1. The problem defined
If you've ever moved, do you recall all of that stuff you accumulated and then tried to get rid of? Did you ever suspect that someone might be sneaking into your house and getting rid of their "stuff"?
Remember how exciting it was when you bought your first cell phone? And then you got the Bluetooth—a wonderful device that allowed you to become a hands-free menace in traffic.
But that first cell phone now has become a thing of the past, because now the latest is—by the way, what product are they marketing this week?
Do you find yourself an easy target for the sales pitches? Is the latest ultra-thin laptop really a necessary commodity? The marketing process may have the younger generation in their sights, but they'll take any of us that will bite the bait. And the convenient, easy-monthly installments that are promoted are only easy for those who receive your payments.
Is what you have ever really enough—or has our culture made you feel deprived because you can't go on every vacation, lease every new auto, or purchase every new gizmo you friend has?
The marketers seem to have taken it upon themselves to make us feel guilty because we don't have what everyone else seems to have—or at least seems to want.
Are you satisfied with your life—are you contented?
2. The biblical solution
Contentment doesn't mean you've thrown in the towel and are satisfied with the status quo, but it does mean that you know God's plan for your life. And because you know His plan—His will for you—you've decided to stay on track with Him and live your life His way.
And that is very important, because the Bible identifies three dangerous traps in 1 John 2:15-17 that can easily get us off of God's pathway.
"If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever."
1. Pleasure — "lust of the flesh"
2. Greed — "lust of the eyes"
3. Pride — "boastful pride of life"
"Hello! Can you hear me now?" The Bible says those three traps aren't from God. They're from worldly longings that are based on envy. And to what do the marketers make their appeals? Pleasure, greed, pride! When we fall into any or all of these three traps, they are bound to eat away at our desire to live a contented life.
The point is this: Money and things can't buy contentment and poverty doesn't provide it, because contentment is an attitude. So, on whatever financial level God has placed you, determine that you will live within the economic parameters that He has established and supplied for you.
When a person doesn't have this sort of balance in life, buying more things in order to become balanced simply will not work. In fact—remember when you moved?—those things you thought would satisfy you, those traps mentioned in John 2:15-17, ended up unused, broken or stored.
3. A Christian's perspective
God's plan for His children is for us to be contented, and Scriptures teach us about the dangers of material riches. However, the Bible doesn't suggest that poverty is His alternative. Money is simply a tool we can use to accomplish His plan through us.
In order to find true contentment, it's important to establish reasonable standards of living. So, develop your lifestyle based on conviction, not circumstances. Then, whether the economy is up or down, 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 carry you through.
It's no secret that some Christians have a lot less than others. If you're in that "a lot less" group, you can prevent having an attitude of envy and discontent by praising God for what He has provided for you. And if you're in a "lot more" or "little more" category, don't look down on others. Don't you know where your "more" comes from?
As the saying goes—it's not about you—but it is about God and you. If you're unwilling to accept and be grateful for God's provision for you, then you'll never be content.
Think about it this way—you may need an attitude adjustment. The Apostle Paul had what we could call an attitude of gratitude.
"I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3:8).
If you want a satisfying lifestyle, then trust the promises that God gives us in His Word.
"The peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7).
Contentment is an attitude of the heart. Save more and allow your contentment with the Lord to be a defense against overspending. Get that gratitude attitude and you just might discover that you really do have a satisfying lifestyle and that you can get along without a loan.
Harvey Nowland is a freelance writer living in Gainesville, Ga.