Once upon a time, there was a farmer who loved God. He was satisfied to have a small plot of land, some chickens scurrying about, a milk cow in the barn, and warmth in his home, wherein resided his loving family. The farmer spent his days with his hands in the dirt. He loved farming and he was good at it. Not everything in his life was a bed of roses: money was often in short supply, and there were many challenges. There always are. But still, he was content in every way.
Meanwhile, there was another man, an agribusinessman, who also loved God. He owned an imposing 20,000 acres of farmland, and a mansion situated behind a massive iron gate. He sat for hours-on-end in front of a computer pushing buttons while giant machines did all the manual labor on his land. He spent little time at home with his family and consequently his relationships suffered. The agribusinessman saw the dirt from afar. Like the farmer, he was good at what he did. But he was perpetually dissatisfied that his was only the second biggest farming operation in the county. He had his good points, but on balance, he was a discontented man.
And the farmer lived happily ever after, but the agribusinessman did not. The End.
Now I realize, as stories go, this one isn’t likely to win the Pulitzer Prize anytime soon. Also, admittedly, I added some details that glamorize the simplicity and bucolic joys of being a small-town farmer, while deliberately casting the agribusinessman as a bit of a villain. So to be fair, I’d like to state outright that there are many good, family-centered agribusinessmen who have a contented perspective in their lives. But the man in our story is just not one of them. He spends his days chasing the illusion that contentment is right around the corner–that once he possesses the biggest farm in the county, he’ll finally be happy. He would do well to heed the wisdom of Timothy 6:6-8: “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” Regrettably, in the mire of his vain pursuit, the agribusinessman seems unaware of this contentment that is his for the choosing. Or worse still, perhaps he is aware, but simply is unwilling to make that choice because he’d rather find contentment on his own terms. He believes God’s version of it won’t suit him. In short, he doesn’t trust God.
The moral of this story, that it is better to be a contented small-town farmer than a discontented land baron, is straightforward enough. However, rooted in its message is a less conspicuous, yet essential, detail not to miss: namely, that both men love God. This shared virtue signals that our tale is intended not as a knock against those who neither love nor believe in God. Rather, it is fundamentally a shot across the bow of all the souls who do. Yes, it is we, God’s children, who have been so wobbly on this whole matter of contentment. “Of course I’d rather be like the contented small-town farmer” we say out loud. “I kind of fancy the idea of being the agribusinessman, expanding my realm,” we quietly think.
Thus, we pay lip service to contentment while inwardly courting hopes of worldly success. It’s not that we don’t want contentment. Clearly we do. It’s just that sometimes we like to hear the sound of the world’s praise on our ears even more. And this, the Bible warns throughout, is precisely the enemy’s trap. The world, the enemy’s province, does not and cannot adulate the contented man. It thrives only by leeching the lifeblood from the discontented man, by extolling the man who is never satisfied, who is hyper-competitive, always striving to accumulate more, more, more. This, the so-called “successful man” who wants it all, the world is happy to promote, at great cost. This is why so many of us burn out and feel disillusioned. Like chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, we can never quite get there. The pot of gold is a lie. The real excellence is the rainbow itself! It satisfies. The lie never could.
To live a life of contentment amidst the pull and seductions of this world is undeniably challenging. But for those of us tired of “seeing the dirt from afar,” worn and weary from chasing the world’s definition of success, it is nevertheless our overarching quest. And the good news is that its consummation is at hand. Consider Ephesians 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” To meditate on this verse is to recognize that our Father has already graciously bestowed upon us every spiritual blessing we will ever need!
It is when we contemplate this generosity and allow such thoughts to rest in our hearts, that a brand new story can begin: Once upon a time, there was a child of God who prayed, “I trust you God and Your plans for all eternity regardless of which pot of gold the world is trying to peddle here and now.” And when that happens, it will inevitably lead to the much-desired denouement of all good tales: And he lived happily ever after. The End.
I hope this encourages you to be content today.
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