Are You Content with What You Have?
THE seeking of happiness is an inborn human desire. This desire is right and proper. It was planted in human hearts by the Creator, because, as “the happy God,” he wants all his creatures to be happy.—1 Tim. 1:11.
However, the question is: How can a person achieve happiness? In view of the emphasis placed on material comforts today, many people seem to equate happiness with material possessions. When asked whether they would like to know how to attain happiness in their lives, they often answer: ‘If I had money, I would be happy.’
The prevalence of such thinking should not be surprising. By means of all kinds of advertisements and propaganda—some blatant, some subtle—the commercial elements of the world are constantly encouraging people to buy more and to spend more. People are made to feel that they can actually save money by buying the new products, despite the fact that they already have the same item, though it is an older or a different model. For example, a certain advertisement in Hong Kong urges: “If you already own a large car, own this car, too,” a more compact model. Another advertiser asks: “Room air conditioner gobbling energy?” Then comes the suggestion: “Replace now with a high efficiency . . . unit.”
Partly as a result of all the bombardment of commercial advertising, there is discontent among people. Many try to find ways of making more money in order to buy more material things, thinking that this will bring them the happiness and security for which they long. But how often their effort ends in failure and frustration! Some, failing to gain the desired wealth by legitimate means, have resorted to unlawful methods—stealing, armed robbery, selling narcotics, and the like. This underscores the truth of the Bible proverb: “He that is hastening to gain riches will not remain innocent.”—Prov. 28:20.
But some persons may say: ‘Is it not true that, while many have failed to get rich, others have succeeded?’ Yes, in every country there are some who have become wealthy through hard work or ingenuity, although their numbers are comparatively low. However, the more important question is: Are they content and happy? It must be admitted that even those who have been successful in accumulating riches often are not satisfied, always wanting to become wealthier. The Creator of man well knows such inclination of imperfect humans. His Word pointedly states: “A mere lover of silver will not be satisfied with silver, neither any lover of wealth with income.” (Eccl. 5:10) How accurate this observation has proved to be!
THE FUTILITY OF RICHES
The Creator also knows well the harm and unhappiness a materialistic way of life can bring. Because of God’s loving concern for mankind, in his Word he has given much counsel to warn man against this pitfall. No matter how successful a person may be in accumulating material wealth, he is bound to lose all his possessions in death. It is certainly futile to concentrate all one’s efforts on gaining riches that must be left behind for others. The situation is aptly described by wise King Solomon in these words: “Just as one has come forth from his mother’s belly, naked will one go away again, just as one came; and nothing at all can one carry away for his hard work, which he can take along with his hand.” Thus the wise man had good reason to conclude: “This too is a grave calamity: exactly as one has come, so one will go away; and what profit is there to the one who keeps working hard for the wind?”—Eccl. 5:15, 16.
Besides, those consumed with the desire to be rich often suffer from sicknesses induced by such destructive emotions as anxiety, fear and jealousy. Solomon, a keen observer of life in ancient times, accurately pointed out: “All his days he eats in darkness itself, with a great deal of vexation, with sickness on his part,” evidently including digestive troubles. (Eccl. 5:17) Modern medical research has amply confirmed the very harmful effect that negative emotions can have on a person’s physical health. Is poor health not too high a price to pay for material wealth?
Unbridled desire for more material comfort and possessions can also ruin a person’s happiness. For example, many people work overtime or take on more than one job in order to buy luxuries, only to find that they are too tired or too busy to enjoy such things when they get them. Others buy luxuries or go on expensive trips on credit, thus getting into debt and coming under a heavy financial burden. Many have been forced to declare bankruptcy because of their inability to meet such financial obligations, bringing much pain and shame on themselves and their families. If these people had been content with life’s necessities, would they have brought such heartache and distress on themselves and their loved ones?
TRUE HAPPINESS AND CONTENTMENT
By his superior wisdom, man’s Creator knows the course that leads to genuine contentment and happiness. Through the Christian apostle Paul, he lovingly counsels: “To be sure, it is a means of great gain, this godly devotion along with self-sufficiency. . . . So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” (1 Tim. 6:6-8) A person who is content with the necessities of life is not driven to increase his possessions by greed or ambition. He is spared much anxiety and the unhappiness bred by discontent. Satisfied with what he has, he is able to devote his time and energy to things that are more important and rewarding than material riches.
To be truly happy, we need a good relationship with God. This is possible only by having an accurate knowledge of the Creator and by serving him wholeheartedly. But some may ask: ‘Why must a person be devoted to God in order to be happy? Are there not many people in the world who are not at all religiously inclined and yet who seem to enjoy their material prosperity and the finer things in life?’ True, but we must remember that genuine happiness is deeper than just pleasure or the momentary enjoyment of something. It involves a deep sense of well-being and inner peace. A man may get pleasure from his possessions. But, in view of the uncertainty of life, how can he be sure that he will have the same enjoyment tomorrow? Even though he may feel that he is happy, can something that rests on a very transient basis be considered true happiness?
The Bible describes persons who consider themselves happy because of their material prosperity. They are depicted as saying: “Our garners full, furnishing products of one sort after another, our flocks multiplying by thousands, ten thousand to one, in our streets, our cattle loaded down, without any rupture and with no abortion, and with no outcry in our public squares. Happy is the people for whom it is just like that!” However, the Bible then points to a superior happiness: “Happy is the people whose God is Jehovah!”—Ps. 144:13-15.
A person who is devoted to God and enjoys a close relationship with his Creator has a deep sense of security and peace, which is essential to true happiness. The individual knows that no matter what adversity may befall him, he is assured of God’s loving care. (Heb. 13:5, 6) Because of being a servant of God, a person also has a purpose in life and a grand hope for the future. He knows that the Most High is going to remove all the hatred and wickedness that have brought so much pain and sorrow to this earth. The present system will be replaced by righteous rule, under which people “will not toil for nothing, nor will they bring to birth for disturbance,” but will be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor forever.—Isa. 65:17-25.
Throughout the world today, there are thousands of people who previously failed to find happiness in materialistic pursuits, but who later gained true happiness and contentment. This was when they learned the truth of God’s Word and began living by it.
In a country of Southeast Asia, a young man from a wealthy family had tried to find happiness by striving to bring about a political reform. This only got him into difficulty with the governmental authorities. Then he tried his hand at business and succeeded in amassing considerable money in a short time. But happiness still eluded him. Turning to drugs brought him no satisfaction. Finally, in desperation, he sought help from Jehovah’s Witnesses and quickly realized that he had found the truth. After a period of intensive study, he dedicated himself to the Most High to do his will. This brought about a complete change in the young man’s outlook on life. Realizing that true happiness can be attained only by serving God wholeheartedly, he became a full-time proclaimer of the good news of God’s kingdom. He has since enjoyed many blessings in his new vocation, including a soul-satisfying happiness that he never experienced while engaging in materialistic pursuits.
Yes, real contentment and happiness can be achieved only by seeing material things in true perspective. While they are provided by our loving Creator for our enjoyment, they are by no means the chief source of happiness. In fact, pursuing them without regard for God’s will can only lead to loss of happiness. True happiness and contentment come from serving the grand Creator and doing his will. This enables us to derive the fullest enjoyment from God’s material creation and the greatest happiness from spiritual things.