- Religion and Philosophy
Why Are We Never Satisfied With the Stuff We Have?
When is Enough Ever Going to be Enough?
We all have a need for clothing, food, shoes, books, etc. (insert here whatever is you can't stop spending money on), but what happens when that need crosses the line to excess? What happens when we stuff our closets with too much clothing? When we buy too many books and half of them go unread? What happens when we stuff our face with too much food? Where does the madness end? Sometimes, you have days where you can look in your closet and protest "I have nothing to wear!", but the fact is you have plenty to wear, but you just don't like it anymore for whatever reason. Some days you'll look in the fridge and say "I have nothing to eat", but the fact is you just don't care to eat the stuff you bought that has been sitting in the fridge for days. There are days you think "I have nothing to read", but you have at least ten books growing dust on them that you haven't read, but you're not in the mood to read those books. It happens to all of us but the question is "Why are we never satisfied with what we have?"
The Biblical Approach on Wants
So what does the Bible have to say about our constant need for stuff? What does Jesus teach us about our need for things and our constant wanting of this, that and everything? Does Jesus care about our desires? Yes. Does he care about our wants? Yes. Does he care about our needs? Yes. The beauty of faith is that Jesus doesn't say "I want to make you greedy!" anywhere in the Bible. That is something we do by the power of sin. Jesus doesn't say "I want you to shop til you drop." anywhere in the Bible. That is again, something we choose to do by the power that sin holds over us. Jesus doesn't direct us to even think about ourselves selfishly to the point of excess, for it is he who said that it is better to give than to receive. So why is so much of what Jesus saying falling on deaf ears? So if Jesus is all for living within modest means then are we to blame only ourselves for our excessive desire to want everything that is beyond our means? It is a good question and one that each of us could benefit from exploring further personally. I know I struggle with this constant feeling of wanting things but I'm definitely not happy about it and so are many others. You could just brush it off and say its human nature but we all know it goes deeper than that. Nobody likes the word "selfish", but many of us are in denial about just how "selfish" we really are when it comes to buying stuff we don't need or simply overeating for that matter. Having anything in excess isn't any good for us. It never has been and it never will be good for us. Here are a few key verses from the Bible that address our constant need for stuff:
And He said to them, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses." Luke 12:15
Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." - Hebrews 13:5
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Matthew 6:19-21
Learning To Be Content Is Not Easy...
If contentment were easy, we'd all eat modestly and wear just a modest amount of clothing, but if you look around, not many of us are doing just that. The truth is many of us are not content with what we have and some us will never learn to be content. We justify our actions by saying to ourselves "Just one." "Just a little bit won't hurt". "I've got to have this book" "I need that blouse" "I'll just die if I don't get those shoes". The truth is that these are all lies. None of it is needed. Granted, we need the basics in modest ways, but we don't need fifty blouses, a hundred pairs of shoes or that super-sized banana split. We want it and we want it bad because somehow our brain has convinced us that we will be happier if we do things in excess. The truth is excess only makes us want more and more and more and then misery sets in when we go overboard. The cycle is vicious. We crave stuff. Stuff makes us feel good. It gives us a bit of a thrill. It makes us happy when we have something "new". How does one even begin to be content with what we already have when it's become a lifelong habit? Millions are spent on diets to eat less, but you don't see many diets that encourage you to buy less clothing and junk, do you? And obviously, if you take a good look around at the obesity rates all those diets aren't helping either. What is the definition of contentment? It means to be mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as they are. Do you know many people like that? Most of the people I know are living paycheck to paycheck.
Contentment - “An internal satisfaction which does not demand changes in external circumstances”—Holman Bible Dictionary.
The Bible on Contentment...
“But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” (1 Tim. 6:6-8)
“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:11-13)
“Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,’ so that we confidently say, ‘THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?” (Heb. 13:5-6)
The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. - Isaiah 58:11
Pray For Contenment
When all else has failed and you have come to the end of your rope emotionally and financially, pray to Jesus. Ask him to help you learn to be content with the things that you have. Ask him to help you learn to be satisfied with the wages you make presently and to live within your means. Many times we find ourselves in trouble because we buy beyond our means. We eat in excess beyond what our body can store so we end up fat and eventually sick with unfortunate diseases. We buy stuff, like clothing, books and shoes, you name it, and end up in massive debt. And for what? A fleeting moment of joy that quickly passes over. We eventually take all that stuff and then store the excess in storage lockers because it is stuff we no longer use but think we might use one day. Many of those storage lockers end up being pilfered by loved ones for anything good once that person dies. Shouldn't that make us all stop and think "What does it all mean?" "Where does our excess stop?"
The Answer Lies in Faith
We can do all things through Jesus who strengthens us. We can learn to be content with his help. When we try to do things on our own, we fail, but when we ask Jesus for help, he will show us the way. It will not be an overnight thing, but I believe if we are sincere and we are desperate for change, he will step in and help us find our way. Stay close to God's Word. Pray continuously for strength. Stay in fellowship with those who follow God's way. Believe that change is possible and little by little you can turn your desires around so that you make decisions in the future to just be satisfied with what you have and to give away what you no longer need. It will not be easy, but nothing in this life worth getting is ever easy. We could all benefit and be refreshed by spending one day if not more deciding we don't need a thing, but the love of Jesus. Amen.