When our son Clint was in high school, his friend (whom I’ll call Lissa) came over to work on a school project. They soon got hungry and went to the kitchen. When Clint opened the pantry, Lissa practically jumped back. Said in a shocked tone, “What happened?!”
Indeed, the shelves contained only a handful of items. (Picture how it looks when a family moves out and leaves just a couple of things behind.) But Clint calmly said, “Oh, it’s fine.” He pulled out a jar of salsa and some corn chips. Arranged that on two plates, topped it with cheese, and melted the cheese. They happily enjoyed their nachos, along with iced tea.
The next week, they were at Lissa’s house. Snack time. Lissa opened the freezer. It was packed so full, multiple items cascaded onto the floor. Lissa forced those back in and said, “Aw, there’s nothing here. Let’s order a pizza.”
Question: Why did the kid who had almost nothing think there was enough, while the kid who had plenty saw it as nothing?
During this same era, both our boys were in the marching band. Since they received very minimal weekly allowances, we gave them an extra $1 for a concession stand candy bar on nights the band played for the football games. On one night when they headed to the concession stand, a friend flashed a $10 bill and said, “Well, I won’t be able to get anything. Mom didn’t give me enough money.”
The severe financial desert we lived through was painful at the time. But we got used to—and even comfortable with—what friends would consider “bare” cupboards, closets, and garages. And now I can’t even express how grateful I am for the experience! We all learned thankfulness, contentment, how to distinguish need vs. want. And we got to watch the Lord multiply and provide. What a treasure!
It does seem that when people have lots, there is discontent instead of feeling satisfied. (An attitude not of “What do we have?” but “What ELSE can we have?”)
Ecclesiastes 5 speaks to the issue:
Verse10—People with lots are never satisfied. They just keep wanting more.
Verse 12—People with too much don’t sleep as well.
Verse 13—“I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners.” Yikes! EVIL plus HARM? Who wants that? Of course, we Americans don’t think we’re hoarding. But when we think of the Bible’s emphasis on “daily” bread (Proverbs 30:8, 9; Matthew 6:11), our bulging cupboards and freezers sure seem like hoarding. We’re also slow to ask ourselves tough questions about our stuff, like, “How many shirts/dishes/games/lipsticks/books do I really need?” (If I can make a case for needing 7 of something, why do I have 37?)
1 Timothy 6:6-10 emphasizes “godliness with contentment” and says that equals “gain.” But the Ecclesiastes verses show that it’s nearly impossible to be content when we have too much. Think of Jesus’ encounter with the rich ruler (Luke 18:18-30). The poor guy couldn’t let go of his stuff. But . . . isn’t he us?
I’ll dare to go further and offer a solution: just take one closet/cupboard, totally dump the contents, and get rid of half of it. Repeat. Wonder of wonders—it produces contentment. Sleep well!