Learning To Be Satisfied
Updated: Feb 6, 2022
Never being satisfied is a terrible way to live. It comes in many forms, but it always results in being unhappy and discontented.
The root of being unsatisfied is found in the 10th commandment;
"Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." -- Exodus 20:17 (CSB)
Coveting or wanting what someone else has is the reason why we are unsatisfied with what we have. Whether it is our physical neighbor or the neighbors on social media, it is so easy to want what they have;
A newer car.
A certain outfit.
A picturesque vacations of that one family who always seems to be traveling.
The lifestyle of the rich and famous.
The list goes on and on and on, but at the core of the matter it is wanting what we don't have. There is something built into the very fabric of humanity that causes us to desire what others have. Something about how we are wired leads us to being unsatisfied with what we have.
From the very bringing of human life on this planet, in Genesis 4, we read about Cain and his brother Abel. The story goes like this;
2 "...Now Abel became a shepherd of flocks, but Cain worked the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also presented an offering — some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but he did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he looked despondent.
6 Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Why are you furious? And why do you look despondent? 7 If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.'
8 Cain said to his brother Abel, 'Let’s go out to the field.' And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him." - Genesis 4:2-8 (CSB)
Abel offered to God what God had instructed Adam and Eve to give to Him - an unblemished lamb. Cain gave produce from the field. Now if it was a tithe, a symbolic returning to God what is already His, God would have accepted the produce. Many places in scripture God accepts the firstfruits (the first part of any harvest), but because this was a sacrifice for forgiveness, it had to be the lamb which pointed forward to Jesus' sacrifice.
When Cain saw that God accepted Abel's sacrifice and was pleased with him, he became furious and looked disheartened. He didn't like that God accepted his brother's sacrifice and not his own. Cain thought he was bringing something acceptable and pleasing to God but it wasn't. God even shared with Cain what the issue was, his leanings towards doing what isn't right. Cain seemed to walk the line between doing the minimum to please God and still trying to enjoy the desires of the world. However, God warned him that he needed to be careful.
In that frightful moment Cain wanted what Abel had, a better connection with God. A better understanding of what was an acceptable sacrifice. An acceptable sacrifice.
Cain could have easily corrected his mistake and offered a lamb to God and built that deeper connection with God, but instead he reasoned in his heart that if he couldn't please God and couldn't keep sin away, then he might as well solve the problem his way. He took his brother into a field, attacked him and ultimately killed his own brother. Imagine two brothers fighting to the death over what they had to offer God.
As Cain stood over Abel's dead body he must have realized how far his selfish desires had taken him. He learned a lesson a very hard way, that we must all learn - we have to actively work to overcome our selfishness. Selfishness leads to unhappiness. Selfishness leads us to destroy the blessings that God has for us. Selfishness ultimately leads to death.
At the root of covetousness is selfishness. Selfishness is what causes us to want what others have. Why should they have it and not me? Why does God bless them more than me? Don't I deserve to have nicer things?
Selfishness causes us to rarely be satisfied with what we do have.
Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 puts it this way;
10 "The one who loves silver is never satisfied with silver, and whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with income. This too is futile. 11 When good things increase, the ones who consume them multiply; what, then, is the profit to the owner, except to gaze at them with his eyes?" (CSB)
Have you ever felt like that? Not satisfied with what you have? Unfulfilled with your belongings? Working for things that don't satisfy?
There are so many stories that I could share here about wanting something that I saw someone else using, then striving to get it only to find myself let down in the end. Want and desire rarely satisfy. They have a way of playing into our selfishness and not providing lasting satisfaction.
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, both by God's blessings and by his own foolish mistakes, learned the lessons shared from the verses of Ecclesiastes shared so far in this blog. But, there is one more lesson he shares in chapter 5 that we can learn a lot from;
18 "Here is what I have seen to be good: It is appropriate to eat, drink, and experience good in all the labor one does under the sun during the few days of his life God has given him, because that is his reward. 19 Furthermore, everyone to whom God has given riches and wealth, he has also allowed him to enjoy them, take his reward, and rejoice in his labor. This is a gift of God, 20 for he does not often consider the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with the joy of his heart." - Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 (CSB)
The focus needs to not be on wanting more, but by resting on the "joy of his heart" - contentment. We rest in the fact that God has provided for us what we need and instead of spending our time focused on what we don't have we need to enjoy to the fullest what we do have. It is a perspective shift that we are able to make with God's help.
Ecclesiastes 5:12 says;
12 "The sleep of the worker is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of the rich permits him no sleep." (CSB)
This verse isn't condemning having wealth, rather it is speaking to where our focus is. The worker is able to sleep well, because he isn't focused on acquiring more things, but rather on putting in an honest day's work. He is satisfied with what he has.
There is a parable told in Luke 12 in which Jesus condemns the greed of wanting more.
15 He then told them, “Watch out and be on guard against all greed, because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.”
16 Then he told them a parable: “A rich man’s land was very productive. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What should I do, since I don’t have anywhere to store my crops? 18 I will do this,’ he said. ‘I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones and store all my grain and my goods there. 19 Then I’ll say to myself, “You have many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.” ’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared — whose will they be? ’ - Luke 12:13-20 (CSB)
So often we find lack of fulfillment because we are focus on trying to accumulate more possessions. We tie our happiness into material goods. We place our value in our material standing in this life as compared to others.
However, as we looked at in verse 18 of Ecclesiastes Solomon instructed that man is to, "rejoice in his labor." As he/she does this they are able to stay "occupied with the joy of his heart." Solomon is giving timeless wisdom that where we choose to put our perspective has much to do with our fulfillment. If we are content with what God has blessed us with, we can be satisfied. If we are always focused on what we do not have and on what others have, we will not be satisfied.
I have met many people who are material poor and very content and have met many material wealthy people who are very unsatisfied - it's not about what we have.
Let us follow the instruction of Solomon in Ecclesiastes and Jesus in the parable in Luke 12 and aim to not put our focus trying to find fulfillment and happiness from obtaining more.
Instead of trying to get more let us echo the words of Paul;
"...for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. 12 I know how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content — whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need." -- Philippians 4:11-12 (CSB)