Do you find yourself constantly wishing you had more? You wish you had more or better clothes, more money in the bank, a newer car, or a larger house. When we look around at other people, especially pictures we see posted to social media, it is easy to fall into the trap of wishing we had what other people have.
In Christianity we try to walk a delicate balance as it relates to our material possessions. We must learn to avoid the two extremes. On the one hand some say that the best way to demonstrate humility is to give up everything and live in poverty. On the other extreme are those who say that if you are really living the Christian life then God would be showering you with every blessing imaginable. Some people in poverty think that is proof that they love God more, while some in prosperity think that is proof that God loves them more. The truth is there are godly people that are both haves and have nots.
The goal of the Christian should be to learn contentment. In Philippians 4:11 Paul said, “I have learned in whatever state I am in how to be content.” According to the dictionary the word contentment means satisfaction or ease of mind. The Greek word that contentment translates comes from a word that means sufficiency. Contentment does not mean that we do not want anything or have dreams about having something else or something more. It just means that we realize that the things we do have are sufficient and we have peace of mind because we are not desperately wanting something else. Contentment means satisfaction.
When Paul learned how to be content he was writing those words from jail. Do you think Paul wished to be released from prison? Of course he did! But at the same time he had peace in his mind because he learned to be content with wherever God led him.
I believe the first step towards finding contentment is to realize that everything we have comes from God. He is the one who supplies our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19), and every good gift comes down from above (James 1:17). This takes the pressure off of us. If God wanted us to have more, we would have more. If He wanted us to have less, we would have less. You have what God wants you to have.
The next step towards finding contentment is to realize that our stuff is not the most important thing in life. Jesus said in Luke 12:15, “Be on guard against covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in abundance of possessions.” Some people are known by their stuff. They are known as the guy with the nice boat or the lady with the fancy clothes. But that stuff is all subject to rust and dust. I would rather be known for who I am.
If our driving goal is to have more, even if we achieve it we will not be happy. Ecclesiastes 5:10 tells us “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.” Author Dennis Prager put it like this: “If you equate happiness with success, you will never achieve the amount of success necessary to make you happy… Identifying success with happiness is like moving the goalposts back 10 yards every time a football team has a first down—your team may be more and more successful, but the goal posts will always remain unreachable.”
If you think having more stuff will finally bring you happiness, you will be severely disappointed by that stuff. If a football team advances from the 40 yard line to the 50, but then the goalpost is moved back 10 yards, the team may have found success but the end zone is still 60 yards away. When we learn the art of contentment we do not need the trappings of life to make us happy. When our happiness comes from God—when the joy of the Lord is our strength—then we will have a happiness that the world cannot take away.