What is contentment? Do we ever reach the point in life where we don’t need any more things or are satisfied with life just as we are, whether we have a lot or a little? Why is it that we always have a desire for a little bit more?
I am a cyclist and I own a road bike and 2 mountain bikes. When I got my first mountain bike, it was good for about 2-3 years, but it only had front suspension and I wanted to upgrade to a full suspension bike. After a couple of years with this bike, I started to race and I needed a better, lighter, full suspension bike. So I purchased an expensive trail bike that could take on any terrain. I had this bike for 3 years and it served me well. As I continued to race, I needed to get a racing bike which was even lighter and faster than my previous bike. I also needed to get a road bike so I could train more during the week. This is just the bikes, also during these years my equipment continued to change along with it. I needed new shoes, new helmets, upgraded parts on the bike, and the best nutritional products I could find. I suppose if I continue down this path I will have a new bike in another 3 years and a new trainer of some sort. But when is enough ever enough? When will the desire to have more ever stop?
This is just one example out of my life, but I bet if you were honest with yourself you do the same thing. It may not be biking, but it may be getting a new car every 3 years just because you want a new one. It could be clothes shopping, getting a new pair of shoes, shirts, sneakers, purses, or kitchen appliances. It could be buying new furniture, knick-knacks for the house, or a new T.V every couple of years, even though the one you have works perfectly fine. Why do we feel the need to continue to buy new things even though the things we have is all we need and then some?
I spent the last 9 days in Granada, Nicaragua on a short term mission trip. Nicaragua is the 2nd poorest country in the western hemisphere, next to Haiti. The average worker there makes approximately 5 U.S. dollars a day. To this we would assume the people there would want more. More money to have a house with a floor, a car, a refrigerator, a stove, or maybe a T.V., then there life would be better, or would it? While I was there I learned that you can be content with less, and their needs- or should I say desires- differ than ours. Every morning we would hold a bible study with our group and a couple of local Nicas. We were studying in the book of Proverbs and one of the locals shared what he learned from it. In Proverbs 30:8b,9 … give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. After reading this verse, he said he hopes never to be poor or rich. He went on to say that he is content when he has enough beans and rice to feed himself and his family. BEANS and RICE…this floored me and immediately humbled me to what I perceive as meeting my so called ‘needs’. I think many of us in North America suffer from the latter, we are so full ,“rich,” we say, “who is the Lord?” We don’t need anyone to help us in life because we can handle our own problems on our own, so we think anyway. We can just shop away our emptiness, we can drink away our hurts, and we fill voids with things and not the “One” who could fill it. Here is someone who in our perspective is dirt poor, yet he is rich and many of us are rich yet; we are dirt poor. Paul in the bible said it this way in Phil. 4:11-13, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
To Paul, it didn’t matter if he had plenty or little, whether he had health or sickness, because he learned the secret. He concludes that he can do all things through the strength of Jesus. This is because he wasn’t looking for answers and solutions that the world gives, because it will always leaves you wanting. You will never be satisfied in what the world can offer. The only contentment or satisfaction can be found in Christ. If you don’t believe me, just keep trying to satisfy yourself with material things, or alcohol or drugs, or even another person and see if you ever find contentment. Or can you ever say, “all I need is some beans and rice to feed me and my family, because I am already content with knowing my Maker?”