Thursday, December 22, 2005

Discontentment - Guy R. Finnie

The injunction we read in Hebrews 13.5, 'Be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee' suggests that there is a tendency towards an attitude of discontentment in the church's life. In every church, in every Christian, in every person there often appears evidence of a spirit of discontentment. Sooner or later, some word is spoken which shows that there is a desire for things to be other than as they are.

This is not surprising. Although God made us for perfection, we are not perfect. And the world which once was 'very good' in God's sight is now 'made subject to vanity, not willingly . . .' [Rom 8.20]. In other words, the whole framework of a fallen creation and of our environment is conducive to discontentment. Life itself bears the tensions of this fundamental disappointment. Furthermore, the Bible, which so marvellously reflects our human distress at every point, is a veritable gallery of discontentment.

But there are two sorts of discontentment. There is a spiritual discontentment and a carnal discontentment.


(a) The results of carnal discontentment. It is no exaggeration to speak of these results as, quite simply, hell on earth. 'From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not . . .' [James 4.1-2]. By what other words could we describe all the misery of which James speaks here? Is this not hell on earth?

Judas Iscariot provides a vivid illustration of this. We see him hanging by the rope which his own frenzied fists had strung [Matt 27.5] and then we see him broken-open in his hideous precipitation into the abyss [Acts 1.18]. The same spirit is exemplified in secular literature. In Shakespeare's play Richard the Third, Richard (that 'injured character' as John Wesley called him) is thrust into prominence in the first two lines. Speaking with bitter sarcasm, he says --

'Now is the winter of our discontent Made glorious summer by this son of York ...'

This is an exact description of carnal discontentment. It is an icy, freezing blast in the soul. The heart of the carnally discontented man is etiolated and comfortless, as is all his influence. Wherever he goes, his ever-increasing misery goes with him. It is hell on earth.

(b) The origin of carnal discontentment. It originates in self. In James 4.1-2 self is the assertive principle in this agony of wars, fightings and murders. It is 'your lusts that war . . . ' Self gives birth to carnal discontentment. This is always the case; there is no exception.

But at this point Satan is so subtle, and we can be so self-deceived. When Mary anointed our Lord's feet with a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, Judas Iscariot openly protested: 'Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?' On the face of it, Judas was making a valid objection. It sounded thoroughly laudable. But John pricked the bubble. 'This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein' [John 12.3-6]. Behind the apparent concern, which, for all we know, Judas himself supposed to be quite genuine, lay the carnal discontentment of a greedy, grasping, self-centred man. Take that protest of his, with all its spoiling of a most moving and beautiful occasion, and measure it. Why, Judas himself is the measure of his protest: it is no larger than the man. It originated within himself.

Imagine what pompous arguments Diotrephes may have employed to manoeuvre himself into a position of power in the church. He probably said of the elders, 'They mean well, but . . . ' He probably spoke of 'making an effective witness', or of ‘presenting the contemporary relevance of the gospel', or of 'getting alongside youth . . .', or some such. Whatever it was, it was ‘a sprat to catch a mackerel!' John said of him -- 'he loveth to have the pre-eminence among them' [3 John 9]. He was carnally discontented in any subordinate position. Behind all the unhappiness of which he was the instigator, lay his horrible self-centredness. The measure of this division, the conflict of loyalties, the hindered testimony, the gossip, and the grievous wounds was Diotrephes himself.

(c) The reason for carnal discontentment. It is that a man is discontented with himself. Carnal discontentment always reflects upon the man who displays it. Because he is not content within himself, he can find no contentment in any matter. This discontentment is as a hungry pack of wolves prowling through the forest, restlessly searching for satisfaction.

There is a vivid illustration of this principle in Proverbs 30.15: 'The horseleach hath two daughters, crying, Give, give . . .' The leach, stuck in the throat of the beast, sucked up its blood, on and on. The Revised Version margin gives the alternative for it as 'The vampire . . .'! This dramatic, chilling reference, is really a description of carnal discontentment. Judas Iscariot had the vampire in his heart: so had Demas, and Diotrephes, and Balaam, and Demetrius. 'Hell and destruction are never full: so the eyes of man are never satisfied ... '[Prov 27.20]. There is a spiritual principle here: The carnally discontented man can never be satisfied.

The fundamental reason for this is hinted at in Hebrews 13.5, 'Be content . . . for he hath said . . . ' The all-important word here is the conjunction 'for'. The writer does not call his readers to contentment with 'such things as ye have', and leave it there. He gives a reason why they should be content. He bases his injunction upon something our Lord has said: 'for he hath said . . . ' He knew that his readers were open to this argument: it made sense to them. But to the carnally discontented man, it would make no sense at all. Nor, indeed, would any other basis for such an injunction have made sense. The dreadful fact is this: to the carnally discontented man, there is no argument for contentment. Such a man is not content within himself, and that is the end of the matter. The terrible consequences of this are abundantly plain. There is nothing for the carnally discontented heart. There is no 'for' by which to lever such a life from its orbit of restless, unhappy longing. It is of no use to gratify each complaint: there are plenty more to come, and more and more, to all infinity.

Continued Here


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