Sloths are famous for how slowly they move. They spend most of their lives hanging upside down in the trees of the tropical rainforests of South America. There are three-toed sloths and two-toed sloths. They don’t need more toes given how little they do. Sloths sleep 15-18 hours a day. When we think of contentment, we may mistakenly think of sloth—sleeping in, moving little, and taking it easy.
Paul writes about contentment from prison. If we were on death row, we might write, “What are you doing to get me out of here?” Paul writes, “I have learned to be quite content whatever my circumstances” (v. 11).
Paul knows contentment on hard days. The circumstances do not control his inner life.
Sloth masquerading as contentment believes in nothing, cares for nothing, and wants to learn nothing. Sloth enjoys little, hates little, and finds little purpose. Sloth doesn’t long for anything genuinely good.
People who enjoy sitting on the porch and watching the sun go down may be genuinely content. Their musing may be the thoughtful reflection that prepares them for action, or it may itself be an important moment shared with God. Contemplation is not the enemy of action.
We can be busy and slothful at the same time. Hurrying does not guarantee that we are not apathetic. We can go through the motions at great speed. We can eat fast and taste nothing. We can rush through the garden and smell nothing. We can have conversations without listening. We can sit next to someone for hours without noticing them.
We should measure today not by whether we are busy or still, but by whether we recognize the presence of God who strengthens us in all things.
Do you see and hear the signs of God around you? What are those sights and sounds?
God, help me to find my contentment in faithfulness to you. Amen.