I read about myself recently in Ann Voskampf's bestseller, One Thousand Gifts. Oh, she didn't mention me by name. Instead she talked about Adam and Eve, who weren't content with being able to eat from all of the trees in the Garden of Eden but one, and brought destruction upon themselves and all the generations to follow by simply lusting for more. Ann states that man's greatest sin is ingratitude; we are simply never satisfied with what we have. And maybe it took the breaking of the arm I reach with to make me realize that I, too, am always grasping for more.
An example is in order. I've had a love affair with Skechers, the shoes with the bumpy bottoms, for several years now. I once tried a pair on and fairly danced up and down the aisles of the store, so great did they feel on my feet! But then I looked at the price, and resolutely put them back on the shelf and headed for the cheaper footwear farther down the row. But I eyed them longingly every time after that when I found myself in that area of the store. Then while shopping at an outlet mall recently, God unexpectedly provided me with them! Again I danced! But I was barely out the door of that store and into the next when I saw a short-sleeved shirt on sale that caught my eye. With my arm in a bulky cast, my clothing options were few, and shirts that I could slide my arm into were hard to find. With the newly bought Skechers still in the bag in my I hand and my budget preventing me from buying both items, I suddenly wished I'd seen the shirt first! After being blessed with the Skechers I'd wanted for years I was suddenly wishing I could trade them for a shirt I saw two minutes later and would only wear for another month. The depth of my ingratitude alarmed me and I hurried home.
The same scenario occurs time after time in restaurants. I agonize over the choices offered on the menu, and finally narrow the list of eye-popping temptations down to one. Having ordered, I wait in eager anticipation of the meal I'm about to consume...until I see the plate set in front of my husband. Suddenly I'd trade the meal I'd been salivating for in a heartbeat to eat what he's got.
There's a word for the condition I suffer from, and it's covetous, defined as an inordinate or wrongful desire for possessions or wealth; greedy. There's nothing wrong in desiring nice things; the error in the condition comes from a lack of appreciation for what one's already got. And its a temptation that is never going to go away. Until the end of time the enemy of our souls will place before our eyes one treat after another to steal away our joy and contentment and lure us into a lifestyle of endless self-seeking and greed.
The good news is that we can fight back. Because we know that the problem exists, we can choose ahead of time how to respond. We can learn, as did the apostle Paul, how to be content in all situations. We can train our eyes to see blessings in things we took for granted before, as did author Ann Voskamp mentioned above, and to give thanks in everything. As our thanksgiving increases, so does our joy in life, and the overflow of our hearts leaves little room for lusting after whatever our eyes might see.
And yet we can take it even one step farther. Surprisingly, the opposite of covetousness is not contentment...it's generosity. And surely when we put our focus on giving, we have less time and energy to think about getting.
My beloved Skechers are my footwear of choice these days, for more reasons than one. They simply remind me to walk in gratitude and generosity, everywhere I go.
“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have...”
(Hebrews 13:5 NKJV)