Contentment: our only entitlement
Written by Shana Heslin
Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 1 Timothy 6:6-8
We all have wants that go beyond our needs. More often than not, we are inclined to feel like we deserve something just because we want it. Our human reasoning tells us that the longer we wait, the more we suffer, and that our suffering earns us the right to what we desire.
When we investigate human behaviour, we quickly see that man is primarily driven by selfish desires. Unless a person makes an active attempt to avoid a selfish mindset, there is sure to be a constant cycle of wanting what we do not have and then becoming dissatisfied with what we already have. This even happens regarding what we once thought was an urgent necessity! You know that out-dated phone you now want to replace? I bet there was a time you were rushing to the shops to fulfil all of your dreams with that one purchase.
Our society is pervaded by a sense of individual entitlement. This arises partly from the Western cultural value of focusing on the individual rather than the group (e.g. prioritising the success of an individual over what is advantageous to the family or the wider community).
Adoration of the self is further encouraged under the modern ideals of fairness and equality. These concepts are nice and seem to reflect godly values, but when the godly aspect is ignored, we are left with an empty shell of entitlement. Advertising takes full advantage of our penchant for feeling that we should be rescued from the misery of life's ills and that we "deserve" the things we want. Life is hard, and we deserve to be rewarded for all the difficulties we've been through. So, go and buy a new car. Isn't that a nice feeling!
Furthermore, our constant and immediate access to any material thing we could ever want twists our sense of rights and privileges. We have the propensity for thinking that everything we have to start with is a basic right, which can and should be improved upon. Public transport is never fast enough. Supermarket prices are too high. The education department does not provide enough free computers to schoolchildren.
I am as guilty of this as anyone. We are all guilty of it, because we are human. However, it is important to be aware that we have the tendency to think this way, because it is in fact contrary to what God asks of us.
In Exodus, we read the story of God's people wandering in the wilderness. We know that their shoes never wore out; they had manna from heaven, and endless gifts from their loving Father. Yet, they still found reasons to complain and want more. If they had only been content with these incredible miracles, their whole generation would have seen the Promised Land.
The fact is that God blesses us by his own good grace, not because we are entitled. Life is already a gift, and I bet that each of us could count a vast number of extra blessings as well.
Even in the face of these wonderful gifts from God, as long as we have expectations that exceed what we have we will only feel discontentment.
Let's go back to the basics and be thankful.
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