The Greatest Lie of Our Generation: “If Only I Had …”

new car

There’s an image that I suspect you’ve seen.

A man is seated on a donkey.  His hands are fully extended holding a stick in front of the donkey.  From the stick hangs a carrot on a string.  The donkey marches onward hoping to finally taste the sweet carrot.  Yet, no matter how far or how fast the donkey walks, the carrot always remains the same distance away from the donkey.

I used to feel sad for the donkey.  Now, I feel sad for us.

Why?

Because so many times we are the donkey.  We go forward believing that once we get that one last thing we’ll finally have enough.

“If Only I Had …” is the Greatest Lie of Our Generation

We Live Like Kings and Act Like Paupers

I suspect most ancient kings would trade places with the average middle class American.  We have more gadgets, knickknacks, and comforts than most kings of history.  Sure, they may have had maidens who would fan them to keep them cool, but we have air conditioners. They may have had the most talented entertainers in the land, but they didn’t have streaming movies, smartphones, and the Internet.

Compared to many – historically and in our own time – we have so much.

Yet, we’re often longing for more.

Usually our list of items we wish to buy is greater than our income.  Typically, people decide to borrow money to buy today what they can’t afford – all in hopes that tomorrow they’ll have enough.

Why?

Why do we chase after all these things, assuming that if we got that loan paid off everything would be perfect?  If we got that raise, everything would be great?  If we got that new car, all would be well?  While it’s possible we might be better off, we surely won’t be fulfilled by these achievements.

“If Only I Had …” Symptoms

  • A general lack of satisfaction with what one currently has
  • A future longing for something to fill or complete them
  • A constant desire to do one more thing in order to achieve ultimate happiness
  • A wish list that is always replenished once items are purchased

What the Bible Teaches Instead

The Bible teaches that we should be content with what we have:

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. – Philippians 4:11–12 NIV

But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. – 1 Timothy 6:8 NIV

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5 NIV

The Contentment Prescription

Contentment in Christ

We shouldn’t look for external items to bring us satisfaction.  We should seek that only from Christ.  We must have a willingness to acknowledge the sovereignty of God.  We need to understand that God has given us what he knows we need.  We need to recognize that we already have so much and learn how to be content.

Thanksgiving

We can either focus on what we do have or what we do not.  Those who are always seeking something more focus on what’s missing.  The truly blessed are those who recognize what they have and give praise and glory to God for all those things.

With Christ, there is no need to create an “if only I had …” list because we already have more than we could ever ask or imagine. What are you thankful for? Leave a comment!












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14 Comments
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  1. Hi Craig–This is an outstanding topic that isn’t written about nearly enough. I think one of the biggest issues is a lack of eternal focus. We become obesssed with the need to get all the goodies now, as if there is no tomorrow. And we’ve been trained that “you only go around once” so you have to get it all now.

    If we have an eternal perspective, we won’t concern ourselves so much with having to have it all now. We’ll trust for better things later, even if we don’t fully understand what they may be. I think we wrestle with this even as Christians. Its a true matter of faith, of surrendering the futre to God and trusting him with all things.

  2. As in most everything, it is a matter of degree. If you were truly content with what you have, you never would have a computer. You can live without a computer in this day and age.

    I would change it from “love” of money to “lust for money.” Otherwise, we would never save for retirement, etc.

    I know that if I bought a Hummer, that would only be one thing. In fact, seeing someone alone driving a Hummer, etc. does not earn my respect or admiration. I think it is such a waste of resources when people are hungry.

    Interesting to note that sales of luxury items like Rolex are up 16% after going up 26% last year.

  3. We need a balance in every area of life. Enough desire for ‘things’ and experiences to work hard and yet at the same time be content in whatever situation God has us in.

  4. Violet Kovacevic

    I agree this isn’t a topic talked about often enough. Businesses spend so much of their marketing dollars inundating viewers with enticing ads on t.v. and flooding our mailboxes with sale papers of ‘must have’ items, ranging from cell phones to vehicles. This happens on a daily and hourly basis (if you’re watching tv), that it’s no wonder so many people lose sight of what really matters. It’s only when something tragic or sad happens in someone’s life, that the light bulb turns on and you begin to realize what truly matters; i.e. good health, quality time with family and friends, helping those less fortunate, coming closer to God.

  5. I used to go to estate sales with my FIL and God started working on my heart through them. I’d be walking through the desceased’s , or new retirement home member, home and go through their belongings and feel so sad. Souvenirs of trips they’d gone on with families, golf clubs, nice china, Holy First Communion items, new baby announcements, knick-knacks, etc. , it was all sad to go though. What kept coming to mind was the phrase “you can’t take it with you”. I realized that everything we buy gets used up and the things we keep be it vacation homes, fine clothing, artwork, jewelry and so on is all BORROWED really. When you die then someone else is going to come along and take those fine items, that you worked so hard for for, for a $1.00. They won’t know the memories behind the items, they’ll just see something beautiful or useful.

    So because of this God showed me how things/stuff is a blessing but it needs to be held up to the light of Eternity. We can’t take our stuff with us and so we need to make the things of God the most valuable in our lives and those very things cannot be bought. Serving God, doing His will and loving and serving His children, under His guidance and not our fleshly ways, is what will truly last. It is what will get a “well done, good and faithful servant” from God.

    To add to this I’ve also started looking at things/stuff as ” at that cost how many people can I feed and help”? I wonder if the things I want are worth it and often times they are not. Getting the gospel out to all the world is priceless and stuff is stuff. The money we spend on stuff, the stuff the world tells us we need, is often wasted on ourselves who already know the message of Christ. We should stop accumulating stuff and use more of it to further the kingdom of God. God is the only one who can truly make us happy and we also will feel His joy knowing that we’re walking in His will when it comes to stuff. Cause after all the earth and the fullness thereof is His and that includes stuff.

  6. Amen…

    I’m thankful for the great friendships I have and am forming. For my wife and family. For the wonderful world we live in.

  7. I am mostly content with what I have. I try find peace in my life regardless of what I have or where I am but it is sometimes hard. I have far less than the average American but I think that the less you have, the easier it is to try to find peace with it, otherwise you would just get depressed.

  8. Has anyone ever read Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper? Powerful book. It really challenged me on love for the world vs love for God. If you have time check out his sermon based on the book. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0sIqvQmT5IU

  9. Good post. Part of American culture is “he who dies with the most toys wins.” Because America is a capitalist nation, many people place heavy emphasis on material goods to compete with others and use financial success as a way of ranking themselves in society. But do material possessions truly make people happy? Material possessions provide the illusion of happiness, in my opinion, but realize that other people do not feel this way.

  10. Contentment is the most powerful tool a christian should posses. Without it, you will never find the solution to the emptiness, sadness and stress that accompany our day to day activities. Point of clearance however must be made, contentment should be separated from laziness and procrastination since there is a very thin line separating them. A person can be hardworking yet content with the seemingly smaller things that come his way.

  11. David Steffy

    I just wanted to say that I believe this is so true. We should do like the one leper out of the ten who thought enough of what he had been given to make an effort to go offer thanks to the Giver. The other nine most likely continued on thinking what else they needed without ever giving a second thought. The Lord Jesus asked where the other nine were…I have to wonder if their final plight was not worse than their first.
    David

  12. my family

  13. I test drove the new Camero car. It was a real head turner. I enjoyed the looks. Then I thought about it.

    Why get thrilled to get the attention of teenagers. For that matter, anyone else. Then I knew my car insurance would go up. It probably would go up big time because it is a sports car. I would also see my bank account drain.

    Then I thought about my Camero that was only 10 years old with 90,000 miles that drives like a peach and looks show room new when I wash it.

    I went home without buying any car. It was a nice way to spend a chilly and rainy day.

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