I Can't Keep Up!
By Elliott Ryan
It started a couple weeks ago. Relatives began inquiring
early. "What do you want for Christmas? Give me a list."
I replied to one of them that I couldn't think of anything I needed.
That was the truth. I really couldn't come up with anything.
I am by no means wealthy. But my needs are met. There are some
DVDs and CDs that I wouldn't mind having. I suppose I could always
use more clothes and shoes. Or a banana hanger. I don't have one
of those. But I have been blessed so much that I can't think of
anything that I really need.
Yet even though my needs are met, I still often find myself falling
into the trap. Maybe you know of the trap I am talking about.
It is a trap that tempts many in our society. It is the consumer
trap. It calls out to us saying, "You need more. You need
It is the trap that makes me want a flat screen plasma TV like
my friend has, even though there is nothing wrong with my TV.
It is what leads some people to run up huge credit card bills
and live above their means to keep up with their neighbors. It
is what tempts some people to buy bigger houses than they need
and can afford rendering them house-poor just so they can appear
to be affluent.
Of course, I am not against having nice things, but so much of
our way of life seems tied up in acquiring more. In fact, this
article is being published on the day after Thanksgiving. Historically,
this is the biggest shopping day of the year. Malls are counting
on us to be interested in acquiring more stuff -- for ourselves
and for our loved ones.
It is ironic that this big shopping day comes directly after Thanksgiving,
a day set aside to thank God for His provision. That day has become
more about eating a big meal and watching football and parades.
There seems to be a general thanklessness in our society. I think
a major reason for this is a lack of contentment.
See, when we always want more, it is difficult to be thankful
for what we already have. The Bible says, "But godliness
with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the
world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food
and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to
get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish
and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people,
eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves
with many griefs." (1 Timothy 6:6-10)
When we want the newest and best of everything, we lose our contentment
with food and clothing. Many people in the world are without food
and clothing, while many of us have houses, cars, cable TV, computers,
and a lot of stuff we rarely use. Still many of us are not content.
The church promotes the practicing of many different spiritual
disciplines such as daily devotions, prayer, and tithing. But
there is one spiritual discipline that does not get mentioned
much in many churches. It is a discipline called simplicity. One
of the major teachings of the church used to be that we should
live simply. We should not become consumers obsessed with keeping
up with the Joneses. Instead, believers are to be consumed only
by our Lord and His love. When that is our focus, our lives become
simpler. We become content.
Contentment leads to true thanksgiving and to a simpler life.
But it also leads to charity. When I am content with what I have,
I am more likely to help those around me who need it most. I am
reminded to give generously so that others can have their needs
met also. I am reminded to tithe so my church and other ministries
I feel led to support can continue their ministry. I am more open
to sharing the possessions I do have with others who may need
Contentment. Thanksgiving. Simplicity. Charity. This holiday season,
I will concentrate on these traits of Godliness. The Joneses will
have one less person competing with them.
"I am not saying this because I am in need, for 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"
peace with God.
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