Be Content—It Can Make a Difference
“WE HAVE brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things. However, those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some . . . have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.”—1 Tim. 6:7-10.
Thus the Bible sounds a clear warning against becoming a lover of money and also minimizes the importance of material possessions. To live, we do not need an abundance of luxuries. True, our food should be wholesome, but it does not have to be the most expensive kind available. While clothing and shelter are basic necessities, a large wardrobe and a luxurious home filled with fine furniture will not add years to our life.
Many people know these things, but they still make the acquiring of money their main goal in life. Often this plunges them into ruin, even bringing them to the point where they have no bread on their table.
A Safeguard Against Unwise Moves
Of course, a man should rightly be concerned about providing well for his family. The Scriptures state: “If anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.” (1 Tim. 5:8) Hence, when an opportunity for better employment opens up, perhaps even in another location, a family head may wish to take advantage of this and move with his wife and children. Particularly would this be the case if his doing so would benefit the whole family. However, careful consideration must be given to such matters. A Bible proverb says: “Anyone inexperienced puts faith in every word, but the shrewd one considers his steps.” (Prov. 14:15) A failure to analyze just where a certain course may be leading could result in serious problems.
This happened to a village carpenter in Ghana. His brother-in-law persuaded him that he could earn much more money in Accra, the capital. But the brother-in-law could not give him any assurance that a well-paying job was even available. Nevertheless, the carpenter turned a deaf ear to an acquaintance who encouraged him to follow the Bible’s advice about being content with the returns from his hard work. Before leaving the village, the carpenter told this acquaintance: ‘Progressive people would never spend all their life in a village.’
But look at the man a few months later. With a walking stick in his hand and luggage balanced on his head, the carpenter, lean and haggard, trudges along. His two sons are following him. The high cost of living in the city and his failure to find suitable employment have forced the man to return to the village. But where is his wife? She found the family’s bad plight in Accra so unbearable that she deserted her husband.
Time and again, in many other lands, untold thousands worsen their situation because of being discontented with basic necessities. They may sell their small plots of land in the rurals and move to the city. However, their hopes of finding good employment often do not materialize. Soon their limited resources are spent. Even if they wanted to return to the rurals, they cannot do so for lack of funds. Hence, they must continue to live in unsightly city slums or shantytowns.
It is noteworthy that the Bible warns against making moves for the sake of profit without considering seriously the uncertainties of life. We read: “A word with you, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go off to such and such a town and spend a year there trading and making money.’ Yet you have no idea what tomorrow will bring. Your life, what is it? You are no more than a mist, seen for a little while and then dispersing.” (Jas. 4:13, 14, The New English Bible) If they had but known and appreciated the wisdom of being content and of taking into consideration the uncertainties of life when making plans, many persons who now are suffering from poverty would have had enough bread on their table.
Though perhaps knowing about the serious problems that others have faced because of unwise moves, some people still feel that they are the exception. Often they lose sight of the fact that even seemingly successful men may be sacrificing genuine happiness and contentment.
Success at a High Price
Note what gray-haired Geoffrey of the British Isles relates about a fellow worker at an insurance brokerage:
“He was a Scot, lean and well over six feet tall. When I arrived, he was in charge of a small section. Peering through his small gold-rimmed spectacles, he would often confide in me that he intended to become a director someday. He worked very hard, staying late every night, taking work home and even forgoing holidays. Eventually he became departmental manager. This prompted him to move his wife and two young children to a more fashionable part of Essex. He also felt the need of sending his children to private schools.
“Because he began living beyond his means, he found it too expensive to use his automobile. While the vehicle remained parked at home, he would walk or cycle. Once he showed me his shoes that were packed with cardboard to cover the holes. The man did not feel that he could afford to have his shoes repaired. To meet expenses, he would often borrow money before the end of the month.
“In time the Scot did become a director and entered a higher income bracket. Inevitably, this meant moving to a larger house, buying a new automobile and arranging to provide better schooling for his children. Having cultivated expensive tastes, his wife simply would not settle for second best. The man spent even more time at work and became a director of several subsidiary companies. Finally, however, his marriage ended in divorce, and he found himself keeping up two expensive homes. When I terminated my employment with the firm, he wistfully commented: ‘For all my money and position, what good has it been?’”
The tragic consequences of an ambitious drive for more and more money are also well illustrated in the case of 10 other men. In the 1920’s they were among the world’s most successful financiers. But, as the years passed, things changed. Three of these men committed suicide, two were imprisoned, one went insane, and three died in poverty. Only one of the 10 was not totally thrown off balance by his ability to make money.
Protection Against Fraudulent Schemes
Persons who are not unduly concerned about making money are also less likely to be ensnared by fraudulent moneymaking schemes. In the United States, Japan and other lands, many people have been deceived by the exaggerated claims of “pyramid” sales companies. These firms require individuals to pay an initial fee to work as sales agents and as recruiters. After investing large sums of money, however, many find that they have been trapped. The products do not sell well, and the recruiting of new investors is hard. Not infrequently, unscrupulous men in the topmost positions abscond with huge sums of money.
In Japan, when one “pyramid” sales company went bankrupt, the government took over the merchandise for back taxes. But this posed a problem, since the cost of storing the merchandise in rented property exceeded $1,250 a day. As for the investors, they lost everything.
The Snare of Occult Practices
Contentment may even serve as a safeguard against hurtful involvement with the occult. Because of a desire to increase their funds without working, some people have hired magicians to double their money. This is what one man in western Africa did. The magicians then instructed him to limit communication with his wife and to keep everything totally secret. He was told to visit the cemetery on special days, to do so in prescribed dress and to offer prayers there. Later, the magicians gave him a parcel, to be untied at midnight on a certain Sunday. The man was assured that, on opening the package, he would find that the invested money had indeed multiplied. The exact time arrived. Greedily he unpacked the parcel. What did he see? Money—lots of it? No, just a bundle of newspapers. What a shock! The man was ready to commit suicide. In fact, even afterward his wife had a hard time trying to prevent him from taking his life.
If this man had believed the Bible and followed it, he would have been spared financial loss and bitter disappointment. The Scriptures not only urge a person to be content but also warn against involvement with the occult. For instance, the Israelites were instructed: “You must not look for omens, and you must not practice magic.” (Lev. 19:26) “There should not be found in you . . . a practicer of magic or anyone who looks for omens or a sorcerer, or one who binds others with a spell or anyone who consults a spirit medium.”—Deut. 18:10-14.
Truly, there is wisdom in heeding the Bible’s recommendation about being content with sustenance and covering. That advice, if followed, may help you to keep bread on your table and to continue enjoying it.