John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937), once the world’s richest man, was asked how much money was enough. His answer: “just a little bit more.”
The world really hasn’t changed much. All you have to do is look around you or open the newspaper to see that people are chasing after more. Have you noticed in the last number of years that there is also a thriving storage industry where people can keep their overflow? And when you want to sell your house, it has to be staged – get that excess out of sight!
Today, there is even a prosperity gospel that suggests Christians ought to be materially blessed. Yet this is not what the Bible teaches.
C is for Contentment
The apostle Paul addresses this in his letter to Timothy, saying
But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:9-10, NLT)
Earlier in the chapter he offers a right perspective: “...true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.” (1 Timothy 6:6)
It would seem that if anyone ‘deserved’ to be blessed for his ministry, it was Paul. Would prosperity teachers dare to suggest that he was not an authentic follower of Christ? But Paul says of his troubles,
AndNot that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. (Philippians 4:11 -12, NLT)
Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you. (Hebrews 13:5)
This is something that Christians in today’s developing countries seem to know and experience. While I have personally never visited these places (at least not yet!), people who have have told me that believers who live in impoverished conditions have an incredible joy and share what they have with others. They are content. What a lesson they have to teach those who seek the false comfort of wealth.
Psalm 22:26 says
The poor will eat and be satisfied. All who seek the Lord will praise Him. Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy. (Psalm 22:26)
Isn’t it true that those who are content are happier than those who are not? And isn’t it happiness that people really want? Happiness is not found in “stuff;” that’s why people who seek it there can never be satisfied.
Of course, there is a time for discontent. We should not be content with the current state of our spiritual lives, for example, unless we are walking so closely with God that others can’t tell where we end and He begins. We ought to always seek to better ourselves in our relationship with God and be in His Word and in prayer. We ought to always examine ourselves for the ‘fruit’ we are bearing.
And sometimes the Holy Spirit places a niggle of discontent within us so we recognize that it’s time for a change. That feeling of restlessness or dissatisfaction may pinpoint a need to change our job, our field of study, our direction in life. Maybe we need to re-evaluate our relationships or the ways we are spending our time.
But in terms of material things, God wants us to be content with what He has blessed us. He is our provider and the giver of all good gifts. Discontent in this area is the outflow of an ungrateful spirit and is displeasing to Him.
Exercise: Make a list of all the things you have to be thankful for.
Today’s prayer: Thank You, God, for all the blessings you have given me. Help me to be content with what I have and to chase godly character rather than earthly riches. Help me to use the resources I do have wisely, in ways that provide for my family and bless others who are in need.