There is no doubt that the global financial crisis we are experiencing now is a result of lack of financial contentment from individuals to corporations. Lack of contentment also known as greed or covetousness landed the world in this financial mess. People bought homes, cars they could not afford to pay and were far above their means, while banks and other financial institutions granted loans to those who would not normally qualify.
My focus here is on the Christians the great tithers, the sowers who are trapped in this discontented life by adopting worldly goals. More, bigger and best.
What really is contentment? Simply put contentment is the state of being satisfied.
I have witness how lack of contentment brought Christians into debts and financial stress, some have even wondered why they are where they are when they pay their tithes and sow bountifully. But the truth is you can’t obey God’s command on tithe and disobey his command about being contented. The Bible says in I Timothy 6:6 “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” If this is true we can also conclude that godliness without contentment is great loss. The fact is if you live above your means you will pay for it and many are paying for it right now.
Let us not be confused contentment is not complacency or contrary to popular opinion, does not mean being satisfied with where you are. John Balguy (1686-1748) an English divine and Philosopher says “contentment is a pearl of great price and whoever procures it as the expense of ten thousand desires makes a wise and a happy purchase.” Isn’t that powerful?
The starting point for financial contentment is simply living within one’s income. The key to contentment in one’s finances therefore is not the amount one makes rather a willingness to live within that amount. It has less to do with money and more to do with our attitudes, belief systems and decisions.
When your attitude is that of buying what your friend or neighbour owns even when you can’t afford it, then you are going down the discontented route, when you take decisions to move to a bigger home just to maintain or up your status then you are going down same route. Fredrick Koenig (1774-1833), a German inventor, reminded us that “we tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have”
To live a life of peace we need to be contended. Financial contentment brings peace of mind. Apostle Paul writes to the church in Philippians 4:11 saying “…..for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances”
God’s plan for His children is to be contended, in order to find true contentment, its important to set reasonable standards of living. So develop your lifestyle based on convictions, not circumstances so whether the economy is down or up, the market is bullish or bearish, your spending decisions that have been based on the sincere belief in God’s leadership for your life will see you through for as Benjamin Franklin(1706-1790) advised, “Contentment makes poor men rich, discontentment makes rich men poor”.
I also love the definition of contentment as defined by one of my favourite radio pastors , Dr David Jeremiah, according to him , it has three aspects; Looking back without regret, looking at the present without envy and looking to the future without fear”
As Christians to be free from financial stress we need to obey and imbibe this law of contentment. Heb 13: 5 says “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have because God has said, never will I leave you never will I forsake you”
Contentment has nothing to do with a little or more money; we can be covetous just as easily with a lot of money as with a little.
Years ago as a collections officer in downtown Toronto, I listened with disbelief as debtors who have come to develop relationship with me after frequent calls, tell me stories of how they got here, how they maxed credit cards and spend loans on frivolities, they told me how they have nothing to show for the money I was calling them for. That’s what discontentment can cause and lead one to, but you can avoid this if you are contended with what you have and if you can learn to say “ I can’t afford it” no matter what friend and associates may think.
There is no end to craving, only contentment can lead to happiness. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the gift of being a contented father or mother.
Let me emphasise once more that contentment doesn’t mean you have thrown in the towel and are satisfied with the status quo, but it does mean that you know God’s plan for your life.
I will illustrate this by using the second richest man in the world today, Warren Buffett. Mr Buffett is contended with what he has today but he is not complacent as this doesn’t stop him from working harder to grow in his chosen career. Buffett is noted for his adherence to value investing philosophy and his personal frugality despite his immense wealth.
He lives in the same house in central Dundas neighbourhood of Omaha that he bought in 1958 for $31,500 and today is valued at around $700,000.
In December 2006, it was reported that Mr Buffett does not carry a cell phone, doesn’t have a computer at his desk and drives his own automobile. I know we can’t all be so thrifty like Mr Buffett, yet a lesson or two could be learned from this.
A man worth billions of dollars lives in a $700,000 home while somebody worth a hundred times less buys almost the same worth of home.
In today’s society, it’s not normal to step down. Once a certain level of income, spending and lifestyle is attained, most will go into debt in order to maintain that level. Stepping down to an affordable level is considered a failure. Yet Contentment can’t be achieved without a personal discipline and staying within the lifestyle parameters that are within your means.
In Luke 12:15, Jesus Christ warned “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed, a man’s life doesn’t consist in the abundance of his possessions”
Is Contentment really possible in today’s society? A society where are constantly bombarded with limitless options? Yes it is possible when you develop the attitude. No financial principle can have a greater impact on you or free you up more than this truth- Money is not the key to Contentment! You want a life free of debt and financial stress? Be contented with what you have and learn to say “I can’t afford it.”