Contentment vs. Complacency

Over the past couple years my wife and I have had a conversation about our future and the plans God has for us almost on a weekly basis. As devout Christians we strongly rely on the leading of our Heavenly Father to guide us into the next chapter of our lives.

Our most recent conversation regarding this topic was short and sweet because it was bedtime and we both were very tired from hosting our son’s fifth birthday party. Within the short talk the “c” word came up– content. I’ll be the first to confess that even in my very blessed life I have found myself dis-content. However, in the present time, I finally can say I know what it means to be content.

To keep a long story short, finding myself on the content side of life, what I ultimately mean is I am just grateful to know and be known by God, and that’s it. I am satisfied in having nothing more than just the knowledge of that. I believe that is exactly where God wants me. Ergo, I am content.

That hasn’t always been the case for me though. Not necessarily because I wasn’t content, but more so because I confused contentment with complacency. This is a horrible mistake I believe a lot of Christians, and even people in general, make.

I’ll define each term according to Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Contentment- (in verb form):

1. to appease the desires of.

2. to limit oneself in requirements, desires, or actions.

Complacency- (adjective form from the root “complacent”.):

1. marked by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.

3. unconcerned.

These terms don’t seem to have a major difference. It may just be my opinion, but they are only different based on the relative attitude of an individual. Ergo, their definitions can be established upon the motive of the individual.

Content people are okay with where they are in life, not necessarily because they want to stay there, but because they have accepted their current circumstances as temporary and a steppingstone to the next level of their life. They desire to move forward but the action thereof is restricted for some reason or another.

Complacent people are okay with where they are in life, but certainly do not have a desire to move forward. They would be okay with never taking another step forward as long as they live. They are ignorantly comfortable in the circumstances.

Here’s the conundrum— many people believe they may be content when in fact they are complacent. But I believe what’s worse is the opposite; when someone believes they are complacent but really are merely content. Often, (I’m speaking based on personal experience) those kind of individuals will try to force things to happen for themselves. Referring back to faith, for those who know and trust in The Lord, forcing things to happen is very counterproductive and can lead to greater dissatisfaction and ultimately counteract the benefits of being content.

Scripture is always helpful in referencing the importance of something. Let’s look at what Paul has to say on the topic.

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, so we cannot take anything out of it. But having food and clothing, with these things we shall be content.”

1 Timothy 6:6-8

“I am not saying this because I am in need—for whatever circumstance I am in, I have learned to be content. I know what it is to live with humble means, and I know what it is to live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment—both to be filled and to go hungry, to have abundance and to suffer need. I can do all things through Messiah who strengthens me.”

‭‭-Philippians‬ ‭4:11-13‬ ‭TLV‬‬

These are just a couple examples. Even though Paul is primarily referring to material things in regards to contentment, it should be understood that it’s because of where his heart is at. He lets nothing sway him from the peace and stability of knowing The Lord and being known by Him.

Be encouraged if you find yourself in a place of contentment. Trust that it’s where God wants you and that even though you may feel stagnant, having the motive in your heart to press forward is good. God sees that. Don’t worry and be okay with staying put for awhile. Don’t let anything sway you from knowing that God has great plans for you and wants to prosper you in the right timing.


-From Death To Life

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