Tools for the Journey: Contentment


I am continuing to address the question, now with various means for personal devotion. You may find a list of all posts in this series here.

I discussed in an earlier post how mass media’s sole purpose is to instill the spirit of covetousness in us.

Covet: verb, to desire ardently (especially something that another person has);
to long for with envy.

The Tenth Commandment:

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Exodus 20:17 (ESV)

Contentment is an antidote to covetousness. In a society (and economy) wired and built on violating the 10th Commandment, it takes conscious effort to resist. Not resisting enslaves us.

The rich rules over the poor,
and the borrower is the slave of the lender.

Proverbs 22:7 (ESV)

The borrower is the slave of the lender.  We all should write this verse on each of our credit cards. This is a spiritual issue, not a financial issue, though the financial impacts are a symptom.

Where do we seek contentment? It is no coincidence that an injunction against coveting is the last of the ten. Consider the first:

“You shall have no other gods before me.”

Exodus 20:3 (ESV)

If we are violating the tenth, we are violating the first. To avoid this, we have to re-train ourselves in where we look for contentment. We must refocus our priorities, and a great first step is to unplug from the greed machines. Here are a few other ideas:

Recycle catalogs you receive in the mail before you even open them. If there was something you needed from that vendor, you would have already looked it up online.

Go shopping only when you need something, not when you “need to get out of the house” or “need to self-medicate with retail therapy after a hard week.” Window shopping is looking for something you don’t even know you want yet, which is crazy. If you “need to get out of the house,” go for a walk, and you’ll be more relaxed if your walk isn’t in an air-conditioned shopping mall.

Think about capabilities instead of items. What I mean is this: to identify a need, we should identify a capability we don’t have, one that is preventing us from accomplishing something. For example, most of us have the capability to boil water multiple ways (stove, microwave, electric kettle). For every potential purchase, ask, “What do I need to do, that this enables me to do, that I cannot already do?” You’ll be surprised how often the honest answer is “nothing,” at which point you should put it back on the shelf. Only buy things that give you a capability you need that you don’t already have. This is the exact opposite of the world telling us we should buy an Apple Watch even if it takes days to figure out why it might be useful to us, or that we should buy monthly subscription boxes full of things we might not even want.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5 (ESV)

If we will obediently recalibrate our wants to be only our needs, we will find that we have more money than we thought. We can work on getting out of debt and begin to focus on giving. We can give thanks to God who provides for us instead of always chasing our next purchase.

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