We finished our second week of our Dissatisfied series where we’re diving into the areas of life that we experience the greatest dissatisfaction in and how we can turn those areas in our life toward God. Last week we looked at the experience of being dissatisfied with ourselves. This week we’re going to explore the feeling of being dissatisfied with our lifestyles.
In this passage, the apostle Paul, one of the early church leaders, is coaching and mentoring his young protégé Timothy with the goal of helping him live a full and God-honoring life. Paul is telling Timothy not to put his hope and trust in the wealth of this world but to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Paul’s letter exposes two very different approaches to lifestyle and finances—advice that’s still applicable for us today.
First Approach: Consumption Approach
The “Consumption Approach” lifestyle believes that, “if I just have the resources I need to buy the things that I want, then I’ll be happy.” We may read the verse “people who want to get rich” and think it doesn’t really apply to us. We may say,“We don’t want to get rich. We just want to be able to live in the house of our dreams, pay for our kids to play sports, go on vacations like everyone else, be able to send our kids to whatever college they might like, and have a great retirement plan.” But saying you’re dissatisfied with what you have and wishing you could have more or do what others are doing is the same as wishing you were wealthy.
Question: What parts of your lifestyle to do feel dissatisfied with?
The Consumption Approach is a subtle, but dangerous, approach to lifestyle.
There are five dangers of a Consumption Approach to life:
1. Living in a place of perpetual dissatisfaction.
When you are continually dissatisfied, you’re always wanting more. When you do get something, it satisfies momentarily. But, soon enough, you wish you had the next thing—and there’s always a next thing.
2. Unnecessary stress.
A Consumption Approach lives beyond means and wants more than a person needs. With the desire for more comes the inability to afford more. As the debt increases, so does the stress of carrying that burden.
3. Ethical compromise.
We frequently hear stories of people who wanted to live a certain lifestyle, but couldn’t get there without compromising their ethics. In their desire to attain wealth, they became comfortable with justifying illegal or unethical means for the end gain.
4. Broken families.
Finances are the number one problem that generate marital strife. When couples live beyond their means, it becomes a major tension in the marriage. That’s not the only way consumptions affects families: there are many couples who are working so much that there’s no time to invest in their marriage and family.
5. Stagnant faith.
In Matthew 6.24, Jesus said you can either love God or money. When we commit to being a disciple of Christ, we commit to loving Him more than anything else. When we fall back on that commitment, our relationship with God is greatly impacted. Money becomes an idol and leads us away from God.
Question: Do you find yourself living in any of these dangers?
Second Approach: Contentment Approach
In the passage, Paul lays out a different approach. In verse 6 he says, “godliness with contentment is great gain.” The Contentment Approach to lifestyle says, “As long as my basic needs are covered, I’m ok.” Our modern society is constantly feeding us messages that encourage us to buy more and want more, but God calls us to find our satisfaction and joy in Him.
There are two benefits to the Contentment Approach:
1. It avoids all the dangers of the Consumption Approach.
Someone who is content doesn’t go through life with an ongoing sense of dissatisfaction about their lifestyle, but finds joy in the eternal things of God.
2. Hearing “well done” from the Father.
When people near the end of their lives reflect back, they typically care about two things: those they love and their relationship with God. We’re all going to have to stand before God one day, and he’s not going to ask us if we got that house we always wanted or if our children played in every sport. God is going to ask one question when it comes to your finances: “Did you use your resources to glorify my Kingdom?” Only the person who lived a contented lifestyle will be able to say,” Yes!”
Question: What parts of your lifestyle has God blessed you in? What things are you grateful for?
The benefits of a Contentment Approach to lifestyle far outweigh a Consumption Approach to lifestyle. Even so, the real challenge is taking that next step into a contented life.
1 Timothy 6 gives us three practices that are essential for a contented life:
1. Making growth in Christ your first priority.
Our hearts are constantly searching for a primary orientation. If our number one desire isn’t God, we’ll always drift back into consumption mode. There are many good things we can desire to do in our lives, like wanting to be a good parent or student, but as good as those desires are, we always have to come back to the truth that our primary calling in life is to develop fully into the person Christ has made us to be. When we have that vision in sight, it strengthens many of our other hopes and it allows us to step into a contented lifestyle.
2. Learn to find deep joy and delight in God.
One of the reasons that many of us live with a Consumption Approach to lifestyle is because we’ve never really learned how to enjoy God. When we look for comfort and happiness, we tend to look towards the world instead of His Kingdom. But God wants to be enjoyed!
Read Psalm 37.4.
God does give us things to enjoy and blesses us with provisions, however, the key thing to remember is when God gives us things in this world to enjoy, they always pave the way to worship Him and bless others.
Question: Have wealth and objects become idols in your life? What steps do you need to take to shift your desires back toward God?
3. Giving extravagantly to the Kingdom of God.
We only become content when we learn to live on less, say no to self, and believe God is enough to meet our needs and fill us with His joy. To be someone who joyfully, generously invests in things that matter for eternity honors God and delights Him. God gives us the strength to be satisfied, whether we have a lot or a little. When we intentionally release resources back to God, we discover that He really is enough and learn the secret of contentment.