A bigger house. A newer car. Nicer clothes. More vacations. These are the longings of many of our hearts. We look around and we see what our friends and neighbors have. And we want more. We want what they have. We want to be thinner, smarter, better looking and younger. We want what we don't have.
Have you ever watched a two-year-old play? If there is another child in the room playing with a different toy, the two-year-old will inevitably want what the other child has -- and he probably won't be shy about taking it. We're not all that far removed from that two-year-old. Oh, we're nicer about it. We probably won't take it from our friend. But we want it. And sometimes we let it consume us.
When I was pregnant with our younger daughter, I wanted to move. It wasn't so much that I wanted a bigger house, I just wanted one that had a better layout for our needs. My friends all agreed, but my husband didn't. I pushed the issue until my husband agreed to put our house on the market. But when we had an offer on the table, my husband looked at me and said, "I'm not ready to do this." My discontent had pushed my husband into something he didn't want to do. And his reaction pushed our marriage to a difficult place. All rooted in discontent.
Always wanting more is dangerous, and it can be disastrous. It takes the focus off of God's provision and puts it squarely on our wants and desires. There's nothing wrong with having a new house or a new car, but when the desire for those things becomes all-consuming, there's no place for God to work.
So, how do we decide that enough is enough? How do we back out of this race for more that we call the American dream?
Start by looking beyond your corner of the world. If you own a car and a house, you are among the richest people in the world. You are the 1%. Because we so often live in places where everyone else is just like us, our perspective is skewed. We forget that there are people who don't get enough to eat, who don't have a closet full of clothes, who don't even have clean water to drink. When we begin to look at ourselves in relation to the rest of the world, we realize just how blessed we are, and we can rid ourselves of the seeds of discontent.
Decide when enough is enough. Set limits on how much you're willing to spend on chasing stuff. Then put those resources to work helping those with less than you. For example, decide how long you will drive your cars before you replace them. If you're a person who replaces their car every three years, try driving it for five. Use the extra money to sponsor a child or buy food for a local food pantry.
Stop comparing. The roots of discontentment start in comparison. We see others who have more, and we want more. Generally, we're not unhappy with what we have until we see what others have. Ask God to help you stop comparing yourself to others. Ask Him to make it the desire of your heart to become more like Jesus, not more like your neighbor.
Make contentment your goal. Actively chase contentment. Count your blessings. Don't make impulse purchases. Make do with what you have. Learn to be content. Make it an everyday pursuit.
We often think that having more stuff will bring us happiness, but wealth doesn't always mean an end to our problems. Solomon was the richest man in the world, but he had this to say in Ecclesiastes 4:8: "There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth."
Stuff doesn't bring contentment. It often leads to the desire for more stuff. Being content doesn't mean we never get anything new. It doesn't mean we stop trying to be healthy or educated. It simply means that those things don't become the all-consuming focus of our lives. It means we don't let stuff take God's rightful place as the No. 1 thing in our lives. It means we simply know when enough is enough. It means we control our stuff; it doesn't control us.
Are you content with what you have or do you need to gain a new perspective?