this might look like on your frontline, perhaps some of our previous Word for the Week series might help, such as Everyday Justice or Truth to Power

      Matt Jolley
      By Matt Jolley Research & Implementation Manager
      • Thx for the response. I found both those helpful but still focussed on the individual rather than institutional outworking of righteous/obedient behaviour. In a “democracy” the context is different from the absolute power exercised in the Ancient Near East. What does obedience/righteousness look like for a 21st century Daniel or Amos or Hosea in senior management or a newspaper or NHS trust or bank, or political party or diocese or the Home Office or Border Force, or police squad, or abusive workplace, or deprived neighbourhood when they see INjustice in the structures around them? When/how might they be led to turn over tables, or call out “that fox!” or cry “Woe to you” to some whited sepulchres? Or pursue a perhaps costly but exhausting institutional path to find justice for the oppressed and liberty for captives? (even if it took 30 years like it has for Hillsboro’ families who still press on)

        By Robert  -  13 Feb 2023

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