The leech has two daughters—Give and Give! There are three things that are never satisfied, four never say, “Enough!” The grave, the barren womb, the earth that is not satisfied with water—and the fire never says, “Enough!” (Proverbs 30:15–16—NKJV)

Isn’t it interesting that content and contention sound like they should be from the same Latin root? Contention is from a root word meaning to contend, to stretch together, to struggle; whereas content comes from a root word meaning to hold together. It is the same word from which comes the word contain. This is why content (the contents of a box) and content (happy enough with what one has, satisfied and not desiring something more or different) are spelled the same. It is dissatisfaction with one’s contents that leads to contending strife!

It is the “nature of the beast within” (the leech—our sin nature) that we must go through our earthly pilgrimage seeking to strike a balance between contented satisfaction and contention. The fine line is evident in the fact that our language even makes a distinction between satisfaction and contentment. Satisfy comes from a compound root meaning enough + to make. It means to suffice, fulfill, to gratify needs, expectations, and wishes. To contrast the words satisfy and content, my old dictionary says, “satisfy implies complete fulfillment of one’s wishes, needs, expectations, etc.; content implies a filling of requirements to the degree that one is not disturbed by a desire for something more or different (some persons are satisfied only by great wealth, others are contented with a modest, but secure income).” This definition amply illustrates the great tension with which every believer wrestles throughout his earthbound life.

There is a biblical “art” to contentment which must be learned. Paul points this out in Philippians 4:11–13: “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased [humbled], and I know how to abound [overflow]. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can [have the strength to] do all things through Christ who strengthens [to put power in] me.”

Contentment is a learning process. Our Proverbs text instructs the learner concerning the nature of leeching, blood-sucking greed within the human experience. Our default setting is to be “takers.” Our greed functions on several levels:

  • The Grave—death and decay consumes all in this physical existence. We spend our lives seeking to materially ignore our inevitable devolution yet striving for more defenses against it. I believe that the grave stands for fear of impoverishment. Nothing feels more exposed and impoverishing than the grave.
  • The Barren Womb—yearning and desires, though natural and appropriate anticipations, when unrealized, can rob a person of the joy found in what God has provided out of His infinite wisdom and lovingkindness toward His beloved child. It seems this speaks of fear of loss.
  • The Thirsty Land—in arid climates no matter how much rain, or how little, it soon demands to be irrigated again if the growing season’s crop is to be harvested. Just as with the dry seasons there are seasons of discontent that must be planned for or we lose our harvest. Thirsty land seems to speak of fear of unfulfillment.
  • The Fire—fire will always consume whatever is within the lick of its tongue. No matter how much a fire is already consuming it will always gladly take more. There is no governor, no desire to conserve, and no desire to wait. It gobbles everything it can get immediately and so it seems to speak of the fear of being left behind by the crowd.

Four fears: impoverishment, loss, unfulfillment, and being left behind operate automatically and in their season since they are equally bound to, and proceed from, our sin nature.

The tools God gives for us to combat our grasping nature of discontent and to grapple with the seasons of life are found in several passages of Scripture:

  • Get to know real satisfaction in God alone (Psalm 107:9).
  • Make your priority to seek first His righteousness, for the Lord knows your needs and desires (Matthew 6:33).
  • Be diligent about the work you do (Proverbs 12:11).
  • Walk in integrity (Proverbs 14:14).
  • Place all your confidence in living in the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 19:23).

Hebrews 13:5 reads, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Remember, all the strength of your grasping nature is earthbound. Our eternal future is in glory as David said in Psalm 17:15, “As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.” Of what are you afraid? Is God bigger than your fears? Genuine contentment is a godly art (1 Timothy 6:6–8). Trust and obey.