Summary: Learning to be grateful and letting create joy, contentment and the desire to share.
There was an article in the local paper where I used to live about a couple who had been living on welfare and food stamps from 1983 to 1991. They had drawn a great deal of money from the welfare system, before it was discovered through a welfare fraud investigator, that the couple had stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, money market accounts, savings and checking accounts amounting to a half-million dollars. They were required to pay back the entire amount including a fine, and were able to write a check for the entire amount. They were then required to serve time in jail and make restitution to the Department of Human Services. Fortunately, that case is the exception rather than the rule, and there is a system in place to find those who try to misuse what was intended to benefit people who are truly in need. The point in telling the story is that it is a perfect example of the fact that enough is never enough. No matter how much some people have they will always want more. And in some ways that is true of all of us.
The first point that we need to awaken to is: An attitude of gratitude creates contentment. We suffer from a disease some have called “Affluenza,” the virus of affluency and prosperity. There are millions of examples to which we could point to prove that wealth, prosperity and material things do not satisfy, they only create a desire in us for more. Just take a look at the stars of television and movie fame. How many of them are addicted to alcohol and/or drugs. They have it all, yet there is an emptiness deep down inside of them that they are still trying to fill. There is a hunger they cannot satisfy, and a thirst they cannot quench.
In contrast to them, listen to the words of Paul as he described what his life was like: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10). Paul’s life was filled with many difficulties which he could complain about. How many of us would put up with constant stress, confusion, persecution, and beatings that left deep scars and permanent injuries, and still maintain a positive attitude? But Paul had learned an important secret to life. He said, “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 everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13). He had learned the secret of not living life based on the conditions around him. He could be content in prison as well as at home. His happiness was not based on situations, it was based on his relationship with Christ. He knew he had all he needed in him, for it was Christ that gave him the strength for life.