How much is enough for contentment?

Recently my wife and I listened to a reporter describing the lineups, frenetic behavior and potential for physical injury during “Black Friday”.

Recently my wife and I listened to a reporter describing the lineups, frenetic behavior and potential for physical injury during “Black Friday”. Black Friday is the single biggest shopping day in the U.S. and takes place on the first Friday after Thanksgiving Day.

Two things occurred to me as we listened to the newscast. First, there is nothing I want bad enough to engage myself in such frantic activities or long lineups. Second, there is little or no middle ground between contentment and covetousness. They tend not to co-exist.

With Black Friday past and Christmas just around the corner, perhaps a little self examination would be appropriate in an honest attempt to discover our contentment quotient; are we coveting more or being content with what we have?

The 10th commandment admonishes, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17). On the flipside 2 Timothy 6:6 states, “Godliness with contentment is great gain”, as illustrated by the following stories.

First, in fifth century B.C., an Egyptian named Arenius, determined to live a holy life, abandoned the luxury of Egypt to follow a simplistic lifestyle in the desert. However, when he visited Alexandria, he would spend considerable time wandering through the bazaars and markets. His friends asked him if he did this because he missed the pleasures and possessions of his former life. He replied that his rationale was the exact opposite. He explained that it made him very happy to look at all the things he didn’t need.

The second account tells of a devout Quaker who was watching his new neighbor move in. After a myriad of modern appliances, electronic gadgets, plush furniture, costly wall hangings and other paraphernalia had been carried in, the Quaker called over, “If you find you’re lacking anything neighbor, let me know and I will try to show you how to live without it.”

King David’s summary statement on contentment addressed both this life and the one to follow and was based entirely on his relationship to God. He wrote, “But as for me, my contentment is not in wealth but in seeing you and knowing all is well between us. And when I awake in heaven, I will be fully content, for I will see you face-to-face” (Psalm 17:15 TLB).

What is your contentment quotient?

— Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church

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