Are you contented? Are you satisfied with where you are in life right now? Well, if you are, stop it!
(At least that’s the message we receive every day from society.)
In our materialistic, consumer-oriented world, contentment is discouraged. We’re not to be satisfied with what we’ve got – we need more, we need new, we need better! What if Americans from coast to coast became content with what they had? Why, our entire retail structure would crumble. The whole idea is we need to buy new shirts, dresses, shoes, purses, coffeemakers, computers, smartphones, cars and houses. Quit spending, apparently, and it’s the end of life as we have known it.
Even annual economic reports carry the underlying message of discontent.
It’s not enough for our nation’s businesses to duplicate what they did the year before; they must do better, hopefully by several percentage points. And they need to do the same the next year.
I could give more examples, but we all know what being discontented feels and looks like. Because we experience it – maybe even today. So, when I came across an online listing entitled, “10 Signs You Are Doing Well in Life,” it caught my attention because it presents a very different perspective on what contentment is – or should be. Here’s the list of “Signs”:
1. You have a roof over your head
2. You ate today
3. You have a good heart
4. You wish good for others
5. You have clean water
6. Someone cares for you
7. You strive to be better
8. You have clean clothes
9. You have a dream
10. You’re breathing
Sadly, for countless millions of people around the world – including many in the U.S.A. – if that’s what contentment requires, then they have every right to feel discontented. Four items listed – a roof (somewhere to live), food, water and clothing – are tangible needs that far too many people lack. For those of us who do have these things, we ought to have two responses: 1) be thankful, and 2) consider how we could help those who don’t.
The other six items on the list, however, aren’t tangible. They’re states of mind, perspectives. Too many people lack them as well. In our increasingly negative, hate-filled, intolerantly “tolerant” culture, finding someone with a good heart and who wishes good for others is a treasure.
Equally priceless is someone who cares for us, especially those who do so unconditionally, despite our many flaws and weaknesses. When so many men, women and children are forgotten, isn’t it a blessing to have someone who cares for us?
Striving to be better often ties into having a dream. I have friends who not only have cultivated those qualities for themselves, but also have dedicated their lives to helping others do the same. Lacking a dream – having no hope for a brighter future, or to be a better person in one way or another – can become a virtual death sentence.
The last item on the list, the fact that we’re breathing for another day, means we have a chance to strive for and attain the other nine. And perhaps, to assist others in their own striving.
Contentment, as we might expect, receives prominent attention in the Bible. Writing to his young protégé, Timothy, the apostle Paul admonished, “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).
Speaking to the throngs that followed Him, Jesus urged them to trust and find contentment in what God provides: “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin…if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith! And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying…your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you” (Luke 12:27-31).
Our society broadcasts the mantra, “Don’t be content. Don’t settle for where you are, or for what you have. You must do better!” To this the Scriptures respond, “give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8-9).
Following Paul’s advice, if we pursue godliness, finding satisfaction with whatever chooses to God provide – whether it be a lot or just enough to meet our needs – contentment won’t be far behind.
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly re-published, “Business At Its Best,” “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also writes two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.