Can't Get Enough
"I have a hundred."
"I have more than a hundred."
"I have a thousand."
"I have a hundred thousand!"
And so went the conversation a few months ago between my son and another boy in the neighborhood. It didn't matter what they were discussing (for the record, it was Legos), what mattered was who had more. When by themselves, they are each fully capable of enjoying the toys they have, but as soon as another person enters the picture, it becomes a competition. I can't enjoy ten thousand Legos bricks if the kid next door has ten thousand and one.
I wish I could say we grow out of this as we get older and see that we are letting our worth and our happiness be measured by how we compare to the people around us. I wish this was just a silly childhood tendency that we leave behind, like so many other things. But the comparison game is etched on our hearts, and it is hard to erase.
Author C.S. Lewis writes, "Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man." Change some of the words around to diagnose your own heart. "Pride gets no pleasure out of having a nice phone, only out of having a nicer phone than the next person." "Pride gets no pleasure out of having a good job, only out of having a better paycheck or position than the next person." "Pride gets no pleasure out of being beautiful, only our of being more beautiful than the next person."
I try to teach my children what it means to be content. I try to instill in them daily habits of thankfulness and of recognizing how blessed we are. It's a struggle because I'm still learning those habits myself, and because the atmosphere of our culture is thick with discontent.
Proverbs 30:8-9 prays, in very un-American fashion, "Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of the Lord." And Jesus, echoing this sentiment in the Lord's Prayer, teaches us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." The Westminster Shorter Catechism explains that prayer by saying we ask that God would give us "A competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them."
A competent portion...
Our daily bread...
Neither poverty nor riches...
Such phrases are so out of sync with the advertisements that assault us all day, insisting that we are just one product short of happiness. That's not to say we shouldn't enjoy the good things of this world. My son is free to delight in his Legos. But if our "things" become the foundation of our identity, of our worth, of our contentment, then they have taken the place of God in our heart ("lest I be full and deny you"). The gospel reminds us that who we are, what we are worth, and where we find happiness is not in ourselves or in the things around us, but in the God who saves by grace. When we build on that solid foundation, we are then free to truly enjoy the good things in the world without needing them to satisfy our hearts.