How to Find Contentment, [& not blow up your means with your never-ending wants]

The husband shares here his reflection on what it means to live contented  — which, as a guy (or any woman!), is a challenge to curate — and how that one little truth can  powerfully transform every aspect of our lives….*thank.you, husband*

1 Timothy 6:6-10 – 

“But godliness with contentment is a great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.

But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

It seems rather odd to me that there are many so-called Christian books touting the importance of becoming rich.

To me, it seems pretty clear that becoming rich shouldn’t be our top priority.

Okay, I’m not disputing that there are a lot of rich people in the Bible. Solomon for example, was probably the richest man in the whole world at that time. However, nobody was ever congratulated for wanting to be rich. Solomon in particular, became rich because he asked for wisdom and received the multifold favours of God. However, seeking riches for riches’ sake seems rather contrary to Biblical teaching which calls for purity of heart and living with godliness and contentment instead.

First Timothy makes it pretty clear; godliness with contentment is something that we should aim for.

And it’s important that they stay together.

Being contented without any godliness is probably going to mean that somebody would be rather proud and self-sufficient.

They would have everything they needed and then desire little else.

Unfortunately, if they do not have godliness, then this form of contentment will lead to self-destruction.

On the other hand, to be godly without contentment might lead to a legalistic pursuit of holiness that leaves the pursuer hungry and dissatisfied.

This person strives for something but is never able to get it.

Godliness with contentment must, therefore, be a wonderful state to be in. 

One becomes holy and certain of what God wants in his life, and at the same time is contented with what he already is and has.

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I have to be honest. I have wanted to drive an expensive German car ever since I could remember. It was like a given that one day, when I’m successful enough, I’d be driving a luxury car. It wasn’t something that I thought about often, and I didn’t even know what sort of car it was going to be, but something inside of me felt that it should be a goal worthy to pursue.

Then I hit my mid-30s and had finally finished a fairly prolonged training for my career, so I was seriously tempted to upgrade my dated Honda Accord Euro with the German counterpart. I felt a sense of discontentment with my car ownership and the new status I had gained in life.

And no, it wasn’t that my current car was particularly terrible. There were certainly a few things going wrong with it. However I knew if I had just spent a few hundred dollars they could be fixed.  No, it was a sense that I needed to direct some sort of monument to signify the wonderful accomplishment that I had made at that time.

I even thought of excuses like safety concerns or fuel economy. However, most of these excuses turned out to be rather silly. I mean, really how much money could you save on petrol compared to the price of a new car? 

I felt the Lord challenging me. I really didn’t want to listen as I wasted hours surfing the net for car reviews. Thankfully, my heart eventually realized that there was no way I could get away with this way of thinking.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that upgrading your car is necessarily sinful. However I did realise that for me, it was certainly going to be sinful. My motivations were almost completely wrong the matter how you looked at them. I would have had no peace whatsoever in dropping $60,000-$80,000 on something that would make almost no difference to my life.

Thank God for His grace and mercy. He is patient and kind. It took me about three years to shake off this long-standing desire. Now I can finally say,  I don’t actually need to upgrade my car to be satisfied.  I have enough. In fact more than enough. He is enough for me.

Then there is also another thing. This desire to beat everyone else.

I mean, there’s an incredible number of books that encourage us to be amazing, incredible, supra-normal, to be in the top 1%, to be the richest, smartest, best looking, strongest people in the world.

Unfortunately for most of us, by definition, we will never be the best. Frankly, the large majority of us will not be best at anything, ever.

Just a few weeks ago, I was happily doing push-ups. I’m not naturally particularly strong or athletic, but I did pride myself in being able to do push-ups. As a teenager, I was terrible at running, and pretty much anything that required physical endurance, but I could do push-ups. I boasted to my daughter, “I can do 60 push-ups in a row” (i.e., isn’t dad awesome?). As we had been talking a lot about the Guinness book of records, I thought “I wonder how many push-ups have been done in a row?”. I figured that since I could do 60, the world record is probably about 200 maybe 250.

I quickly googled on my iPhone and to my complete surprise and dismay, the world record was somewhere around the 10,000 mark! Even my eight-year-old daughter laughed at me. Thankfully, there was another record I could throw back at her. The world record for push-ups for an eight-year-old was about 4000! I couldn’t even imagine doing 1000 push-ups in a week.  I would find it hard enough to concentrate long enough to count to 10000, let alone do 10,000 pushups in a row!

This isn’t the only area in which I am somewhat average. In fact most of us are average,  or at least around average or below average for most things. This is the uncomfortable truth. There can only be one person at the top.

Sure, I can hear the usual argument, “if there’s gonna be some guy at the top it might as well be me”. That’s the sort of thing that works for people like Michael Jordan and perhaps Bill Gates. But it generally doesn’t work out that way for people like you and me for most things. In fact, just ask the second most valuable players in the NBA in the last few years. The problem is you don’t even know who they are (that’s how bad it is to not be the MOST valuable).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t all strive for excellence. I’m just challenging the idea that we should all somehow be able to be the best in everything.  It may be complete nonsense and all of us know it deep down,  we just don’t want to accept it.  I mean just think about it. If everyone in the world could do 10,000 push-ups, then it would be absolutely average to be able to do 10,000 push-ups.

So really this whole thing about being the best is all relative. I can beat most (but perhaps not all)  three-year-olds in a 100-meter race. That would make me the best in that particular race.

I also think that the idea of being ridiculously rich and not having to work ever again is really silly. Firstly, it is highly unlikely that you can achieve it. I suspect that half of the rich people who write books are rich partly because they write books. Secondly,  I think this sort of thinking undermines the value of a good hard day’s work.  I’m not saying that you should be happy to work low-end dead-end job and never climb the ladder of success, I’m just saying that to think that you can be a multimillionaire by the age of 30 for most people is a misleading idea.

Striving for this so-called success creates a certain discontentment in people. Perhaps it jostles the feeling of the lack of purpose and destiny in people. However, I would argue that our purpose must be found in God, in what we’re doing right now, where we are in life right now. Yeah, I think the Bible is pretty clear that we are to be contented.

What about you? What do you think contentment means in your own life? Please share in the comments below.

(A special thanks to @timkwok photography for the most awesome pics 1,2,3,4,7,8)

One thought on “How to Find Contentment, [& not blow up your means with your never-ending wants]

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