Several years ago while on a trip to Dallas, Texas, I heard a minister preach a good sermon about contentment. This preacher had always wanted to buy a nice little Honda self-propelled push mower to mow his yard. He thought If I just had one of those mowers, mowing the yard would be enjoyable. I would be so contented. So he went out and bought one, and he did really enjoy it—until a friend warned him one day that his model of mower was so popular in the city that it was often stolen right out of people’s yards. Suddenly the preacher’s contentment vanished. He couldn’t take a break from mowing to drink a glass of ice tea without worrying that someone would steal his mower. He began to worry about whether he had left the garage door up when he was away. His life of contentment became a life of worry. Things can do that to you. The very things we think will bring us contentment can bring us discontent.
A great question to ask ourselves is whether we possess our possessions—or are possessed by them. Corrie Ten Boom, who survived a Nazi concentration camp, talks about holding onto things loosely. She says that one reason why she does so is because when she holds onto a thing too tightly, it hurts when the Lord has to pry her fingers off it. We don’t need to hold tightly to things, because we know that the only thing we get to take to heaven is ourselves. People who live the contented life know that having things does not give you what the Bible calls “the life that is truly life,” the kind of life that Paul wanted Timothy to live and to teach others how to live:
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17–19)
The key to living a contented life is to trust that God will take care of you. How ironic that the words “In God We Trust” are stamped on U.S. coins. A more truthful motto would be “In Money We Trust.” Jesus tells us we can’t serve him and money at the same time. They are rival masters (see Matthew 5:24). Jesus also tells us to store up our treasures in heaven, because earthly treasures will rot, rust, or be stolen (see Matthew 5:19–21). The writer of Hebrews says,
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5–6)
We must learn to trust in God, because he never changes. He is always there. God doesn’t lose value thanks to inflation. God is not subject to downturns in the market. God is not affected by tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, or earthquakes. God is absolutely trustworthy. Contented people don’t worry about tomorrow, because they trust God, who is already there.
REFLECTIONS: Are you possessed by your possessions? Can you think of some practical ways to begin holding onto them with open hands? Carry around a little card labeled “NUFF,” reminding you that you always have “a nuff” (enough)!
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
1 Timothy 6:6–8