But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
Where can we turn for contentment in a culture of such massive commercialism and consumerism when it leads to such mass discontent?
Can contentment be bought at a cut-rate price in the form of a new and wider-screen TV?
Nothing would make me happier than to walk out of a Best Buy or some other Big Box Store with the most dazzling TV the store has to offer.
I’d be happy not only with such an electronic jewel, but also happy to have bought it at a heavily reduced, Black Friday price. Buying some expensive new “toy” makes me feel good.
Being the capitalist that I am–being the beneficiary of capitalism that produced the wonder of this computer I’m writing on–I love great stuff and creature comforts as much as anybody. Capitalism always prevails over communism because, as that great philosopher and music-making genius Frank Zappa put it, “People like stuff.”
We all want lots of stuff to make our lives as comfortable and convenient as our lives can be. We want lots of money and things that make us happy and enhance our quality of life and give us a sense of security. It’s only natural. (And I’m a natural man.)
The beauty of capitalism–practiced ethically and justly–is that it gives us the incentive to work hard and improve our lot in life and buy great stuff in the process.
But the coolest stuff on earth can’t fill up what’s known as “the God-shaped hole within us.” Only God can fill that void. Contentment lies in the life of the spirit, fulfilled by God and things money can’t buy.
Buying and owning neat stuff is fine as long as we’re mindful that we’re all plagued by varying degrees of stress, anxiety, worry and insecurity that neat stuff can’t relieve.
Jesus, who knew and understand the human condition better than any merchant of mass merchandizing or anyone else ever will, understood that we’re all plagued by anxiety and the insecurities we try so hard to deny and to hide from others.
As the meme at the top of this post suggests, if we can’t be content with the love and peace and grace and harmony that this Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Season represent, nothing we can buy will give us the relief of contentment.
To find contentment, be counter-cultural. Be in the world but not of it.
Seek spiritual growth and depth. If you’re a ‘”cultural Christian”* wracked by a sense of dis-ease and discontent, consider turning to the disciplines of regular Bible reading and study, prayer, reflection and meditation, worship, mentoring a child or feeding the homeless, and fasting–not just from food but from anything that inhibits rather than enhances spiritual growth and maturity and a closer walk with our Lord.
Consider the beauty of “enoughism”–being grateful to God for what you have as opposed to obsessing over what you don’t have, what you can’t afford or what you wish we had.
Matthew 6 (King James Version)
25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
* A cultural Christian: one who believes in God and identifies as a Christian who may only attend church at Christmas and Easter; one who prays when feeling down or really in need of a lift from God; one who gives money to church ministries during the holidays or when some catastrophe breaks out somewhere and leaves millions in need; one who would rather his or her child be subjected to a state-sponsored prayer in school rather than taking the time to pray with the child before heading off to school.