I know how to live when I am poor, and I know how to live when I have plenty. I have learned the secret of being happy at any time in everything that happens, when I have enough to eat and when I go hungry, when I have more than I need and when I do not have enough.
-- Philippians 4:12
One of the wealthiest Americans of all time, oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller had a net worth of nearly $400 billion dollars (adjusted for inflation) by the time of his death in 1937. The story goes that a reporter once marveled at the rich man's ability to amass wealth. "Just how much money is enough?" the reporter asked Rockefeller. "Just a little bit more," replied the billionaire.
Whether you're rich, living from paycheck to paycheck or somewhere in between, a little bit more always seems to be the remedy for life's frustrations. Rather than In God We Trust, perhaps America's national motto should be Supersize It.
God has blessed us through a nation of incredible wealth. Even our poor and unemployed are considered rich by the standards of most of the world's population. Yet an epidemic of discontentment tends to blind us to this fact. The more possessions we gather and the higher we climb the corporate ladder, the more disillusioned and unfulfilled we become. And rather than thanking God for his blessings and making the most of them, we wonder (often aloud) if it's all there is to life.
This disease of discontentment has some nasty symptoms. Those afflicted with the malady often turn to alcohol, drugs, illicit relationships and gambling to ease their self-inflicted pain. Things might get better for a while. But the hunger returns soon enough.
This problem is hardly new. And it's not confined to the United States or even Western societies. In fact, the Bible addressed it centuries ago. And Scripture's advice is as valid today as it was back then.
What's the prescription?
First, think about all the ways God blesses you. It could involve your family, career, health and friends. Then, stop comparing what you have with your neighbor's possessions. Advertisers prosper when they convince you that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But consider that many people would readily abandon everything to enjoy just one or two of the blessings you take for granted!
Contentment isn't something that we can get by purchasing a new car, moving into a bigger house or landing that plumb job with the corner office. Instead, it's an internal source of fulfillment and comfort acquired by knowing our Savior and living out the abundant life he's already purchased for us. The key is that it's all about Jesus. A growing relationship with him produces contentment because there's nothing bigger, better or more necessary. Comparisons fall away and material things lose their luster. What was once so important soon fades into obscurity.
Maybe it sounds simplistic or too good to be true. But a whole new life is just inches away--the distance between our head and our heart. And we're all invited to accept Jesus' grand offer and grow in contentment.
"Seek first God's kingdom and what God wants," we read in Matthew's Gospel. "Then all your other needs will be met as well."