Saturday, January 22, 2011

First Things First

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

The story goes that a reporter once interviewed a billionaire and marveled at the rich man's ability to amass wealth. "Just how much money is enough?" the reporter inquired. 

"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 dissatisfactions. Rather than In God We Trust, perhaps America's national motto should be Supersize It.

God has blessed us with a nation of incredible wealth. Even our poor and unemployed could be considered rich by the standards of most of the world. Yet an epidemic of discontentment tends to blind us to this fact. The more possessions we gather and the higher we climb on 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 this is all there is to life.

This so-called disease of discontentment has some nasty symptoms. Those afflicted with the malady often turn to alcohol, street drugs, illicit relationships and gambling to ease the 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 society. In fact, the Bible addressed the issues of greed and discontentment centuries ago. And its advice is as valid today as it was back then.

First, be sure to think about all the ways God has blessed you. It could involve your family, career, health, friends ... just count the ways. Then, stop trying to compare what you have with your neighbor's possessions. Advertising agencies prosper when they convince folks that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But don't forget that someone else is probably wishing they could enjoy just one or two of your blessings!

Like that elusive blessing called joy, contentment isn't something that we can get by buying a new car, moving into a bigger house or landing that job with the corner office. Contentment is instead an internal source of fulfillment and comfort acquired by knowing our Savior and living out the abundant life He's purchased for us.

It's really all about Jesus. A growing relationship with Him renders 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.

Does this sound simplistic or too good to be true? A whole new life really is but inches away: it's the distance between our head and our heart. The fact is that every one of us is free to accept Jesus' grand offer and grow in contentment.
"Seek first God's kingdom and what God wants," He tells us through Matthew's Gospel. "Then all your other needs will be met as well."

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