Contentment not measured in goods

June 23, 2010 | Feature
Harold Penner |

Contentment. What thought comes to your mind when you reflect on the word?

Paul, the first-century evangelist and church planter, wrote about contentment on a number of occasions, connecting the concept with the ability to effectively do the ministry of extending the kingdom of God. In thanking the Philippians for their gifts he mentioned he had learned to be content whether he had little or much. The quantity of his possessions did not impact his mission.

Contemporary evangelists and church planters Hugh Halter and Matt Smay also mention contentment in their book The Tangible Kingdom, where they refer to the three fundamental needs of humans that Tom Clegg and Warren Bird write of in their book Lost in America:

How these three needs are met may vary from one person to the next. However, when people have a sense that these three needs in their life are met, they feel complete and others are drawn to them because they see something different in their lives.

The marketing industry has a model of moving people from contentment to discontentment, creating a sense of perceived need even where no true need exists, in order to sell products that promise to satisfy the newly created need.

Two of the three barriers Halter and Smay describe, which prevent the development of incarnational faith communities that impact others to seek the kingdom of God, are the result of an effective marketing industry:

As people who claim to follow Christ, our challenge is to do an honest evaluation of the scorecard we are using to find contentment. Are we succumbing to the marketing messages around us and worshipping the false gods of consumerism and materialism in our search for wholeness, or are we truly seeking transcendence, significance and community?

If we get it wrong, we not only lose out on contentment, we are tempted to use marketing strategies to try creating a sense of spiritual need in otherwise content people, to get them to enter our churches and perhaps seek God there.

If we get it right, though, we will experience true contentment and others will be drawn to us and to the kingdom of God through us at the same time.

Harold Penner is a stewardship consultant at the Winnipeg, Man., office of Mennonite Foundation of Canada (MFC). For stewardship education and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest MFC office or visit MennoFoundation.ca.

  • Transcendence: a connection with the creator;
  • Significance: having a life with purpose and an opportunity to do something meaningful; and
  • Community: connections with others in deeply satisfying relationships.

How these three needs are met may vary from one person to the next. However, when people have a sense that these three needs in their life are met, they feel complete and others are drawn to them because they see something different in their lives.

The marketing industry has a model of moving people from contentment to discontentment, creating a sense of perceived need even where no true need exists, in order to sell products that promise to satisfy the newly created need.

Two of the three barriers Halter and Smay describe, which prevent the development of incarnational faith communities that impact others to seek the kingdom of God, are the result of an effective marketing industry:

  • Consumerism is the belief I can’t help others until I help myself first; my needs and wants need to be satisfied before I can meet the needs of others. It is strongly connected with entitlement.
  • Materialism is about wanting stuff in and of itself. The drive for stuff causes people to spend beyond their means, leading to financial stress that destroys contentment.

As people who claim to follow Christ, our challenge is to do an honest evaluation of the scorecard we are using to find contentment. Are we succumbing to the marketing messages around us and worshipping the false gods of consumerism and materialism in our search for wholeness, or are we truly seeking transcendence, significance and community?

If we get it wrong, we not only lose out on contentment, we are tempted to use marketing strategies to try creating a sense of spiritual need in otherwise content people, to get them to enter our churches and perhaps seek God there.

If we get it right, though, we will experience true contentment and others will be drawn to us and to the kingdom of God through us at the same time.

Harold Penner is a stewardship consultant at the Winnipeg, Man., office of Mennonite Foundation of Canada (MFC). For stewardship education and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest MFC office or visit MennoFoundation.ca.

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