content

The Dangers of Discontent

   I carry with me a device which enables me to:
access the internet
listen to music
fail at Angry Birds
calculate
tell time
take pictures
store information in a “cloud”
contact people immediately by sending words through the air
locate myself through GPS
monitor my heart rate
track the stock market
do root canals.
phone other people (weird, right? A phone does that too...)

It’s cracked; sometimes it gets all quirky.  And I just can’t stand it when it takes 10 seconds to obey my commands. Even worse, my smartphone is exposing a really shallow part of my nature. I am easily discontented.

I have a family income that puts me in the top 5% -10% of the world's population (as do most of you reading this, I might add), but I am discontent.  I wish the rooms of my house were larger, the siding was new, the deck was covered, and I had a pool.

I drive comfortable internal combustion machine further in a day than people used to travel in a decade, and I am discontent: it costs sooo much to fix, and the wipers leave a streak, and could sure use better gas mileage and racing stripes, even that would look odd on a minivan.

I am discontent with all these things. Meanwhile, this slow spiritual poison silently kills my attitude, my view of others, and my contentment with the life God has given me.

Discontent with people is even worse than discontent with things, because things don't bear God’s image. When my discontent begins to involve other people, it makes me a jerk.
I resent other people who don’t deserve my resentment.
I take my issues and project them on to someone else.
I resent good health in others when I feel sick.
I resent people who eat whatever they want because I can't.
I  resent those who are more popular or prominent, because if people only knew how smart, cool, and funny I really was!
I resent people whose babies sleep through the night, and whose dog does not jump their fence.

   And somehow in my mind, the idea that I don’t have what I deserve is somehow connected to the people around me who clearly have more than they deserve. They have more money, a nicer house, better friends, more influence and authority, longer vacations, a better vehicle, and a dog that does not want to play fetch at 3:00 in the morning. I deserve that! I might even deserve a better spouse (but none of us have thought that, right?) Or worse: I deserve Tom's house, and Bob's paycheck, and Bill's wife.  That's when life really starts to get ugly.

James has some things to say about resentment and discontent.  At the end of chapter 3 and moving into chapter 4 he notes, “Wherever there is envy and selfish ambition, there is disorder, instability and all kinds of evil practices... Do you want to know why you have so many fights and quarrels in your community?  They come from your desires that battle within you.  You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can't get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them.”

My paraphrase: Do you want to know why you have so many jerks in your community?  Because they are jealous, discontent, selfish, and self-centered. Here's how the thinking works:

Other people get more attention? – “It can’t be because they have something worth paying attention too.  If people only knew what I have to offer.  So, I’ll butt in, dominate the conversation and get the attention I deserve. ”
Other people have more money/things? – “ I’ll overcharge that person – they have way too much already.  Maybe I’ll occupy something….”
Other people are with the person you like?  - “They clearly do not know what they are missing here.  If I can get them to dislike their current flame, then I will be set.”

The discontented are not motivated to change something within themselves and grow in their own character, skill, or integrity. They just try to take it from others in unjust and selfish ways.

Discontent will destroy your friendship with others, your relationship with God, and your ability to appreciate that blessings God has given you.  On the other hand, those who find contentment in their lives discover the beauty of life steeped in gratitude.