Discontentment is the fuel of consumerism. Unless an advertising agency is able to design effective marketing strategies, which feed upon discontentment in its targeted consumers, it will eventually go out of business. Therefore, discontentment is necessary for the existence of some businesses. Not all, of course. Many products and services are essential to our wellbeing, and we are very glad to become aware of their existence so that we may purchase or hire them. But many of the things we spend our money on are not absolute needs. Instead, they are wants, toys, or simple conveniences that make our lives a little bit easier and more pleasant.
Business leaders know this. That’s why they spend considerable amounts of money on advertising. For example, in the U.S. alone, $200 billion will be spent on advertising this year. Worldwide, it will be over $600 billion. A 30-second commercial in the last Super Bowl cost $5 billion. There is much power in advertising. Ad agencies know that an effective commercial leaves us feeling a little bit empty if we do not have the product that was placed before our eyes for a mere ½ minute.
- It may be a car that we cannot afford, but will—if we drive it—project the image we want people to believe is true about us.
- Or it may be a new, fancier cell phone that makes our 3-year old smart phone look really dumb.
- Or it may be the latest diet pill that guarantees to shed 10 pounds of unwanted fat in two weeks without a minute of exercise.
If a commercial fails to produce at least a little feeling of “Oh, I wish I had that” or “I wish I looked like that,” then it has failed. Ad agencies are paid to do one thing: cultivate discontentment in our hearts. Notice, I used the word cultivate, not create. There is no need to create discontentment in our hearts, since it is already there. It is part of our sinful flesh. The Bible calls it covetousness. Covetousness is the “desire to have something for oneself, a craving or passionate desire. Three Hebrew words are translated ‘covet’ in the OT… To covet is to desire inordinately, to place the object of desire before love and devotion to God.”
The NT word refers to an “inordinate desire to have more.” Covetousness is one of the sinful attitudes of the flesh that we are commanded to put off as part of the old man. Colossians 3:5 commands us to “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you [including] covetousness, which is idolatry.” Ephesians 5:3 mentions covetousness as one of the sins that is not even to be named among believers. In the Bible, covetousness is pictured as a grave sin that leads to a variety of other sins. This is why discontentment is a fleshly attitude we must fight against.
The danger of discontentment becomes real when the driving force in our lives becomes getting what we do not have, or acquiring what we subconsciously believe will give us joy. If we must have this or that, or this or that, in order to be happy or be fulfilled then we are on a deceptive path to inner peace. Now let me be clear. Covetousness certainly has a relationship with material possessions and riches, but that is not the only area of life where discontentment may be present.
- You may be discontent with living your life under the radar and, therefore, crave popularity.
- You may be discontent with being rejected by others and; therefore, work hard now to do whatever it takes to keep your friends—even if it means displeasing God.
- You may be discontent with being a servant to others and; consequently, desire the power of a high position so that you may one day be the Big Kahuna.
- You may be discontent with how God made you and, therefore, long to have someone else’s body type, someone else’s hair, someone else’s nose.
- You may be discontent with your job and; therefore, always have an eye that is wandering, looking out for something better.
- You may be discontent with discreet service to God and; therefore, find ways to toot your horn so that you make sure others appreciate you.
- You may be discontent with your marriage, children (or lack of children), your health, or your fill in the blank.
We all have them. We all have our fill-in-the-blanks. We all face the temptation to be discontent, to be dissatisfied with where we are at in life. But at some point, if we are to experience true joy, we must each come to the place where we realize that chasing these things will never satisfy the deepest longing of our heart—the longing that God put there when He created us—which is to be fully at peace with Him and to be continually resting in His providential care.
Discontentment is not always obvious; it can be very subtle. At times, it may seem like a loud and obnoxious craving, but much of the time it is a hidden spirit of unrest—a lack of satisfaction with your status in life or even a secret dissatisfaction with God and His dealings with you. Whether loud or quiet, discontentment subtly leads us away from eternal priorities—leading us to make decisions which are based more on what we want out of the here and now.
Regardless of what our discontentment looks like, or motivates us to do, satisfying the inner cravings of our heart is something only God can do through His Son. A growing relationship with Jesus Christ is the only possession that satisfies, ultimately.
*This post is adapted from last Sunday’s sermon, “Finding Contentment in Christ.”