I’m sure this is a question we all ask ourselves. How much money, how much stuff, do we need to be happy? How nice does my car need to be? My house? How many extracurriculars do I need to be able to pay for? How new does my phone need to be? How nice do my clothes need to be? In my case – how good can my computer be? What kind of lifestyle do I need to live in order to be happy?
You may have heard that the answer of most of us is “a little bit more.” That is, wherever we find ourselves we think that just a little bit more would make us happy. If I just had a little more I could do X, Y, or Z that would enable me to get what I really want out of life. X, Y, and Z could be good things – they could even be things you get for other people, or your kids. But if I don’t get them, can I still be content?
The last time I read through Proverbs I noticed a couple verses I never had before. They resonated with me and I honestly prayed they would be my own prayer:
“Two things I ask of you, O LORD;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.” - Prov. 30.7-9 (ESV)
I think I rather recklessly prayed that prayer a few months ago. I read that and it sounded great. The greatest tragedy in my life would not be having a crappy car. It would be forgetting my Creator, forgetting why I’m here, living for myself and my satisfaction instead of spending my life for God’s kingdom.
I want my daughters to grow up having more than I did as a kid. That’s everyone’s dream. I want them to grow up and not worry about whether or not Mommy and Daddy can pay the bills, to not think “I’d like to play that sport but we can’t afford it.” But maybe there are worse things.
Those were the kinds of thoughts running through my head as I prayed the prayer found in these verses. I’m finding the affirmative answer to that prayer more frightening and unsettling than I’d expected. I’m not sure why – it’s pretty plain right there – just give me what I need for the day. But as I consider my little girls who count on me to put food on the table, a roof over their head, clothes on their backs…it’s a much more unsettling proposition.
How much do I need to be happy? The answer must be “I only need God.” The journey to getting there from where we are – or at least where I am – is a scary journey. But it’s also the journey I must take. The grip of consumerism and materialism is strong and they will not easily let us go. And we will not easily let them go. Our hearts need to change and that is a painful process.