Question: "Why are we told to be content with what we have (Hebrews 13:5)?"
Answer: The author of Hebrews emphasized throughout his letter many ways that Jesus is superior and worthy of our faith and love. After recounting a cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) who gained approval through their faith (Hebrews 11:39), the writer challenges readers with a command to be content with what we have: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).
The basis of our being told to be content with what we have is in fixing our eyes upon Jesus—the author and completer of the faith (Hebrews 12:2); in fact, that is the basis of all of the ethical mandates or directions for how we should behave outlined in Hebrews 12—13. We should persevere and not lose heart, responding well to God’s discipline in our lives and encouraging others (Hebrews 12:3–13). We should be at peace with all, showing grace and not falling into immorality, as God has shown us incredible grace. We should not take grace for granted, as God takes all this very seriously (Hebrews 12:14–29). It is with this backdrop that we are told to be content with what we have (Hebrews 13:5).
We should be continually showing love to our brothers and sisters in Christ (Hebrews 13:1), and we should show affection or hospitality to strangers (Hebrews 13:2). We should be caring for brothers and sisters in prison and those who being mistreated (Hebrews 13:3); we should also be faithful stewards of sexuality, avoiding fornication and adultery (Hebrews 13:4). In addition to these moral mandates, the writer expresses that we should not love money. Instead, we are to be content with what we have (Hebrews 13:5). The writer gives a specific reason for our contentment—the principle that God never leaves His people (Hebrews 13:5) and that God is our helper (Hebrews 13:6).
Because of God’s great provision of grace, we can be content with what we have. We are told to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and His provision for us. While often we are tempted to focus on what we need or want, Jesus reminds us that our Heavenly Father knows what we need and cares deeply about us. He will provide for us what we really need (Matthew 6:25–33). Because God cares so deeply for us, we can trust that, if we seek Him first, He will take care of us.
Now, it is important to realize that God’s promise of provision does not mean that we will always get what we want. Instead, He promises to provide in our lives that which will help us be more conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28–31). This means that, even when we are encountering difficulty and when we sense that we are lacking things we need, God is still faithful. He is providing what we need in order to grow, with the ultimate outcome being our Christlikeness.
God cares for us, has provided us a new position of being alive in Christ, provides for us daily to discipline and shape us (Hebrews 12:4–11), and has guaranteed our future Christlikeness (Ephesians 1:13–14, 1 Peter 1:3–5). Armed with that awareness, we are content with what we have. Understanding every spiritual blessing that God has provided for us (Ephesians 1:3) helps us to make contentment a reality in our lives.