We live in an age of mind-boggling technology. Appliances cook our food in a matter of seconds. We have transportation that can take us across town in 20 minutes and across the ocean in 5 hours. Machines located on just about every street corner stand ready to spit money out at us. A hot lunch with a cold drink can be delivered to us curbside, without us our ever getting out of the car. With Uber eats, the meal can be delivered straight to our cubicle.
The world wide web provides us instantaneous access to limitless information and gives us the ability to buy anything we want—at the click of a button (within financial limits)—all in the comfort of our homes, office, or nearby Starbucks. Our houses can now be equipped with even more techno devices to keep us warm in the winter and cool in the summer, all of which can be operated remotely for cost savings and added security while we are away. Most of us have personal computers and smartphones with more number crunching power than the computers used to launch the first rockets into space. I could go on about streaming movies, podcasts, and satellite conferencing but, by now, you get the picture. We have become the Jetsons.
All of this technology and speed and instantaneous gratification, however, comes with a price beyond the monetary. Rush hour traffic occurs twice a day, if not, at times, seemingly ALL day. In a strange twist of techno fate, the traffic lights somehow see us coming and turn red at the most inopportune time. We get the privilege of calling insurance companies and then spending countless minutes talking to a computer as we try to navigate our way to a human being. At the supermarket, the automated checkout machines seem to work just fine—at least until it is our turn. Online banking works great for months on end and then, inexplicably, the system decides to not honor a payment to the phone company, resulting in more phone calls to a computer in a wry attempt to correct the bank’s mistake before the service is cut off for non-payment. Do you feel yourself getting uptight just thinking about it? Are you getting impatient with this blog post and just want me to get on to a conclusion?
Well, if you are looking for a quick-fix conclusion or some kind of answer to all this, I am afraid you will be disappointed. There really isn’t one. That is, there is no avoiding those speed bumps in our daily lives that exasperate us. If there is going to be relief from these things, it will have to come from within.
In 1 Timothy 6:6 Paul writes, “…godliness with contentment is great gain” (New American Standard Bible). Easy for him to say. He never had to teach a 16-year old girl how to drive a $30,000 car. Seriously, though, we must admit that Paul certainly did know what he was talking about. His advice can be found in Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of a good report; if there be any virtue, think on these things.
Later in the same chapter of Philippians, in verse 11, Paul declares: “…I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”
There are two words in these verses that stand out. The first is ‘think’ and the second is ‘learn.’ To me, they imply a choice and a decision. Paul understood that his outlook on life was a choice; how he responded to the speed bumps was up to him. Once he made that choice, he had to learn to do it. The battle was in the mind, not the circumstances. Paul’s technique, so to speak, was to think of things that were edifying, rather than indulge in self-pity and frustration.
And now, the obvious conclusion. Contentment is a choice and a skill that can be developed. If Paul could do it through his many trials and tribulations, so can we. So, the next time you’re in line at the store and the person in front of you has three items that need a price check, thank God for another opportunity to develop your contentment.