Summary: Contentment is not in the accumulation of things but relationship with Jesus
You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. Matthew 5:5 (The Message, Eugene Peterson)
It appears to me that the most content person to ever live must have been Jesus. That is a fairly easy and safe statement to make, is it not? It is a pretty safe assumption on my part, I think. When I think on the word content, I think of Jesus. I am not saying that the life of Jesus was content and that the happenings around him were always filled with contentment. On the contrary, if you read the Bible, you will find circumstances that would seem to breed the exact opposite characteristic of contentment.
What I am asserting is that Jesus’ spirit was content. I want to make a distinction between what is happening to us in life and our spirit. If we define happiness as contentment with our circumstances, we will most certainly be quickly disappointed. If we define our happiness based on our spirit, which ideally rises above circumstance, we can understand the ability to be content anywhere and anytime. Of course, this is easier said than done. The temptation for some in America is to let the happenings around us determine our level of happiness. This is especially true of my generation and the generation after me. We are quickly forgetting the “hard times” in American history.
I am afraid that my generation and some of the young people today have lost sight of the value of life and the value of tough times. We have forgotten the stories about The Great Depression and World War II. For us, the toughest time in our lives is not getting into the college we had expected or getting the Cherokee instead of the Grand Cherokee for our 16th birthday or getting the wooden Jack Kramer tennis racket instead of the graphite Prince tennis racket or the wrong set of loafers, the cheaper suit, the no—name brand tie, the wrong sorority, the less popular high school. The list could be a sermon in itself.
We are spoiled. Not all of us, for sure. I am making a bit of a generalization here. But if the above choices and disappointments are the major ones we in America have to face, it is no wonder that we are raising a generation of people who cannot face the real issues in life. And it is no wonder that in America, we have the most “stuff” and are the most discontented and spoiled nation.
We have set ourselves up for it. Haven't we? It is our own doing. So the question becomes, how do we undo the damage? How do we begin to focus on the truly important issues in life? Dr. Earle Crawford writes in his latest book on this particular beatitude, “We all begin life dependent and self-centered. As we grow, we discover we are not the center of the universe, and if we commit ourselves to Christ we learn that we are called, not to be served, but to serve.” (1)
He goes on to quote another author when he writes, “Weakness is yielding to our nature; meekness is mastery over it. The meek man is one who has got himself out of the center of the picture.” (2)
If we have a goal, it might be to get ourselves out of the center of the picture. The greatest generation was more attuned to selflessness and service and being content with very little. Amy Bernstein, a reporter for U.S. News and World Report has written, “For Americans with household incomes under $25,000, it would take $54,000 a year to fulfill the American Dream. Those who make $100,000 plus, crave an average of $192,000. In other words, the American Dream usually lies nearly twice the distance away.” (3) The Station, a piece written by Robert J. Hastings, begins like this:
Tucked away in our subconscious is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long trip that spans the continent. We are traveling by train. Out the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hillsides, of city skylines and village halls. But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. Bands will be playing and flags waving. Once we get there so many wonderful dreams will come true and the pieces of our lives will fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering – waiting, waiting, waiting for the station. “When we reach the station, that will be it,” we cry. “When I'm 18.” “When I buy a new 450 SL Mercedes Benz!” “When I put the last kid through college.” “When I reach the age of retirement, I shall live happily ever after.” Sooner or later we will realize there is no station, no one place to arrive once and for all. The true joy is the trip. The station is only a dream. (4)