Contentment is not Complacency
Contentment can be defined as a state of happiness and satisfaction. In this sense, God is perfectly content, the most joyful being in all the universe and beyond. Complacency, on the other hand, is a smug satisfaction accompanied by unawareness of dangers. The complacent individual is indifferent and unconcerned, “resolved to be irresolute” as Winston Churchill so aptly put it. God is never complacent.
Though Jesus rested, as He had done on the seventh day of creation, no one could level the charge of complacency against Him. He was intent on pursuing His mission of redemption. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is never complacent, fulfilling diligently His role as comforter, teacher, and guide of God’s people, as well as the One who convicts the world of sin, righteous, and judgement. The Father rules and reigns over all creation.The Triune God is infinitely content, but never complacent.
The Holy Spirit imparts contentment to those who yield to His control (Eph. 5:18-20). Joy is second in the list of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Yet those who are filled with the Spirit are not complacent, but seek to please God and to fulfill His commands, including proclaiming the gospel to everyone possible.
Contentment can be seen as a virtue in the believer’s life. But the Scriptures never laud complacency. To the contrary, complacency brings collapse and ruin. “For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them” (Prov. 1:32, ESV).
Contentment seeks to please God and is based on the fear of the Lord. But complacency is spiritually indifferent, not fearing the Lord. “At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the men who are complacent, those who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good, nor will he do ill’” (Zeph. 1:12).
Complacency is a vice characterized by indifference, lack of seeking God, and spiritual inactivity that precedes death. Contentment in Christ honors God; complacency dishonors Him and leads to shame.
I see at least five contrasts between biblical contentment and complacency.
Christ-centered vs. Self-centered
First of all, biblical contentment is Christ-centered; complacency is self-centered. Paul writes his letter to the Philippian church from a prison cell. He is joyful in giving thanks to the church for their love offering that has been so helpful and means so much to the apostle. Yet, he says, he has learned to do with little or much. He can be content in whatever state he finds himself. He has learned the secret of contentment: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Php. 4:13).
The focus of biblical contentment is Christ. The focus of complacency is self and its desires and comfort. To pursue one’s own desires above the desires of Christ opens the door to spiritual complacency. Comfort can be good. But when personal comfort is one’s primary value, comfort becomes a bridge to complacency that leads to calamity and downfall.
Purposeful vs. Idleness
Secondly, biblical contentment is purposeful. It does not simply rest in comfort, but one’s actions flow from contentment, just as God acts from a state of contentment. This action is aligned with God’s purposes, always pursuing “the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). Complacency, on the other hand, is marked by idleness with no clear purpose. It knows no internal driving passion for holiness and for pleasing God, but only acts to maintain its state of comfort.
Honors God vs. Ignores God
Third, biblical contentment honors God. It seeks His glory above all, and finds its joy and satisfaction in Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. Complacency ignores God and gives Him no glory. Moses warned Israel of the dangers of becoming too comfortable in Dt. 8:11-14:
11 Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,When comfort becomes primary, when the good blessings of the Almighty supersede His value before us, then complacency can set in, fostering arrogance and leading one to forget God and His grace in one’s life.
Spiritually Aware vs. Spiritually Indifferent
Fourthly, biblical contentment is spiritually aware. The contented believer will be comfortable and at peace in vital union with Christ. But if not vigilant, he or she can cross the line and fall into complacency. Biblical contentment leads one into deeper communion with Christ, deeper trust in the Spirit. There will be a fervency in prayer and in seeking after God. But complacency is spiritually indifferent. It doesn’t care about one’s spiritual state and loses discernment, unaware that Satan prowls like a roaring lion seeking whom to devour (1 Pt. 5:8). In pursuing its own comfort, its end is quite uncomfortable.
Great gain vs. Calamity
Finally, biblical contentment with godliness is great gain; complacency with indifference leads to calamity and ruin (Prov. 1:32). The Lord Jesus leveled against the church of Laodicea the scathing criticism of being lukewarm (Rev. 3:15-16). Neither hot nor cold, the lukewarm, complacent believer is good for nothing. He is like the branch that does not abide in the vine. It shrivels up, bears no fruit, and is cast into the fire (John 15:6).
Complacency can disguise itself in the cloak of contentment. But do not deceive yourself. Biblical contentment is the polar opposite of complacency, and has nothing to do with it, no time for it, and cedes it no ground. I fear that too many who name the Name of Christ have adopted complacency as their spiritual status quo without contemplating the calamity to which it is leading them and, worse still, those who are around them.
The Remedy for Complacency
What is the remedy for complacency? How can you escape its snares? As Jesus told the church in Laodicea, be zealous and repent (Rev. 3:19). Confess your sin of complacency that dishonors God and brings reproach on the Name of Christ. Turn from indifference and idleness to intentionally yield your life to the Lordship of Christ and the pursuit of His will. Be zealous: not an emotion but an attitude of seeking Christ and His glory above all. This He imparts to the yielded believer in the power of the Holy Spirit. For Christ Himself is the zeal of God incarnate, and as His life is formed in you, He will produce within you daily that zeal that is marked by holiness and pursuit of God and His glory.
It’s time to wake up and shake off the shackles that have bound you for too long. Leave complacency behind forever, find your contentment in Christ Alone. Thus you will honor Him, and He will sustain you daily, even unto eternity.