contentment

by livergirl


Memang ibadah itu kalau disertai rasa cukup, memberi keuntungan besar. Sebab kita tidak membawa sesuatu apa ke dalam dunia dan kitapun tidak dapat membawa apa-apa ke luar. Asal ada makanan dan pakaian, cukuplah.
1 Tim 6:6-8 (ITB)

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
1 Tim 6:6-8 (NIV)

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Of all the titles for this sem’s exam prayer meeting, this topic attracted me the most. And yea so I volunteered to take on this topic, even though it falls on the day of my hardest exam of this sem. I just felt that this society somehow prevent us to find happiness. And contentment. But I find the last is more reachable, if I may say.

Those verses I wrote above will always remind me of my homeless period, especially verse eight. I used to make jokes with myself, saying that my condition at that time was biblical. (Nah, it was quite terrible actually and that joke is only for comforting purpose.)

Anyway, when I thought about it again, I was quite curious why Paul didn’t write: “But if we have food, clothing, and shelter, we will be content with that.” Isn’t it what we’ve always been taught? That the three essential, primary needs of human are food + clothing + shelter.

So why no shelter in the verse?

And suddenly it occurred to me that, it might be because a shelter is something we can share. And Paul was advising that we should be content with the things that we enjoyed for ourselves. Like food and clothing.

Of course, one might said, we can share food. Which sounds true, but whatever you put into your mouth will be for you only (I’m not talking about pregnant ladies here). So does for clothing. Yes we can donate our clothes to someone else but at that very time, you’re the only person who wears that clothing.

Another point: too much food will kill you. Too many clothes at a time will make you look weird.

So then I arrived at a conclusion: be content with those things like that. Like pride, admiration from others, appreciation, satisfaction. When you got too much of this things, you will be hunger for more. Until the saturation point, when too much of those things will kill you, or make you crazy.

Like technology, gadgets. What are those for? Keeping in touch with the world all the time? How about keeping in touch with the neighbours? Showing to the world that we are so up to date? What are you rushing for? (This is the area that I felt that I am content. I live with non-3G phone, non-touchscreen mp3 player, slow & fragile laptop, only-5-mega-pixel pocket camera, and a decent pair of speakers. But yet, I am content with those.)

Instead, there are things that people can share. And thus, you’ll never get too much of them. Because they can always flow from you to others. Things like love, friendship, laughter. Things like shelter.

And the irony is, what are the things people usually look for? Are they for them, or for others?

Paul had a reason for writing that particular verse, and it’s not really to comfort me during homeless period. It was to remind us what we really need and what we should limit ourselves into.

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Maslow’s hierarchy of needs suggests that human needs are divided into five levels, which although it has no empirical substantiation, I found it quite true for most cases:

in which level are we? (In this context I spoke to university students in Singapore, which I believe have at least fulfilled three lower levels. Yes of course most of us still are still searching for love, but we have friends and a fellowship, so I think my assumption is quite valid that we have substantially satisfied on that level.)

We are looking and searching for self-esteem. Grades, GPA, honours, being a main committee…what else are those for?

Aiming for the fourth level, I think it’s quite easy to look down and be content with the three lower levels of needs God has made us satisfied.

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And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Rom 8:28 (NIV)

Aside from fulfilling our needs, contentment is also related to our achievements. Which related to our goals.

And what are our goals? Wealth? Love? Family? Long years of life? Fame? Intelligence?

We are called for his purpose. God’s purpose. That is our terminal goal. To fulfil the purpose God has planned for us. And where it might not be that clear, we have instrumental goals. The ones that will help us to reach our final, terminal goal.

They are such things like having a good education or working hard to earn a decent living.

It’s just…sometimes it’s hard to remember what our terminal goal is when the pressure is high for you to achieve the instrumental ones.

So the best action to avoid this is just…remember. Remember what we are called for his plan. And if we haven’t figure it out yet, remember that we ought to keep searching.