Life is not about things, or rather it should not be about things. Our consumer-driven economy is about things and goods. If we believe that life is found in the externals as our culture teaches us, we will believe that what we drive or buy tells people who we are. However, while we live in a world of excess that leaves us in want, we also live in a world that provides for our needs.
In his prayer Agur asks for moderation, a life unencumbered by financial extremes. As Biblical studies professor and commentator Tremper Longman III explains in modern socioeconomic jargon, ‘The sage asks for middle-class status rather than affluence or poverty.’ Ultimately, Agur is talking about contentment, having what he needs and being happy with contentment.
Let’s paraphrase Ecclesiastes 5:10-12, ‘the person who loves to shop never can shop enough. The person who loves to acquire never can acquire enough.’ So in our struggle, we find that having something does not fill us. It is the implied promise of fulfillment in getting that thing that draws us!
We also live in a world that places burdens upon us with health care, food, utilities, and goods we may need to fulfill the duties of our lives and jobs. We live in drastically different times than that of the Apostles and Paul.
We often read articles about people with $100,000 incomes ‘struggling’ to make ends meet.I know a woman whose former husband sends her only $200,000 per year in alimony and child support. Yet, she can only make ends meet. We are often perplexed with such news. Then again, we are not to judge.
Then again, we also here stories of ministries in Africa. For instance, there is an orphanage with no hot water, but the children and volunteers make their way with lots of bats, rats, and mice. There are fifteen kids under the age of two, and total silence prevailed in the compound for only three hours a day. The volunteers received room and board for the four months they worked there with no additional pay and they were very content.
Life is lived on our insides. What makes our insides smile? More money is almost never the answer. More money allows people the freedom to fill their lives with expensive things and a higher quality of life. However, that same person who is now rich was once content as a baby placing with a wooden block. Who has more freedom? Who is more content?
The Bible tells us that we should not pursue earthly treasures for they lead us away from God. At the same time, the book tells us that everything will be provided to us. I think we should seek a life of moderation. A smartphone may help me post this content, but I do not let it rule my soul. I am provided with the tools I need to live my life of contentment. Does a 5 year old need the newest Apple iPad or children’s beginner Bible?