But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. – 1 Corinthians 15:10 (NIV)
I’d like to thank Ann Musico of 3-D Vitality for planting the seed for this post. Ann commented on my last post “Learned Contentment – The Secret of Thanksgiving” that “God built a desire for improvement and increase into us.” I agree with Ann’s sentiments but it got me to thinking about how we look at the relationship between the words “contentment” and “complacency”. Dictionary.com (It’s funny how no one quotes Webster’s dictionary any more) defines contentment as “the state of being satisfied with who one is or what one has – not wanting more or anything else.” Complacency is defined as “a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc.” Reading the definitions of these words only further confuses instead of clarifies and it easy to see why we sometimes use the words contentment and complacency interchangeably. In fact, Dictionary.com does list these two words as synonyms. However the Bible does not view them as such.
The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary defines contentment as “the disposition of mind which one is, through grace, independent of outward circumstances, so as to not be moved by envy, anxiety and discontent.” God through his grace renders true contentment. Unlike contentment, the Dictionary.com definition of complacency aligns with how the word is used in scripture, being smug and unconcerned, pleased with our own merits without awareness of weakness or danger. Satan seeks to mimic and distort everything God created as good. The end game of this mimicry is our destruction. In light of this I see complacency as Satan’s counterfeit of Biblical contentment. An appropriate biblical synonym for complacency is not contentment but rather laziness. If we adopt a lifestyle of complacency we fall far short of “the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14b – KJV).
Jesus had some harsh words to say about complacency. In the parable of the talents found Matthew 25, a man gave three of his servants varying amounts of money, five talents, three talents and one talent respectively. The man went on a journey but returned and demanded an accounting of his money. He commended the servants to whom he had given five talents and three talents because they invested the talents and earned a returned (vv. 20-23). The servant to whom had been given one talent did not invest his talent, but rather buried it in the ground. Unlike the other two servants, this servant was not commended, but rather condemned by his master, “you wicked, lazy servant. . . . throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (vv. 26a, 30).
Even before the fall and the creation of woman, man was expected to work, “the LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15 – NIV). As my former pastor used to say, “before God gave man a wife, he gave him a job.”