Although Paul was appreciative for the generosity of the Philippians, he wanted them to know that the expression of his joy was not based on his material needs being met. His joy was the direct result of being content wherever he found himself in life, because of a secret he had learned.
Paul was content and his source of contentment was different from the cultural norm. Paul’s use of this word contentment seems to be a play on a word that was familiar and had an active meaning among those living within that culture. He knew because of Stoicism and its influence on the culture, that contentment was the ultimate goal. Stoicism was the pursuit to live above need and abundance in such a way as to be self-sufficient.
If we would be honest with ourselves, many of us desire to be in a place where life consists of having more than enough and never having to depend on anyone else. This was the life Paul was accustomed to before his Damascus road experience. He had been brought up in the lap of luxury, and to need something from others was unfamiliar to him as a young man.
The text reads, “I have learned to be content.” The Greek word for ‘have learned’ is, manthanō,man-than´-o; this word speaks of knowledge that has been gained or understood. In Greek, it is also making reference to a new condition. This was a new way of life that Paul had to learn. This new way of life for Paul was a stark contrast between his former life and his new life. It is more than information learned or understood; but, is solearned that it has altered how he lives his life.
Remember: Learning in this passage is associated with application.
I recall while I was growing up that often I was confused by what I witnessed by those who were “well-learned” believers. Their behavior often times didn’t reflect the same measure of knowledge they boasted of knowing. As I got older, I realized the difference between having knowledge and being transformed by that knowledge.
I wonder how often we make our journey with the Lord more problematic than necessary because we are not ready to embrace the level of entering into a new way of life. This is a new life and we must learn to live it.
Question: Are you applying what you are learning for the sake of spiritual transformation? Or, is your learning primarily the gaining of information?
Believers and non-believers often share the same/similar interests. However, our source is the difference. The Stoic pursued a contentment that was rooted in being dependent on themselves; however, Paul’s contentment was rooted in being dependent on Christ.
Question: Is the source of your contentment, dependent on yourself or dependent on Christ?
Lord, as we learn your Word help us to apply it and let the transformation take place in our lives, Amen.