February 27, 2024
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“If a cup of coffee on the patio on a nice morning won’t bring you joy, neither will owning a yacht.”

Or something like that.

I don’t remember the exact quote. I recently read it somewhere. Don’t recall where.

But it seems that someone was interviewing some very wealthy people about happiness and how to find it. And that’s when one of the incredibly rich folks made this incredibly wise statement.

Of course, Jesus said it a long time ago: “Take care! Protect yourself from the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even if you have a lot” (Luke 12:15, The Message).

Remember the situation? It’s as modern as tomorrow. A fellow was fussing with his brother over a family inheritance and wanted Jesus to tell his greedy sibling to give him what was rightly his and thus correct this injustice lest the universe implode at the horror of his brother’s greediness. Jesus responded, basically, “Yes, I do think we need to talk about greed. Let’s talk about yours.” Ouch.

Later, when the Apostle Paul writes to his young emissary Timothy, (1 Timothy 6, The Message), he warns him to be careful not to bring into church leadership people who would use their position in the church as a means to acquire riches, who “think religion is a way to make a fast buck.” Some things never change.

But he goes on: “A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough.”

Not only is this deeply true, it is deeply practical. “If it’s only money these leaders are after, they’ll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after.”

The warning is good for all of us, isn’t it?

And that brings us back to “contentment.” A number of Bible versions render 1 Timothy 6:6 in this way: “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”

It’s a great recipe! Love God, give your life to him, and then be content, and you’ll discover that you have genuine wealth unimaginable, a kind of happiness that can never be taken away.

It’s not the kind of “happiness” that will ever be had by trading what is truly precious for an eye-popping “net worth.” We all like our financial investments to do well, but if we can’t be happy when the stock market is tanking, we’ll never be truly happy. If we think three houses will make us happier than one . . . If we think that this new pool, or this expensive vehicle, or this club membership, or this big office or title, or

[fill in the blank]

, is what will make us happy, then we can be sure that we will never be happy. “I’ll be happy if” or “I’ll be happy when” are simply ways of saying, “I’ll be happy never.”

Of course, none of the things I’ve mentioned are inherently bad—unless they begin to own us. And they quickly can.

What’s really important to us? Our bank statements do tell the truth about our priorities. If we’ve given our lives to God, then whether we have a lot or a little, we know it’s all God’s, and we are accountable for using it in ways that honor our Lord, ways that will help others and not just ourselves, and ways that will break the hold of what can easily become an idol that will control us—and rob us of real happiness.

I remember very well that when our four sons were little guys, buying a set of tires for the family car (which one friend suggested I drive to a dumpster and leave it there) could be a serious financial hit. I will quickly say that I’m very thankful that, though I don’t like buying them, needing to shell out some shekels for a set of tires is no longer a major disaster. But the fact is that I was happy (though a bit concerned) in those “old days,” and I’m happy now.

God’s counsel to us all is deeply true. Rich people centering on money are slaves. Poor people centering on money are slaves. George MacDonald once wrote that “it is not the rich man only who is under the dominion of things; they too are slaves who, having no money, are unhappy from the lack of it.”

Our Father wants us to know the deep contentment of centering on him and using his gifts wisely and unselfishly, rather than being owned by any of them.

So, yes, if we are unable to find some genuine joy in a cup of coffee on a fine morning, it’s probably wise to wait on the yacht.

By Curtis K. Shelburne

Muleshoe Journal Correspondent


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