The Danger of Discontentment

In 1985, Prince and The Revolution released the critically-acclaimed album Around the World in a Day.

The album included two top-10 singles: “Raspberry Beret,” which peaked at number two in the United States, and “Pop Life,” which reached number seven. Though the somewhat playful and whimsical Raspberry Beret was the album’s most successful release, the song Pop Life is my personal favorite because the lyrics, though somewhat lighthearted, nevertheless pose weighty questions that warrant our deliberate consideration:

What’s the matter with your life?
Is the poverty bringing u down?
Is the mailman jerking u ’round?
Did he put your million-dollar check
In someone else’s box?
Tell me, what’s the matter with your world?
Was it a boy when u wanted a girl?
Don’t u know straight hair ain’t got no curl?
Life it ain’t real funky,
Unless it’s got that pop!
Dig it!
Pop life,
Everybody needs a thrill.
Pop life,
We all got a space 2 fill.
Pop life,
Everybody can’t be on top.
But life it ain’t real funky,
Unless it’s got that pop![1]

I used to DJ house-parties back in the day and the extended version of Pop Life was one of my go-to tracks to help “get the party started” (as we used to say.) But apart from being a popular dance track, fundamentally, Pop Life is a song about contentment or, perhaps better, discontentment.

Pop Life confronts us about the things we yearn for in life and our response when those desires and expectations go unmet. But as author Stephen Arterburn warns:

“When we settle for unhealthy and unfulfilling imitations of what we really desire, our appetites can begin to rage out of control and start controlling us. We will turn to sources of satisfaction that will eventually turn on us and force us either to give up altogether or to overindulge to the bitter end.”Feeding Your Appetites, p. 9

Sadly, many Christians today are discontent with their life.

They have become emotionally and psychologically jaundiced from a sense that their life lacks that “pop”—that something—that person, that thing, that experience which they believe will provide the level of fulfillment, significance, and satisfaction they’ve longed for but have yet to discover.

It is this pursuit of the “Pop Life” that has led many believers astray.

In their self-centered zeal to remedy the fact that their life “ain’t funky,” they become engrossed in sins they thought they would never commit while, conversely, reaping consequences they thought they would never suffer. But such is the subtle—and deceptive—allure of discontentment. As Ralph Venning (1621-74) said:

“One sin, though committed but once, is one and once too much. Besides, when the Serpent’s head is in, it is hard to keep out the whole body; one makes way for the other. It is almost impossible to sin once and only once.”[2]

Discontentment is grounded in misplaced affections; and affections—for better or worse—are always a matter of the heart. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there is your heart also.”[3]

At the root of all discontentment is a heart that has lost sight of what Jesus described as the “foremost” commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”[4] 

Though not often considered in theological terms, discontentment is sin. It is sin because it is evidence that we treasure something or someone more than we treasure Christ. Discontentment pridefully declares to the One who willingly paid our sin-debt on the cross, “Sorry, Lord, but You’re just not enough for me. I want more.”

It is the height of arrogance for any professing believer to refer to Christ as ‘Lord,’ yet regard Him as insufficient on the basis that our self-absorbed life “ain’t got that pop.” Consider such audacious hubris in light of these words from Thomas Watson (1620-86) who said:

“In a word a contented Christian, being sweetly captivated under the authority of the Word, desires to be wholly at God’s disposal and is willing to live in that sphere and climate where God has set him.”[5]

Discontentment is such a destructive sin that if left unaddressed it can—and will—decimate everything in its path.

It is discontentment that leads husbands and wives to engage in adulterous affairs under the mirage that they’ll be happier with someone else.

It is discontentment that convinces many families to take on financial obligations that they cannot afford.

It is discontentment—the desire for the “pop life”—that contributes to increasing numbers of individuals falling into an abyss of spiritual depression and addictions of all sorts (from which many do not recover.)

This sinful world is incessant in its efforts to convince believers that to live for Christ is to somehow miss out on life. But it is Christ who has already given us everything we need—in Himself—whereas the world gives us nothing that is of any lasting value or worth. As the Scriptures declare in 2 Peter 1:3, “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”

It was Charles H. Spurgeon who said:

“[Now,] contentment is one of the flowers of heaven, and if we would have it, it must be cultivated. It will not grow in us by nature; it is the new nature alone that can produce it, and even then we must be specially careful and watchful that we maintain and cultivate the grace which God has sown in it.”

To be a Christian is to turn one’s back to the world; and yet it is the pursuit of the “pop life” that invariably draws us toward the things of the world and away from the things of God (Col. 3:1-3; 1 Jn. 2:15-16). As Thomas Watson wrote in The Art of Divine Contentment:

“Discontent takes the heart wholly off from God and fixes it on the present trouble, so that a man’s mind is not upon his prayer but upon his cross.”

A “discontented Christian” is a living, breathing oxymoron.

Think about it. How can any professing believer in Christ be discontent when he or she has been saved by Christ from the wrath of God for his or her sins (Lam. 3:39; Jn. 3:36)? 

So, tell me, what’s the matter with your life?

If you are a Christian who is struggling with thoughts of discontentment, I humbly urge you to confess and repent of your sin, and to ask God to help you recognize and appreciate anew the blessed reality that, in Christ, you have been provided everything you will ever need to live not only in this life but also in the next.

I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself.” And behold, it too was futility. — Eccl. 2:1 (NASB)

Soli Deo Gloria,

Darrell

Related:
The Sin of Discontentment — Jeremiah Johnson, Grace to You

[1] “Pop Life”, Songwriter: Prince Rogers Nelson, © Universal Music Publishing Group

[2] Puritan Paperbacks: Sinfulness of Sin, The Banner of Truth Trust, p. 169

[3] Luke 12:34 (NASB)

[4] Mark 12:30 (NASB)

[5] The Art of Divine Contentment

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4 thoughts on “The Danger of Discontentment

  1. Monica Neal

    I was going over the lyrics to this song in my mind last week while working and analyzing the lyrics. Listening to some of the patients I see as well as listening to some co-workers I wondered if anyone was thankful for where they were, what they have and their ability to do what they do. At times it seems as though we are in an era of dissatisfaction and complaining or comparison. If we would just stop, give thanks and be content in Christ then our lives would be “popping”!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Michael White

    I occasionally slip into discontentment. But i am reminded that I am owed ZERO by God and yet have recieved riches from Him. Then I turn my discontent into gratitude for the things He so blessedly gives me, both big and small. Why should I care so much for the things of this world when I am a FOREVER man?

    Liked by 1 person

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