“Thanks for taking us out to eat Dad. Can we rent a movie on the way home?” This type of conversation is frequent with my children. In one breath they express gratitude, yet in the next they beg for more. I am trying to teach them that the fruit of true gratefulness is contentment.
Before we judge them too harshly, we must take an honest look at ourselves. Most Americans—even Christians— suffer from the same condition that besets my kids: insatiability. In the midst of copious blessing, we find ourselves yearning for more. I have struggled with this for as long as I can remember.
One of my favorite meals growing up was my mother’s delicious soup beans and cornbread. She had a cast iron skillet that formed the cornbread in three different shapes. There were multiple pieces of each form, except one: the star. My brother and I had heated battles over who would get this exquisite shape. It tasted no different than the other pieces, mind you, yet we desired this piece simply because there was only one. Discontentment robbed me of the delight of enjoying one of my favorite meals. I wish I could say that I no longer struggle with insatiability—but I do.
We have a Thanksgiving tradition, one which I suspect we share with many other families. After giving thanks and enjoying a wonderful meal, we immediately search through the local paper to find out where to get the best Black Friday deals. After laying out a monumental plan, my wife, along with some friends, get up at the crack of dawn, and start their mad dash to accumulate more stuff. There’s nothing wrong with shopping on Black Friday; my point is we barely say “thank you,” before searching for a way to obtain more. Seldom do we take time to enjoy the blessing of being content. This is tragic.
Longing for more is not wrong. The problem comes in longing for the wrong things. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in his book The Blessing of Enough claims, “There should be a fire raging inside of each one of us, but the fire should inspire us to grow vertically—in wisdom, stature, character, understanding—rather than horizontally, through possessions, status, and property.” I would add that we must long also, to grow in our Christian walk. In the infamous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus compels us to “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” for those that do “…shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). As Christians, we should hunger for more; this hunger, though, must shift from the physical to the spiritual— from the temporal to the eternal.
Don’t misunderstand me. There is no shame in having nice things. The issue is trying to obtain fulfillment and happiness through those possessions. We must not allow ourselves to be ruled by the insatiable desire for more.
So, what is the remedy for our insatiability? The Apostle Paul gives us the secret of true contentment. He writes: “…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 all this through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:11-13, NIV).” Paul’s contentment did not come from material possessions. It came from Christ alone. He knew what it was like to have much, and he understood what it was like to be abased. In both extremes, he was content in Christ. It is freeing to know that our contentment and our peace don’t depend on the economy, or what we have or don’t have; rather, these things come through Christ!
This Thanksgiving, may we express authentic gratitude to our God, bearing the fruit of contentment, and may our insatiable desires for material possessions be replaced with a fervent longing for more of Him. But since I am still a work in progress, if you find a Black Friday deal on a cornbread skillet with a star, please let me know. Happy Thanksgiving!