Contentment

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:6-8).
My son, Scott, and I left the village of Linju in the mountains of Nepal with a half dozen Nepalis about 2:00 p.m. to begin our three-day trek back to the end of the road where we would be picked up by our car. Starting at an altitude of near 8,000 feet, we climbed to over 11,000 feet before dark. Just at dusk we found a mountain-side meadow with a small, stone, shepherd’s hut (more correctly, “goat shed’) in it. The hut was muddy inside where the sheep and goats had been kept, with a low, wood-shingled roof under which Scott and I could not stand upright. There were no windows or chimney for ventilation, so the fire we built for cooking dinner soon filled the small shed with smoke. Rarely have I had more crude quarters in which to spend a night, especially a cold, late autumn night at that altitude.
In spite of what one would kindly call “primitive conditions” however, we were not uncomfortable. There was a fire in the early evening to warm things up. We had a tarpaulin to keep our sleeping bags (yes, we had them, too) dry and clean. And we had food to eat for dinner. We visited a little while, ate, went to bed, and slept just fine.
It really does not require much to provide for our physical comfort. Sure, an expensive mattress in a heated room is nice to have. But we don’t have to have that to get a good night’s sleep. Nor do we require the finest of food, or the most stylish clothing. Those are luxuries that we are happy to be able to have, but we can easily do without them.
Paul warns, “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Timothy 6:9). His definition of “rich” in this warning is defined by his earlier comments, quoted at the beginning of this article. The desire to be rich is anything beyond the willingness to be content with food and clothing ?- that is, with the basic necessities of life. We don’t have to have those things. And the desire, or rather “lust” for those things brings all manner of sin and evil into our lives. Consider James’ description of the process of sin:
“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:1-3).
Granted, one can stand almost anything for one night. Sleeping on the muddy ground for very long would not be much fun. But the point is, many do it of necessity. One can survive, even thrive, without all the things that we have come to consider “necessary.” Happiness does not, and should not, be measured in terms of our material possessions, or lack thereof. Other things are much more important. Misplaced priorities, especially putting luxuries ahead of spiritual goals, are a great threat to our eternal wellbeing. We need to learn to be content.

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