John Eldredge tells a great story of a rich industrialist who was visiting Mexico and found one of the local fishermen just sitting by his boat, playing his guitar and enjoying a cold drink.
Disturbed to find the fisherman so idle he asked, “Why aren’t you out there fishing?”
The fisherman replied, “Because I’ve already gone out today and I have caught all that I need for me and my family.”
The rich man responded, “Why don’t you raise your sights and catch more fish than just what you and your family need?”
The little fisherman replied, “What would I do with all those fish?”
His new friend’s response was quick, “You could earn more money and buy a bigger and better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish.”
“Then what?” the fisherman asked
“Then you could purchase nylon nets instead of those rope nets of yours, and then you would be able to catch even more fish, and make more money” the industrialist responded.
“Then what?” he asked again.
“Soon you’d be able to have a fleet of boats and then you would be rich like me.”
“Then what would I do?” the fisherman asked.
“Well,” replied the industrialist, “then you would finally be able to sit down, relax, and enjoy life.”
“You mean like I am doing right now?” the fisherman replied.
Our word of the week is content..
While Eldridge’s story may somewhat be an oversimplification of life, it does make a good point. In our rush to achieve success and enjoy the good life, it’s easy to overlook life’s simple pleasures right now. While the Bible does not sanction laziness or the failure to achieve, Christ does call for his followers to be content.
Regarding a love of material wealth, the apostle Paul issued this warning. “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1Tim. 6:6-10).
It is important to note that the Bible does not condemn having money, but it does condemn the love of money. It is not wrong to have possessions, but possessions become wrong when possessions possess us. It is not wrong to achieve material success, but it can become a snare when spiritual priorities are sacrificed.
This is clear, when later in the text, Paul exhorts the rich “not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches.” He further admonishes them to “do good, be “ready to give,” and “willing to share.”
The Bible emphasis is not so much on what we have, or how much we have, but who we are. The attitudes we possess. The values we live by. The character we develop. The demeanor of our spirit.
The spirit of contentment was well expressed by a friend of mine several years ago who said he and his wife were happy when they were poor. But over the years through hard word, providing valuable goods and services, and helping others, God has blessed them with financial success. His comment, “we’re still happy although we’re wealthy.”
So, how do we develop the spirit of contentment, regardless of our station in life? Here’s Paul’s answer. “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Phil.4:11).
Contentment is learned. We learn through experience. We learn from the teaching of God’s Word. We learn through our spiritual walk with God. We learn as we are recipients of God’s blessings. We learn from the examples of others.
In the Philippian text Paul added these encouraging words about the secret of contentment. ” 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 everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:12-13)
Indeed the ancient Socrates was right when he said, “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman