Author 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 contentment.
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, the Bible teaches the importance of contentment. “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.” (1Tim. 6:6-8).
“The word here used for contentment,” wrote William Baraclay, “was one of the great watchwords of the Stoic philosophers. By it they meant a complete self-sufficiency. They meant a frame of mind which was completely independent of all outward things, and which carried the secret of happiness within itself.”
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 Timothy 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.
Interestingly one of the wealthiest women in the world, Oprah Winfrey, shared this irony of life, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Or as the ancient Socrates expressed it, “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”
Spurgeon correctly observed, “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”
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 other Christians.
Often our discontent is a reflection of spiritual sallowness, an emptiness of character and a lack of inner peace. American Author, Doris Mortman offered this advice to get us on the right path: “Until you make peace with who you are, you will never be content with what you have.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman