The Happiness of Having Less
By jonathan falwell
March 21, 2012
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.