The Happiness of Having Less

Why getting what you want isn't always as satisfying as you think.

If we turn on the television to watch sports, we are going to view a number of commercials throughout the game. They are going to tell us about a certain kind of soft drink we absolutely must buy, what kind of sports shoes we need to wear, and even what we should use to brush our teeth. They are going to insist we absolutely cannot live without all this stuff.

The overall effect of watching commercial after commercial produces the intended results. Do you ever find yourself listening and watching and suddenly get this insatiable desire to have whatever is being sold? You can picture yourself wearing it or using it or driving it, and soon you are starting to figure out how you can squeeze it into your budget.

Our desire to get more and more of everything is fed constantly. We find ourselves running in the mode of need it, want it, gotta have it.

But is that truly best for our lives?

Jesus invites us to a better way of living. During Jesus’ 1,000-day ministry, He spent time teaching a paradoxical truth: that we can actually be happier with less.

A “got to get what’s due me” culture

Jesus gave a warning against covetousness at a large gathering where He was teaching. He gave encouragement about being faithful to truth and reassurance that God will care for us in the face of whatever fears might be around the corner. He encouraged us to focus on the things that last forever. But this important teaching was interrupted by a man who was focused on the here and now and all the stuff he could get.

People were pressed shoulder to shoulder, trying to hear the important truths Jesus was teaching, and one person interrupted Him, making a demand straight out of left field: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me” (Luke 12:13). It’s as if he dismissed all Jesus’ teaching about eternal things and said, “That’s all fine and good, but so what? I need You to tell my brother to give me my money and do it now.” 

Notice Jesus refused to arbitrate the situation because that was not the heart of the matter. He focused on the man’s real need, saying, “Take heed and beware of covetousness.” And He added this important statement: “For one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15).

Jesus was trying to get the young man (and the rest of us, for that matter) to understand life is not all about stuff. He could look ahead and see that in our time, our culture would shout the opposite message every day. He knew all about the pressure that would come down on us to get the latest stuff, the best stuff, and to shop till we drop.

Turning around the delusion of greed

The delusion of greed insists that if we get just a little more, we will be happy. The truth turns that idea on its head. The truth is that acquiring stuff has nothing to do with happiness. In fact, we may actually be happier with less. This is a cultural upheaval. Jesus did not say that simply being poor will make you happy. He said the riches that will make you happy are spiritual, not material. We will be more able to focus on riches of the Spirit if our material lives are stripped down and made a little simpler.

To turn greed upside down, we must first face three facts:

1. Control of life and death is in God’s hands, and we need to lay down the notion we have anything to say about it. We are never promised tomorrow or even one more minute. It helps us hold our material goods loosely if we know we may be parted from them without a moment’s notice. Remember, you can’t take it with you.

2. Material wealth is in God’s hands. It can come and go as quickly as snapping your fingers. Part of the reason God gives us material blessings is so we’ll have something to share. It’s not hard to look around and find people in need, often in our own neighborhoods, or places around the world that have been hit hard by disasters. There are many people who can use a helping hand, and the poorest of us in this country has something to share.

3. Our part is to live in thankfulness. So often we focus on the provisions instead of God, the Provider. We spend a lot of time working for stuff, researching stuff, buying stuff, hauling stuff home, storing stuff, cleaning stuff, sorting stuff, repairing stuff, getting rid of stuff so we can replace it with other stuff, and we get all wound up in this cycle of stuff. Some of this is necessary, of course, but we want to always look behind the stuff and remember where it comes from and simply be thankful to God, who provides.

Since happiness is clearly not in getting more stuff, Jesus told us where true happiness lies: “Seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you” (Luke 12:31). Put your focus and attention on Jesus, on growing more like Him, and all the material stuff you actually need will be looked after.

Excerpted from 1,000 Days: The Ministry of Christ by Jonathan Falwell. Thomas Nelson © 2012. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc. www.thomasnelsoncorporate.com.

9 Comments

84,842

Brayden commented…

You are correct a little more money will make us all happier. But I believe Jesus is not questioning IF it will make us happier, but for HOW LONG we be happy living this way you described. "a little more stuff will make me happier" as you said, insinuates some sort of never ending cycle as in we always need more to replenish our happiness brought on by the last thing we bought is worn off. its like a drug, you always need more to regain the excitement and 'high' of that new gadget. Jesus is calling us for long term gain here, not short bursts of happiness.

Moyo Mamora

27

Moyo Mamora commented…

Is there really happiness in having less or nothing? Can you explain that to a mother who needs to feed her child, or to a family who can't pay bills because they have nothing/less?
Every human being feels pain when they see something they truly love but can't get because they don't have the means. It should not be dismissed as lust. People with truly genuine heart desire things without them being covetous or lusting after it. There are many kids in less privileged societies of the world that want the finer things of life, would they be called greedy?

I believe the desire for good things is a God given innate desire, YES i do agree that there are extremes that people cross in their desires, but if we really study Scriptures, it paints God as an extravagant giver of good and perfect gifts. To have or to desire to have does not mean that one is catching on to a Got to Get Whats Due Me Culture.

I believe God wants to give us His best, we have to remain in faith and be thankful and content. Those are attitudes that cannot be judged by material possessions. I have met people who have nothing but are the most greedy and covetous people ever, and there are those who have so much that are very humble and lowly.

biffle42

2

biffle42 commented…

God is the God who provides but that doesn't mean that having less isn't better for us. Most of us find a lot of our security in money, we forget that God knows what we need more than the money in our bank accounts does. I'm not saying we should throw away everything we have, God does give us things and we should be thankful. But again we only need so much.

There are so many people who live on a lot less than we do, and they do exactly that they live. Jesus said blessed are the poor, I believe He meant it. Thats not to say that a rich man can't love God, but its much harder. Through the short years of my Christian life I've notice a way that God works. He gives and He take away, very often actually. For awhile I couldn't figure out why He would give something that He was just going to take away, and then I realized that I was more in love with the gifts than the giver.God isgracious when He strips us bare of all that we cling to, so that we can see Him. That is why the poor are blessed, they have very few distractions to take away their focus from God.

Human beings do need food,housing, and stuff like that, but God knows that. He provides exactly what we needif we will trust Him. He truly does want us to seek HisKingdom first. How can we do that if we are too focused on life on earth? It seems harsh, but thats what I come away with after reading the Gospels. And as a wise man said "I have never seen a cheerful giver's children starving." He rewards those who give more than they can afford. So no we don't have to hate what God has given us, but sometimes He calls us to give it back.

Moyo Mamora

27

Moyo Mamora commented…

My first question is where did Christians get this notion that loving God and having things are mutually exclusive? Is it not counter intuitive to have a rich father that tells you "I am rich, I love you, but with my wealth you can't love me". Do all children love their parents because of what they have been given? Why is God abundant in wealth and saying to His kids, don't have wealth because it is hard to love me? It simply doesn't make sense!

God is wealthy and wants His people blessed and wealthy, I don't believe it's harder to love God with wealth. Love and devotion are a heart thing. Riches are material, like every other material thing it can be a hindrance. But we must choose to put God first. Abraham loved God and he demonstrated this in his willingness to sacrifice Isaac. God's response to Abraham's love and devotion was to make him increasingly wealthy. But that's confusing if we say God wants us to love Him and keep away from stuff. Why did he bless Abraham the more?

1 Kings 3 starts out saying "Solomon loved the Lord", guess what God made him the richest man that ever lived. It seems to me that all through Scripture people who have loved God wholeheartedly have been made rich by God. So why reject it now? I'm not saying love God so you can be rich, i'm simply saying love God- no strings attached! If you turn out rich (which I believe you will if you are willing and obedient- Isa.1:18-19), then enjoy it!

God gives and takes away? Where did that come from? Job? If you read the story of Job carefully, God didn't take the stuff, the devil did. John 10:10 makes that clear that Satan is the thief. His mission is to steal, kill and destroy. Whereas every good and perfect gift comes from God, and He doesn't change (Jam.1:17)

I agree that we should not focus on wealth and riches. That isidolatry, and God hates that. But let's not try and separate the Giver of Good Things from His gifts. Our primary calling is to love, but let's love Him with open hands, willing to give freely as He has given us, and willing to receive from Him. God desires to bless His people abundantly, and that should not stop us from being sold out to Him.

84,842

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