Most of us stopped believing in monsters by the time we were out of elementary school. With our parents’ reassurance and a quick glance with a flashlight, it was easy to dismiss the notion that a monster could be living under our bed … or in our closet … or wherever it is monsters lurk.
However, it’s not so easy to rid ourselves of the one monster who follows us on to the paths of our adulthood. He emerges in many areas of our lives, affecting everything, including our pocketbooks. He’s subtle, unassuming and green.
The Little Green Monster. We make him sound harmless, even cute—like a stuffed animal a two-year-old would carry around. His effect on us on the other hand is nothing to play around with. And when accompanied by a materialistic tendency to “keep up with the Joneses,” the Bible uses an incredibly strong definition saying, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10, TNIV).
My first encounter with this unfriendly beast was after a company dinner several years ago. I realized how inadequate my wardrobe looked compared to my coworkers’. And as I waited for the valet to bring my car around, I realized how inadequate my little red Cavalier looked compared to a never-ending stream of BMWs, Lexuses and the occasional Mercedes.
A week later, I caved in and purchased an expensive convertible sports car—and the wardrobe to go with it. At just 20 years of age, I accumulated almost $40,000 in debt in a little over a year. The Little Green Monster had chased me, tackled me and bit me—hard.
What I expected was never-ending happiness, now that I had the perfect car and the perfect clothes. Instead, a flood of credit card bills inundated me. Not only was I running from the Little Green Monster, bill collectors were chasing after me too. And as I tried my hardest to beat them down the road, I never managed to escape them biting at my heels.
Eventually, the company I worked for imploded in the dot-com bust, and I lost my job. The co-workers I tried so desperately to impress scattered out to new jobs and new lives, never to be seen again.
My attempt to dazzle those around me was meaningless. Solomon, who had accumulated much more wealth than I ever have, also felt the same regret when he wrote, “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11, TNIV).
Managing money is difficult for most of us, regardless of the size of our paychecks. Yet we don’t always have to allow the Little Green Monster to run alongside us. In fact, the kryptonite that will KO our green enemy is a simple attitude called contentment.
In Philippians 4:11-12, Paul writes, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (TNIV).
Paul knew that God provided whatever he possessed in this material world, and it was only his responsibility to manage it. If God gave him great wealth, he would be happy, but on the flip side, if his stomach was empty and he had nothing at all, he would be content. He even calls contentment the “secret of living.” Those are pretty strong words. And pretty refreshing.
We have been conditioned to think that the more we acquire on our journey, the happier we will become. If we could only have that luxury car, those fancy clothes or the spacious house, the feeling of inadequacy would be quieted and at once, our souls will be at rest. However, the only thing that will quiet the desire to gain more is to be content with what God has given us.
When we understand the material things we are entrusted with aren’t really ours and that it’s our responsibility to use them wisely, we’ve come to the first step to discovering contentment. It’s not wrong to have earthly possessions or even to have wealth. When you fear not having them or fear losing them, it shows your faith is in what’s parked in your garage or your checking account and not in the One who gave them to you.
When you remember the Source of everything you have, and trust Him to meet your needs, you can rest assured on the promise in Matthew 6 when Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21, TNIV).
“… So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:31-33, TNIV).
Contentment is something to be learned and something worthwhile to be gained. It may be difficult, especially in the “bigger is better” society we live in, but it’s the only thing that will stop the Little Green Monster from running you over. Our Father has planned every step of our paths, and only He can give us exactly what we need to continue on it, step by step.