I recently read a comical illustration about how most of us are never satisfied with what we have. In this story, a married couple, George and Marlene, had been married for 40 years. George had just turned 60 years old a few months earlier and they were celebrating Marlene’s 60th birthday on that day. During the birthday party, George got up to go to the bathroom. When he got there, he encountered a surprise. A fairy godmother appeared before him. She said, “Georgie, ole boy, this is your lucky day. I’m here to grant you one wish. What would you like?” He thought for a moment, and said, “Well, I would really like to have a wife who is 30 years younger than me.” The fairy godmother said, “Your wish is granted!” She waved her magic wand, and “poof” suddenly George was 90 years old. The moral of the story? Be careful what you wish for!
When the Bible speaks of wealth, it doesn’t just refer to money, it also relates to the things we acquire. This would include our homes and personal property, our abilities and talents, our education, our time, our experiences. In essence it means everything we own or have accumulated and have control over. God’s perspective of our wealth is always centered around our personal attitudes and the choices we make with how we use what we have. This also means learning to be content in what God has given us and not always wanting more of something just for personal satisfaction. For some reason we always think that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but once we get there we find out that looks can be deceiving. We often believe that “thou shall not covet,” means just another man’s wife, but what it really means is that we should not be coveting things that other people have. It means we should be satisfied with what God has given us.
“I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:12-13 NRSV).”
“For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:32-33 NRSV).”
“Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5 NRSV).”
Are we ever satisfied? I know that it’s quite common in our society and culture to accumulate things. It is our desire to raise our standard of living. We think that it is the American Dream. But is our standard of living raised if we are not living for God? Is it an American dream if we are not helping others raise their standard of living when we are capable of sharing what has been given to us?
In his book, Practicing Extravagant Generosity, Robert Schnase writes about being content: “Contentedness comes from personal integrity, a life aligned with high values, depth of spirit and of mind, growth in grace and peace. These grant release from agitation, from unhealthy striving, and from continual dissatisfaction….We want to improve our conditions and standing, but don’t embrace these objectives with panicked intensity our society would have us do.” (p.59, Abingdon Press, 2011)
Yes, God wants us to prosper. God has given us the ability and opportunity to prosper. When we become prosperous, we have a chance to help others prosper also. Some achieve prosperity easier than others because of the circumstances and choices they are presented with. Others may make poor choices, or are not allowed to have the same opportunities as we have had in life. But we need to know that prosperity begins with understanding our role as God’s stewards. That is to take care of the things that we have been given to manage, whether that be a little or a lot. That would also include taking care of others around us who need a helping hand. God has given us that opportunity.
If our hearts are in the right place, if our focus is on striving for God’s kingdom, we will learn to be content with what we have, and our satisfaction will be in our service to the Lord, and not in our possessions. Our life will become full and our cup will begin to run over. What we accumulate is mostly for our convenience and not for our necessities. God provides. He generously gives us many things, both spiritual and physical. How we choose to use them is what’s important.
“Free the full capacity of Christ’s mission through generosity that imitates God’s generosity.” (D&C 165:2a)