We think it’s safe to assert that people-both women and men-in any developed society would recognize themselves in these concrete examples of “longing for more.” Without a conscious change of direction, this is where we live. But how can we move past our insatiable cravings to a genuine contentment?
Confident in Love
We have already encouraged a practice that helps in growing our sense of God’s love—participating in the life of the church, where we regularly hear the Good News of our acceptance and destiny in Christ. We have also noted how personal prayer and Bible reading can reinforce our moment-to-moment appreciation of these foundational truths. Now is the time to reinforce those practices. In particular we want to tie our confidence in God’s love to a new mindset toward money and material things and see how the Bible consistently draws that connection.
Scripture celebrates that God lovingly provides what we need and tells us that things will never satisfy us in any sort of ultimate way. The Bible resounds with encouragement for us to work hard to acquire what we need and to avoid the trap of believing that money or things will make us happy or content. It tells us to use and enjoy things without letting them cause us discontent.
Here are a few of many examples:
“Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless,” says Ecclesiastes (5:10).
And then there are these words from Proverbs 1:19: “When you grab all you can get, that’s what happens: the more you get, the less you are” (MSG).
Jesus talks about the same idea in terms of peace. The calm we all long for doesn’t come from possessions but from him. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you,” he says. “I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
The apostle Paul in Philippians 4 puts forth one of the Bible’s more extended teachings on worry and peace. First he says that we should trade worry in for prayer: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (vv. 6-7). (We also like the way The Message puts it: “It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”)
In addition to prayer, Paul encourages us to focus our minds on things other than what worries us: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:8–9).
Paul isn’t making up wild theories. His teaching comes from his own experience riding a rollercoaster of joy and suffering, plenty and want. As a result of what he learned, he was able to say, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:11–13).