The feelings were ambivalent. Clearing my wardrobe, I was astonished at the amount of clothes that I had accumulated and resolved not to make unnecessary purchases while being contented with what I currently have; yet, as I examined my bank account, I was discontented with what I saw. Then I read 2 Tim 3:1-5 and wondered, am I a lover of myself, a lover of money? Do I let possessions possess me? I still remember this classmate who pain-stakingly handled her newly-purchased white G-shock watch with great care, removing her watch with only tissue to prevent contact with her dirty fingers. I was surprised that she even wore it at all. And then there were ladies who refused to leave their atas handbags on the floor or even on seats lest the handbags be defiled with who-knows-what-is-in-the-air. It seems that our tastes grow more epicurean and expensive as our salaries increase. Why can’t we be satisfied with the simple stuff anymore?

This led me to peruse 1 Tim 6 again:

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that… … 17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Our contentment is grounded in verses 7 and 8, which I think are tersely summarised in these 8 characters: 生不带来,死不带去. To cultivate contentment, I must grow in this perspective that there’s only one life – whatever I accumulate in this lifetime would not follow me beyond my grave. When our basic needs of food and clothing are met, we can be content with that. Hence, there is the need to grow in simplicity, in tastes and lifestyle. At the same time, this view must be balanced with the truth that God is the one who provides us with everything for our enjoyment (verse 17), lest we think that Christianity is all about austerity and asceticism. He is not a mischievous or sadistic God who forbids us from enjoying his creation.

Our hope and contentment should rest in God alone, not things.

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