Contentment – To be or not to be?

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      Contentment is a fleeting concept, especially in our American culture. It would seem that to be content or satisfied with your old possessions would make you out-of-date, uncool, or maybe even poor. As if the more, bigger, better, or newer your possessions are, the higher up you may climb this insane social ladder we all aim to surmount. When in reality, the more you chase the dollar bill in an effort to feed the greedy hole that resides inside of you, the larger that hole will become and the more your sense of contentment will disappear. They say money talks, but what they don’t tell you is that when it talks it lies, and people are fooled into doing insane things, and if they had ignored those lies, they would not be in the position they are in today. Whether you are wealthy or not does not affect this issue. The truth is you can be insanely rich and discontent, or poor and extremely content. The bible says:

 “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 

The issue is not with having or not having money, it is purely with the love of money, and how that love later translates to greed, discontent, and a hunger for all things superficial and meaningless. The “love of money” is a destroyer! It destroys relationships on all levels, including marriages, familial relationships, friendships, business partnerships, and the list goes on. It destroys lives completely. People will kill, steal, and destroy for the love of it. They forsake their morals and flee from all sound guidance in pursuit of it, no matter how grand the warning. Men and women will work countless hours, leaving their spouses and children at home, day in and out. All in an effort to make “enough” to financially secure their lifestyle, well beings and so on. When what their family needs most is less stuff, and more of their presence. Really, what is enough? The average income of a person in the world today is $2 a day and that provides enough for them that day. Now I am not saying we all should get rid of all of our possessions, become poor and neglect our menial needs. What I am saying is, are we content with what we have, are our “needs” provided for, or are we neglecting the best for pursuit of excess?

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like” -Will Rogers

We are raising up a generation of people who will work harder for an idea or lifestyle filled with well stocked 401K’s, stocks, bonds, savings, and investments. Instead of well invested time in the lives of their children “raising them up in the way they should go”. Teaching them how to grow healthy relationships and not how to grow more in the next fiscal year. It is frowned upon if an American man or woman chooses to be content with having less, and investing their most precious time into their families and not running the rat race of building a financial empire that can be taken away in the blink of an eye. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for hard work and saving. Even more so for leaving an inheritance to our children, but at what cost? What kind of inheritance are we leaving? One of pure finance? Or one standing on a firm foundation rooted in Christ, that no matter what state the economy may be in, nothing can take that inheritance away. What will our children remember most about us? Our absence or our presence?

I know this from experience. A year ago my husband was working 16 hour days equivocating to 80 hour weeks. We, at the time, had 4 children and essentially, I was a single parent because it was all on me when it came to raising our precious little ones. It was tough for everybody within the home. I longed to have my husband, the children longed for their father and he longed for all of us. He started to feel the Lord tug on his heart calling him away from both jobs, simultaneously, without having any exact job secured to go to after he resigned. He prayed about it for a few months and after several points of confirmation, he put in a two weeks notice at both jobs and was out of work for exactly 2 months. Within that two months we only had his last pay from both jobs to secure our needs and a few prospective occupational leads with little to no promise. We were judged, mocked, frowned upon and even lost a few friendships during that time. Some well-meaning believers were throwing scripture at us left and right, but our convictions remained, and the Lord was doing His work whether it made sense to those outside our home or not. It was a true defining season for us and for the relationships of our family, and ultimately our relationship and faith in our Lord. God provided our every need those two months and taught us that no amount of financial gain will ever secure us. That our security lies within Him and Him alone. Our marriage grew so strong. Our children got to bond with their daddy in a way they never had the opportunity to. At the end of it all, our faith and hope was exactly where it needed to be. Not in any job, knowledge of man, or a dollar amount. We truly learned what it meant to be content and even though we experienced opposition, from every angle (including Christian friends) we knew that we were following the Lord and His fruit was produced and He was who received the glory.

No matter what financial status you hold, there is nothing wrong with living a simple life.  If you choose the excess, there is nothing wrong with that either. As long as the Lord remains the pinnacle of your priorities. Followed by those you love, and then followed by everything else.

This reminds me of the Jar of Stones story:
From under the table that stood between the professor and the class, the professor pulled out a big glass jar and gently placed it in front of him. Next, he pulled out from under the table a bag of stones, each the size of a tennis ball, and placed the stones one by one in the jar. He did so until there was no room to add another stone in the jar. Lifting his gaze to the class, the professor asked, “Is the jar full?” The class replied, “Yes!”.

Once again, he reached under the table and pulled out a bag full of pebbles. Carefully, the professor poured the pebbles in and slightly rattled the jar, allowing the pebbles to slip through the larger stones, until they settled at the bottom. Again, the professor lifted his gaze to his audience and asked, “Is the jar full?”

“Yes.” the class exclaimed with less enthusiasm

Now pulling out a bag of sand from under the table. Cautiously, the professor poured the sand into the jar. The sand filled up the spaces between the stones and the pebbles.

Yet again, the professor asked, “Is the jar full?”

“Yes….” one student replied hesitantly.

The professor reached for the pitcher of water that was on the table, and poured water in the jar until it was absolutely full. The professor now lifted his gaze once again and asked, “What great truth can we surmise from this experiment?”

Silence overcame the classroom.

“If we don’t put all the larger stones in the jar first, we will never be able to fit all of them later.” replied the professor.

What are the large stones in your life? Rather, what are the priorities in your life? If you fill your “jar” with sand, (i.e. the excess) you will miss out on getting those larger more important things in.

In her book, Organized Simplicity, Tsh Oxenreider says, “Simple living is about living your life with a purpose that aligns with your values. It’s about enjoying the things you love and care about and not about stressing over the things that don’t matter. It’s fulfilling; it brings peace; it drips with contentment. Living simply is about being who you were made to be.” I couldn’t agree more and my husband and I have chosen this lifestyle for our family. All though I enjoy a little “va va voom” from time to time. I do not wish to go back to a life lived in excess.

In the 1950’s the average square footage of a new single-family home was 983. The average size of a family was 4-5 people. Today the average size home is 2,349 for a family of 2. Today smaller families need bigger homes and the trend is spreading all throughout America, Australia, New Zealand, and most of the westernized world. We in no way need almost 900 square feet per person in our homes today. It would seem our culture has inflated all that it could from the dollar, from the size of our meals, amount of personal possession, and now the size of our homes.

“Do not believe the lie of more, more, more”

As I was meditating on writing this blog and how I would approach it, I started to shy away from the idea of even writing it. I was in my van on my way to a women’s bible study, when I was filled with doubt about even approaching the topic. I pulled up to the church, hurried in and got my kiddos all checked in to their classes, and made it into the sanctuary, only to hear my bible study teacher speaking about this very thing. I walked in right as she said “do not believe the lie of more, more, more”. I thought, “Okay God this is my confirmation right here and you indeed want me to write this piece.”
She taught on three points:

  1. When money talks it lies
  2. When money talks it gives a false sense of security
  3. When money talks it can keep people from following Christ

I thought,  “Wow, Lord, you took the thoughts I had with you and spoke them back to me. If that isn’t confirmation I don’t know what is.
From her sermon these 3 verses really stood out to me. I would love to leave them with you as well.

  • “Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, Cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings Like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.” Proverbs 23:4-5 
  • “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them? The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep.” Ecclesiastes 5:10-12
  • “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment..” 1 Timothy 6:6

If you have come here because you are struggling with finding contentment with where you are right now, or because you were just curious as to what it was I had to say about the matter, but now are left feeling you want true contentment found only in the Lord. Then know, that I am right there with you, and am praying for you on your journey and want to encourage you not to give up in letting go of the excess. Enjoy the life God has given you with the people He has placed in it. The fruit is sweet and the reward is even greater.

Until next time,

Tany

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